Saturday, 8 September 2012

Please ask Dairy Farmers to contribute to your Research by using Social Media

 Please ask Dairy Farmers to contribute to your Research by using Social Media.

 Low input pasture based dairy farmers are generous with their practical information. In my experience they want to contribute to research that they help fund. However agricultural researchers rarely include farmers to the detriment of the research results & the practical usefulness of the project.

Farmers can easily respond through Facebook & Twitter networks greatly enriching research outcomes. Farmers are often the leading researchers in their field of expertise. Come on we all want good quality research outcomes so include farmers in your research team.

Social Media is either feared or ignored by Agricultural Researchers. Yet it is a brilliant way to communicate with farmers during a research project. Farmers want to contribute & have the ability to do so. Social Media has immense power to connect people. It is the academics who are missing out. The farmers and funding bodies (often farmers) don’t get the best outcome if farmers are not included throughout the projects.

 In the past 6 months I’ve been able to several assist university based agricultural research teams (in different countries) to connect with farmer Facebook networks to enrich the research project outcomes. I guess I’m what Malcolm Gladwell calls a connector. 
Dairy farmer belong to international networks of farmers & rural professionals working together on the internet. Progressive innovative farmers network with other farmers with similar professional interests regardless of where they live & farm. Twitter users effectively form their own professional interest networks. The twitter networks are international.  

The Pasture to Profit Facebook group has 560+ members. The group is now 6 years old. There are low input pasture based dairy farmers and rural professionals from 10 different countries talking together.  The discussion is of the highest quality as they share, compare and support each other to progress their farm businesses.

 Pasture to Profit online groups have provided researchers with their farm data, management experience & advice. The networks helped to locate users of new technology. They tested & reported on the use & practicality of Smartphone Apps. Members sent very useful web links to add research data.

They are experts, who greatly increased the capability of the research teams. The farmers have reduced the research costs. Their input makes limited funding go further. More farmers adopt the research more quickly. The participating farmers become Technology Transfer advocates for the new information. 

Why do funding bodies NOT insist on farmers being part of ALL research projects? So why do researchers NOT invite farmers to be part of projects? Is it ignorance or arroganace or just not understanding how the two parties might work together? Researchers need to embrace Social Media or get left behind.

Once invited to contribute farm data or farm business management advice, farmers have been quick to respond. Progressive farmers want to be part of innovative research projects that might impact positively on their farm business & sustainable profitability. Let’s change the way we do research for pasture based dairy farmers. 

Please include farmers!

1 comment:

  1. A very interesting follow up article