Kate MacLean is the owner of Longest Acres Farm in Chelsea, Vermont. You can follow her farm on Instagram at @longestacresfarm. She and her sister are writing a forthcoming children's book centered around farm life.

Statistics and sample posts using #farmlife on Instagram.

The online world and farming are, at first glance, wholly at odds with one another. There is false fantasy of the farmer as a bumbling luddite; incapable of -and uninterested in- a fluency with the technological world. Part of this is based in some reality. Farmers can very rarely afford the luxury of sitting down at a computer. But, like their office-dwelling brethren, farmers have grown familiar -often dependent- upon the small and ‘smart’ devices that anxiously idle in their pockets. Alongside the technological saturation of life with smartphones a romanticism and fascination for the pastoral has grown among urbanites.

A cynic would say it is merely en vogue to care about ones food and its provenance. An optimist might suggest that this trend is one based on genuine ideals and desire to eat better and with less impact.

Either way; there is a growing, vibrant, and enthusiastic consumer community online, wanting to consume and support farm-based content. Just a quick look at the hashtags on Instagram confirms the enthusiasm; #farm has 10.5 million posts, #farmersmarket 3.6 million, #farmhouse 2.8 million, #farmer 1.6 million, and #farmlife has 6.4 million posts.

While many farmers feel intimidated by the social networking giant of Facebook and its smaller brother Instagram they need not. The platform is designed to be inherently intuitive and the marketing possibilities are unlimited if used correctly.

By following these simple steps you can incorporate Instagram into your farm’s marketing strategy in a seamless and productive way.

  1. Create a business page for your farm on Facebook. This needn’t be more than the bare minimum, like a glorified ad in a phone book. It should include a cover photo and profile photo, your phone number, a website (if applicable), your hours for visitors (if any), your address and what you offer.
  2. Once you have created a Facebook business page you can now create an Instagram business profile. Because the latter is owned by the former step 1 is a prerequisite of step 2. You can arrange the two accounts so that everything you post on Instagram will be also published on your Facebook Page. Twice the outcome for your work.
  3. With an Instagram business profile you get access to many features that don’t come with an individual’s profile. The landing page for your farm will have a button for customers to call, another to email, another to load directions to the farm. It will have your website and or a short description of what you offer. Most importantly it will serve as a hub for the stream of your photos of your #farm, your #farmlife, your #farmhouse even your  #farmdog.
  4. A sample of the author's feed.

    Begin to fill your feed. There are two means by which to share your photos on Instagram; Stories and Posts. Posts live indefinitely on your profile page and come up in a follower’s feed. Stories live for only 24 hours on a seperate Story feed. Stories are fleeting and thus needn’t be as curated as Posts. Stories are for the photos and videos that may not be visually compelling but are nonetheless interesting to share.  After 24 hours they disappear from the feed but are archived on your account. You can always ‘highlight’ favorites that are compelling to your followers on your profile page.

  5. Save your best photos for Posts. Use this as platform to showcase all that is most visually compelling about your farm and farm life. Keep a diversity of subjects among the photos so that when a potential follower (and customer) visits your page they are immediately drawn to the story. Don’t put up four Posts in a row about your fairytale eggplant patch, no matter how proud you are. Save that sort of detail and repetition for Stories if you want to share. Do Post one of the eggplant row, and then another of your farm dog, and another still of you feeding the cows, or wrangling pigs. Instagram relies heavily on the visual for storytelling so you must convey a lot with your photos. Your captions provide a secondary communication; for those who decided they did want to click on your profile. Use captions to convey meaningful ideas. Avoid clichés. Avoid tirades. Use the platform to relay factual and compelling truths and anecdotes about your farm and your farmlife. It may take a while to find your Instagram-voice. Be patient with yourself and practice by posting regularly. It isn’t easy to accustom oneself to such a tiny platform (and tiny keyboard). Make sure you lead with an authentic voice. Begin to weave a narrative of your farm with this voice. Enlighten them not only to the joys of farming and farm life but to the sorrows and troubles. Find that balance online just as you find it on your farm.  Your followers -and your customers- will find the narrative genuinely engrossing. So much so that they will keep returning to your posts, your profile, and your farm; invested in the farm’s future and well-being.
  6. A sample post from the author.

    With an Instagram business profile you can promote certain posts through paid ads. The promotion tools allow you to select your target audience by gender, age, geographic location and even interests. For example a vegetable farm in the suburbs of Boston looking to promote a post calling for CSA members might want to target both men and women, ages 32-64, living in Boston, Massachusetts with an interest in farming, or farmers markets or cooking (or all three). The ad will then target this specified population, showing up in the feeds of potential customers heretofore unacquainted with your farm. The precision with which one can fine-tune such marketing tools is remarkable.

  7. Observe with Instagram the same rules of engagement necessary for any online presence; be impeccable with your word and post regularly.
  8. As you begin to experiment with Instagram, keep an eye on the Insights tab of your profile. This will break down your followers by age, geography and gender. It will tell you which posts perform well and how. When your followers are online and how they are interacting with your account. Adjust your posting behavior accordingly. Before you know it you will have a new and vibrant online community eager to patronize, visit, and support your farm.