From dirt to the Web: Farmers embrace social media

Photo by Casey Morgan at Downtown Des Moines Farmers' Market

Posted by Casey Morgan

Larry Cleverley couldn’t use social media to advertise his business when he began organic farming over 15 years ago. 

But times have changed. 

Thanks to social media sites like Twitter and Facebook, Cleverley Farms has seen an uptick in its younger clientele and an overall increase in business.  

But Cleverley was a bit apprehensive about using social media early on.

I recently spoke with Cleverley about social media’s impact on his business, and he said, “It seemed to me, after basically ignoring social media for quite some time, that it definitely was here to stay, and it seemed like a good place for me to reach a younger demographic, especially on the retail/Farmers’ Market side.”

And so Cleverley created a Twitter account and a Facebook page to communicate with his customers and advertise his business.

I asked Cleverley whether the interactive nature of Twitter and Facebook provided an outlet to have a conversation about his product, as opposed to the linear nature of signs. “I think probably the best way to approach it is from a conversational standpoint. Sometimes I just post very straightforwardly what we’re going to have, and should somebody reply to it, then the conversation starts,” Cleverley said.

Twitter and Facebook have become invaluable marketing tools for clear communication and are directly responsible for successful promotion of Cleverley Farms.

“I’ve noticed that this summer we’ve attracted younger people to the Farmers’ Market stand, and I think a good deal of that is attributable to Twitter and Facebook,” Cleverley said.

So when will Iowa farmers recognize the value of using social media as a marketing tool? And when they do, how will they adapt their business models accordingly?

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5 responses to “From dirt to the Web: Farmers embrace social media

  1. Emily - Drake University

    I think a lot of businesses began using social media specifically to appeal to the younger demographic because it’s basically a one stop shop. It’s (fairly) easy to use and it’s a quick way to reach a large amount of people. Farmers are probably a bit behind, but it’s cool to see a direct effect of social media on his customers.

  2. I actually follow a few farmers on Twitter and they update regularly. Their posts aren’t always about crops, but they do engage in the conversation. I think it’s great that they are embracing social media as a way to grow their business.

  3. I typically agree with Emily in thinking that farmers tend to be behind on technology and social media. However, it’s exciting to see that they – like other small businesses – are beginning to see the value in marketing via social media! Like you mention, Casey, this is especially important for small-scale, farm-to-table businesses that might have stands at the downtown Farmer’s Market.

  4. I think social media can be a very valuable tool for farmers! I’m glad Cleverly is seeing results from his online presence. I think for instances like him selling at the Farmer’s Market, social media can be very helpful. I don’t think other farmers will pick up on it anytime soon. I come from a family of farmers and don’t think they will ever use social media. Their rural communities do not utilize it, and I don’t think many farmers will engage any time soon.

  5. Larry Cleverley is likely one of the only Iowa farmers who is using social media as an advertising tool for his business. However, I wouldn’t count out all of the rural Iowa farmers yet (Katelyn!). Hopefully Cleverley’s use of social media will spur interest and raise awareness among rural farmers of the benefits of social media. Until then, keep eating and tweeting (@dirtfarmerlarry), and always buy local.

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