Whoa, Nellie! In the last 24 hours, there have been 107,042 new blogs created. That’s more than 100,000 new blogs. The source, BlogPulse, has also identified 168,166,502 total blogs.

That’s a lot of information floating around out there in cyberspace, and that’s a lot of noise for agriculture to compete with.
But, if you build it, they will come. According to eMarketer, the number of blog readers in the U.S. will reach 122.6 million in 2011.

Here at Farm and Dairy’s The Social Silo, we’re still babies in this blogging world, so we’re no experts. But we’ve been following several great farm-related blogs and decided to gain some insight from three Ohio farm bloggers. Why did they start blogging in the first place, and what keeps them blogging?



Meet Jennifer Kiko, who writes Farmgirl Follies; Brenda Hastings, blogging as The Dairy Mom; and Holly Michael, of Bringing Home the Bacon fame. (Full disclosure: Jennifer (Baker) Kiko was an intern at Farm and Dairy back in the day, and we’d like to think we taught her everything she needed to know about writing!)

Jennifer is our veteran, since she’s been keeping an online journal of sorts for 11 years. She started when she was pregnant with her first child, and for the first few years, she maintained the blog to keep family and friends abreast of cute kid happenings, and, in her words, “parenthood wonders and woes.”

When she and her husband moved “home” to their farm in Carroll County, Ohio, she slowly shifted gears with the blog, and today, Farmgirl Follies became “more about my daily life, cooking, observations, family business… weird, wacky and wonderful things that happen in our lives,” she tells us.

Holly, who started blogging in March 2008, is a public relations diva by day, and southwestern Ohio farm wife by night — so, of course, a blog seemed to be a great way to blend both of her passions.

“I knew there was interest in my story based on the number of times I had the ‘so… you live on a farm?!’ conversation with professional colleagues,” she tells us.

“If you compare me to tractor-driving, hip boot-wearing farm wives, I’ll never measure up. But compared to the 98 percent of people who have no connection to agriculture, I’m practically a Hee-Haw cast member,” Holly said.

And Brenda Hastings, who farms in northeast Ohio’s Geauga County, is the newest blogger of the three, starting hers in March 2010. A third generation dairy farmer, she loves giving farm tours and talking to people about the dairy, but thought an online presence would be a great way to reach consumers who may not be able to visit a farm.

“Most people are curious about farm life and want to know what we’re doing on our farm,” she told me. “People seem to be interested in how we treat our cows and why we do what we do.”

It’s that window on a world that we may not know about, that captivates Jennifer. “I think blogs make the world a smaller place, and they teach us so many things — things we probably wouldn’t know otherwise.”

Brenda, who writes her blog specifically for a nonfarm audience, admits she worried at first about getting negative comments from people who don’t agree with animal agriculture, “but I’ve found those can be the best opportunities to start a dialogue and provide factual information.”

And some of those conversations that question a certain agricultural practices have triggered ideas for future blog posts, she adds. If one person has that question, certainly others do, too. A recent post, for example, explains why and how they dehorn calves, complete with pictures.

Holly, on the other hand, wrestles with being sensitive to both the perspectives of people who very little about agriculture, and “people who know much more than I do.”

“For example, pictures I might take of some cute little pigs for the blog might not be the best representation of what Todd (her husband) would want prospective swine seedstock buyers to see.”

(Here’s a short video of a sow and piglets Holly added to a recent post:)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Ef2o1uNzh0&feature=player_embedded

But she doesn’t sugarcoat farm life, and she’s found her blog to be a “gentle way of educating people about what real farm life is like.” Or why there are a lot of little Hollys running around their farm.

“I blogged about Ohio Issue 2 in 2009 because we were the only farmers that many people knew, and they wanted our perspective,” she said. “I think it’s important to humanize agriculture in a non-preachy or confrontational way.”

Writing a blog does take a commitment and can be time consuming, but here’s why Brenda (who adds a new blog post every Tuesday) does it: “I think we in animal agriculture have an obligation to share what we do with consumers.

“Many people are very interested in how their food is produced and there is lots of misinformation available. So if we don’t tell the story of agriculture, someone else will tell it for us and it probably won’t be accurate.”

But a word to the wise: Family members soon realize they’re fair game for blog content. (Like the time Jennifer told the world her husband, when single, used to name his heifers after girlfriends.)

Holly admits her husband, Todd, has been a good sport about being the subject of good-natured ribbing in her posts. “He’s taken to saying, ‘are you going to blog that?’ when things happen around the farm,” she said.

Jennifer is unabashed about saying “family” is one of the reasons why she blogs. (She has a real talent for photography, and her blog has some of the most awesome photos of the farm and her family.)

“I try to showcase special moments and precious memories for them here,” she said. “Why is it public if it’s so private? I guess because I want to impress upon everyone I know that the little things are important. That what we do matters to someone else, and we’re the ones who must tell the story.”

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These three authors just happen to be women, but there are some great male farm bloggers out there, too. We feature a short list of farm blogs (you’ll find them on the bottom of the right-hand column of our pages), but here’s a great resource list of farm and ranch blogs!
And if you need more convincing, or how-tos, about raising your voice in the online conversations, tap into this “social media for agriculture” page created by Michele Payn-Knoper, of Cause Matters. It’s got great tips for beginners and veterans, alike — whether you’re exploring Twitter, Facebook, or taking the big step to blog.
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Tell us, what farm blogs do you love?

Farm and Dairy Editor Susan Crowell has been with the paper since 1985, serving as its editor since 1989. Raised on a farm in Holmes County, she is a graduate of Kent State University.
Susan Crowell
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