The agricultural sector often complains that the wider world doesn’t understand what they do or that the general public focuses on negatives, but maybe if farmers told their story and refuted claims made against them, society would see all the good that is being done for the environment, water quality, emissions and biodiversity. The list goes on.

Whether we like it or not, social media can now have a huge influence on policy and decisions that affect our everyday lives.

Fact and fiction become muddled as the person who shouts the loudest and gets the most retweets often gets heard, even if they are sometimes misinformed.

Social media can now have a huge influence on policy and decisions that affect our everyday lives

Farmers and the agricultural sector as a whole need to up their game and paint the general public a picture of real farming life; of real facts. They need to shut down inaccuracies.

Some farmers have taken to social media. It’s not for everyone, but those who are posting and tweeting need to ensure balance and context.

Farmers telling their story is important. For those on social media, it has become something of a knowledge-sharing hub and farmers can often forget that others are watching and balance is needed.

Fair enough if you want to share thoughts with fellow farmers on what fungicide rate you are using on your barley or what fertiliser rate you applied to your silage ground, but don’t forget to also share the steps you took to reduce those fungicide and fertiliser rates.

Share the fact that you chose a barley variety with a high resistance score for disease and that you applied farmyard manure to improve soil health and structure to reduce artificial fertiliser rates.

If farmers are to continue to feed a growing world population, then pesticides and fertilisers will not be going away and society needs to learn that they are needed, but likewise that farmers are only using the necessary amounts. Profit drops where these products are used for no reason.

Input reductions

Farmers are constantly trying to reduce the amount of inputs they use and whether they realise it or not, they are using integrated pest management approaches every day and mixing systems of conventional and biological farming in some way in their work.

Let your next social media post state that you carried out soil tests at the start of the year and applied lime to ensure a better uptake of nutrients and will decrease artificial fertiliser application rates as a result.

Explain the situation. Don’t just post a picture of the fertiliser spreader because a lot of decision-making happened before you cut the bag of CAN.

The next time you’re out for a Sunday stroll, take a picture of the wildlife you see or the hedgerows blossoming. That wildlife wouldn’t exist if farmers weren’t looking after their land.

Posting a picture of a lovely green crop of wheat and detailing what fungicides you applied isn’t doing agriculture any good and while we shouldn’t paint a false picture of farming, we should paint the whole picture and add context and perspective to what we post.

Next time, post the lovely green crop of wheat and tell the story of the variety choice, the crop walking, the assessment of timing, the nutrient planning and the fungicide application.

Top tips for posting to social media

  • Put the post into context: why are you doing this job? How will it benefit the farm?
  • Add facts and figures: scientific fact and research is something we have in abundance in agriculture and we need to use it. The anti-farming brigade use few facts and farmers need to abolish the fiction.
  • Snap the flora and the fauna: biodiversity is top of the list on policy these days and Irish farmers are doing lots of things to increase biodiversity. Post a picture of the grass margins and the pollinator strips.