Texas Tech Gets Marketing Grant to Assist Beginning Farmers and Ranchers

Use of social media as a method of promoting business is growing in the area of agricultural communications.

A group of Texas Tech University researchers is part of a larger compilation of institutions receiving a grant to help beginning farmers and ranchers market their products and businesses.

Erica Irlbeck, an assistant professor of agricultural communications in the Department of Agricultural Education and Communications, has secured the $600,000 grant from USDA as part of its Beginning Farmer and Rancher Initiative. Courtney Meyers, an assistant professor; and Cindy Akers, a professor, both in agricultural communications, are involved in the project, as well as researchers from the University of Illinois, University of Georgia and Kansas State University.

According to Irlbeck, the grant will provide online media training – specifically social media of all sorts – for beginning farmers and ranchers, or BFRs.

“Online and social marketing has really taken off,” Irlbeck said. “All kinds of farmers and ranchers need to promote their products or businesses and many don’t know how. We will teach them how to use these online tools.

“We’re really focused on, but not limited to, the alternative type producers – like peach orchards, small herds of grass-fed beef, niche businesses – those who want to get the message out to consumers to go to their farm, buy their product or consume their wares. The limitation is simply that it’s for beginning farmers.”

Alternative enterprises refer to farms producing nontraditional crops, livestock and other farm products; operating services, recreation, tourism and other ventures based on farm and natural resources; using unconventional production systems such as organic farming; or using direct marketing and other entrepreneurial marketing strategies.

Current social media types that would likely be covered by this project include, but are not limited to, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, blogs, wikis and photo sharing sites.

The initial contact with BFRs will likely be one-hour sessions in conjunction with other meetings such as farm and ranch conventions and trade shows, Irlbeck said. The actual seven- to eight-hour trainings will most probably be included at large, statewide agricultural conferences. In addition, most of the training materials will be housed online.

This project will initially be conducted in Georgia, Illinois and Texas with plans for expansion after the third year.

Find Texas Tech news, experts and story ideas at www.media.ttu.edu and on Twitter @TexasTechMedia.

CONTACT: Erica Irlbeck, assistant professor of agricultural communications, Department of Agricultural Education and Communications, Texas Tech University at (806) 742-2816, or erica.irlbeck@ttu.edu.