It's 3 a.m., and I can't sleep. So, like a lot of people, I huddle under the blankets with my phone. But unlike most people, I'm in deep conversation with over 15,000 farmers.
Not all of them at once, but anything I post in the "True Women of Agriculture" Facebook page can be seen by all its 15,108 members. Same with other Facebook farm groups: "Farm Hats" has 12,529 members; the "My Job Depends on Ag" page has 84,121 members; and other groups have thousands of Facebook followers or members.
With farmers comprising only 1% of the total U.S. population, it's imperative that we can find each other in such numbers online. There's strength in numbers, and in these social media groups we have those numbers in the thousands, and they provide strength, guidance, insight, advice, comfort and more.
It's not just conversations around the practicality of farming, but also people sharing the joys and intricacies of their days. Posts and photos of new barns, farm dogs, combine selfies, the sun rising over the ranch, they're all shared and circulated, and they give us peeks into each other's lives.
Let's not forget the humor, too. We all know that can be some great medicine. Between the memes and the funny sarcastic posts, you can almost always find something to make you crack a smile. A recent favorite of mine was when a female farmer posted, "Requesting prayers for my husband, who just told me to calm down. In the middle of sorting cattle."
Social media is the strongest form of teambuilding among different sectors of the ag industry that I have ever seen, and it's all at our fingertips, thanks to our smartphones. I can reach out anytime with any question, or a photo to share, and find someone else in ag who wants to talk about it! How cool is that?
Sometimes these groups are a lifeline. Recently, in one of the groups, a farmer posted something alarming that set off some warning signs. Concerned members were able to reach out and provide help to an individual struggling with some deep, emotional issues. They gave comfort to this person along with the feeling that this person was not alone.
Mental health issues and suicide prevention resources have been greatly shared in these groups, and you never know whom that might reach.
The unsung heroes of this amazing online world are the page moderators. They have a tough job keeping people respectful, keeping out the spam posts and, in general, making sure the pages are a great place to be. These moderators rock. Without them we would not have these resources.
Since most of these pages and groups are private, they often require a request to join, a friend to get you in or, in some cases, questions to answer to prove that you are in ag. This keeps out anyone who might be looking to cause trouble.
In a society where farmers are outnumbered and can feel alone, these social media groups are a great resource.
There's many social media groups out there; here are a few of my favorites:
"Farm Hats," "My Job Depends on Ag" and "Beyond Your Agvocacy Tribe."
"True Women in Agriculture," "Science Based Women in Ag," "Christian Women in Agriculture" and "Women in Agriculture Swap N' Shop."