Miling grain grower Tony White checks his Twitter feed for news before starting a day of harvesting.
PHOTO: Nicole Baxter
When Miling grain grower Tony White met his partner Peta Thorniley, a whole new world opened up. Peta, an online marketing consultant, suggested he try the digital social media platform Twitter to expand his farming networks and since joining two years ago Tony has found himself immersed in a vast global farming community.
“I guess I've become somewhat addicted, although I just see it as another way to keep up to date with news and information from around the world,” he says.
Of interest to Tony each morning are comments from North American grain traders, who summarise movements in commodity and futures markets overnight. Although Tony is yet to directly act on this market intelligence, he sees it as information that is “nice to know”.
Among the 1785 people Tony ‘follows’ on Twitter are growers from North America, the UK, Ukraine and from across Australia who, he says, are always doing things a little differently and are “up for a chat”.
The 44-year-old, who in January had 1213 people following his own news feed, says he prefers Twitter to other social media platforms because it is based around short messages, known as ‘tweets’, which are 140 characters long, demanding concise communication.
Recently, one of Tony’s followers – a woman from the finance sector – said his tweets were interesting, but wondered how he could justify the time to write and send more than 2000 messages while running a busy grain and livestock property. “I told her I didn’t see it that way. It’s educational and by attaching a picture it helps to demonstrate the work that goes into producing food and fibre to the wider community,” he says.
Another reason Tony started using Twitter was to understand how generation Y (people born in the 1980s and 1990s) communicates. He sees this as important when employing casual workers from that generation, who appear to be always on the phone. “While it might seem like they’re not working, they may just be tapping into their social media networks to solve a problem or seek an opinion for a better way of doing things,” he says.
In the past two years, Tony has enjoyed using Twitter to initiate discussions with progressive growers, but he also sees a continuing need for more traditional forms of communication. Recently, as a member of the GRDC’s Kwinana West Regional Cropping Solutions Network, Tony voiced his support for a “go-to person” who growers can ring to discuss issues around liming, spading and mouldboard ploughing. “We need to work hard to attract more straight-talking and persuasive research communicators into our sector to drive adoption, otherwise we risk reinventing the wheel every 20 years,” he says.
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