Shine a Light on Your Farm

Erin Brenneman is a great representative for the pork industry. ( Brenneman Pork )

A video showing a young Millennial woman in all her glory began playing, even before Erin Brenneman with Brenneman Pork, Washington, Iowa, walked onstage at the annual meeting of the American Association of Swine Veterinarians. It as an eye-opener for the audience, with many “seasoned” members shaking their heads in disbelief.

The video may or may not represent the majority of men and women in the Millennial age group (considered those born between 1982 and 2004), but it effectively showed their reliance on social media, Google and technology. It also spotlighted the pressing need to portray agriculture in a positive light in new and different ways.

“With the social media revolution, the way we converse and get information has changed forever, and it is only going to change faster and more drastically moving forward,” Brenneman says. This dynamic, energetic young farm woman is a contributor to Farm Journal’s PORK and was named one of the 2015 Faces of Farming by the U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance. Since that time, she has given numerous presentations to both farm and non-farm groups, and does an effective job of sharing the importance of agriculture. She does all this while working as a farrowing manager at Brenneman Pork and raising two young boys.

“Sharing about farming can be a full-time job, or just a few minutes a day,” she says. “But one thing is for sure – every little bit helps!

She recommends these four priorities when sharing on social media:

1. Work hard, have fun, make a difference  
Brenneman talks about the friends she’s made through social media, both within agriculture and beyond. “Raising pigs is the fun part; sharing that passion with others is a bonus,” she says. Also, don’t be afraid to share your failures – it makes you human, she points out.

2.  Pick a channel you like and stick with it
There are a lot of platforms from which to choose, but Brenneman says these four are the most popular:

  • Facebook: A good place to share with family and friends, and the most capable of private settings. It provides some of the best analytics, Brenneman says, and is a good place to share stories with pictures and albums. It’s an active, story-telling platform, but seems to be fading in popularity with the younger crowd. You can follow Brenneman Pork Inc. on Facebook.
  • Twitter: “Twitter is a very fast, news/event-oriented platform,” Brenneman (@sowmomma) says. “If you’re tweeting about something that happened yesterday, you’re too late!” You’re limited in the number of characters you can use, so your message needs to be short and to the point.
  • Instagram: A friendly, non-conversational platform, used for pictures of pets, family and food. Brenneman says Instagram is mainly about the visual impact rather than for informational purposes. (Find Brenneman as @sowmomma)
  • Snapchat: This platform is “fast, easy, and to the point,” Brenneman says, and it’s her personal favorite. It features filters for holidays, silly faces and locations. “It’s a great way to tell your story in a fun and interesting manner,” she says. (Her user name is “spookgal”)

3.  Don’t do it alone – network!
Find people to follow who share your interests and focus on interactivity. In other words, comment on other people’s social media and respond to people who follow you to develop a community. You’ll have “haters,” Brenneman says, but she suggests you leave them alone. If you don’t respond, they’ll eventually go away.

4.  Focus on a hobby (no, farming doesn’t count)
Brenneman has a menagerie of pets, and has found that people love sharing photos of animals. She’s also a huge fan of the Chicago Cubs, which is a completely different community. The Brennemans are building a baseball field on their farm, and will use it as another way to connect with non-farm consumers. One of the best ways to connect is through your family.

Why It’s Important to Connect
As Brenneman was preparing to go to a meeting a few years ago, she saw her boys’ tractors lined up in a row in the toy room.

“Some of the toys still had soybeans from fall harvest sitting in the little wagons,” she says. “Then it hit me: My boys live and breathe the farm as much as I do, and this is why I share. This is why it is so important that I tell our family farm story to anyone who is willing to listen. It is so that, one day, my kids can feel and share the same passion I have about the farm.

“It is so that, some night, I can look out my window and know that the tractor lights I see blazing back and forth across the field are the ones from my son working the field as his dad and grandpa have taught him,” she says. “It is so I can bring my boys out to the pigs with me and assign them tasks that they know are centered on care and respect for the animal. I want my sons to know that they can make a living farming for their family, and make food for the entire world.”

Brenneman is proud of who she is and what she does. “Like their grandpa says, ‘every day you need to wake up and think, what can I do better today?’” she says.