A strong desire to change the way agriculture is viewed by largely metropolitan audiences was the driving force behind Kylie Stretton’s decision to embrace social media.
Now, the North Queensland beef producer, mother and advocate, has literally thousands of ‘followers’ (on Twitter) and ‘friends’ (on Facebook) which she says is helping farmers to build relationships with consumers across the geographical divide.
“For the past 20 and 30 years there’s been a huge cultural shift in Australia,” she said.
“We no longer have a cousin out in the bush that we go and visit so it’s up to us in the bush.
“We can’t pretend people don’t exist, we have to meet them half way and get out there and say ‘hey, we’re just families, just like you guys’.”
Mrs Stretton formed the Facebook page ‘Ask An Aussie Farmer’ in 2011, when she felt the cattle industry was being vilified over revelations Australian cattle were mistreated in Indonesian abattoirs.
But she says it’s important for primary producers to be “proactive rather than reactive”.
“I also think organisations as such, industry bodies, they need to get their producers more involved because nobody really trusts the industry bodies but they do trust farmers.
“So, they need to give us the tools and the information so we can get it out there ourselves and be more trusted and more reliable,” she said.
Ray Vella, a beef producer from Central Queensland, admits it’s not easy to embrace new ways of communicating.
However, he seems to be getting the hang of it judging from the response he’s had on social media as he set about sharing his experiences as a 2012 Nuffield scholar.
“It was a very difficult experience at the start but if you’re willing to listen, you’ll learn.
“For example, my blogging – I linked it to my Twitter and Facebook – and I’ve had over 13,000 hits,” he said.