According to Mon veau s’appelle Hashtag (my veal is called Hashtag) a recent webdocumentary by French radio France Info, 6 out of 10 French farmers use the internet on a daily basis. They are particularly active on social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Vine or Instagram and use their smart phones to regularly upload content.
At first this sounded counter-intuitive so I tried to dig into the reasons and the implications behind farmers 2.0.
Like all social media users, farmers create content about their daily lives. Statements about their work, pictures of their fields, their animals, felfies…
In French the hashtag #bonheurdepaysan (peasant happiness) and #Moieleveur (I breeder) regroup happy moments from the users’ lives.
— PILLAUD Hervé (@Herve_Pillaud) 20 Avril 2013
— Yann MARTIN (@Yannzerodeux) 25 Avril 2013
— lilimag72 (@lilimag72) 20 Février 2014
By showing their everyday life, farmers also serve an educational purpose: they show people how things are done. How wine is made, how cows are milked, how milk makes cheese… So at a time when most of us live in urban environments and believe that milk comes from a box, farmers remind us that they’re actually the ones working to fill all those lovely supermarket shelves. As they sometimes proudly say, they “feed people” and show us how it happens.
In the case of meat producers they also remind us of a crucial element that our modern societies seems to have set aside: meat is a dead animal.
In a recent article, blogger Fabien Granier describes this with a lot of strength:
You must have killed at least once
With friends, we said : you eat meat? You must have killed. You must have done it. At least once. To realise what it means to slaughter. To realize where you stand in the world. To confront that. After you decide : meat or no meat.
Everything else is hypocrisy : people who are outraged, those who pick (everything except horse and rabbit !), those who refuse to see the fish’s eyes …
I remember that time when we killed a sheep. There was with us a group of thirty people who had never really been to the country side. They had obviously never been faced with the correlation that exists between the act of slaughtering and the slice ham.
Discord. Some took the piss at me. Against the butcher. Against the country side in general. Against the cruelty of men.
Yet they eat meat every day. Beautiful meat, bright and clean, packaged in pretty pieces of white paper, in lavish translucent and colored boxes.
But it was intolerable for them. Death. Blood. The act. It was barbaric. Barbarian! I swear I heard that word !
Extract translated from “you eat meat? You must have killed. You must have done it. At least once.” by Fabien Granier. Rural Rules blog (hosted by the NouvelObservateur) http://blogs.rue89.nouvelobs.com/rural-rules/2014/03/16/tu-manges-de-la-viande-tu-dois-avoir-tue-tu-dois-lavoir-fait-232517
Challenge to the media
In the France Info web-documentary, farmers explain that they are not satisfied with the way the traditional media depicts their world. Too much clichés, too much mockeries.
Patricia, like 32% of the French farmers is a woman. Through her Facebook pictures, she tries to challenge the clichés about female farmers.
One cow farmer in particular recalls the episode of the mad cow disease. For him it was a difficult moment, the media – he says – accused his profession of poisoning people. As a reaction to that he tried to find a way to communicate directly with the consumers, “We have to talk for ourselves” he says.
On the social media, he publishes information about the animals he brings up. He wants to encourage better transparency, traceability and trust.
In this post – Hervé Pillaud published his new born calf’s legal identity papers:
— PILLAUD Hervé (@Herve_Pillaud) 6 Mars 2014
It also helps to cut the middle men and bring customers to the farm.
For Pierre (also in the web-doc) who sell half of his wine production directly to the customers ” They look on the internet, Google shows them my facebook page so they click on it, they see the farm, they see me working they’re like – Oh he looks nice that folk! – Then they call, they come and spend some time at the farm and buy bottles”.
Agriculture is a solitary activity and social media allows for farmers to break that solitude.
Patricia breeds cows, in the web-doc she reads out loud some comments that she receives on her Facebook Page:
“I love looking at your pictures, I feel like I’m on holidays at your place, like I lived with you and your herd”. Simple comments like this go straight to my heart. This is exactly what I want, for people to live things with me.
For Herve Pillaud a special moment is when he asks his 2365 followers to help him name the new born calves. Together, they decided on Hashtag and Jpeg:
— PILLAUD Hervé (@Herve_Pillaud) 6 Mars 2014