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Farmers find friend in Facebook
They work with websites and social media — to ask questions that include whether you like mushy or firm persimmons —and grow things from the ground.
Jim Muck of Jim's Produce and Wayne Bishop of Bishop's Pumpkin Farm, both in Wheatland, spoke Friday in Marysville about agriculture's new world and its computer connections.
"It's been a great vehicle for success," Muck said of Facebook.
The social media outlet allows him to ask the persimmon question to customers who pick up vegetables Muck grows on the land that's been in his family for generations.
Muck, 46, went to Yuba College and then received a degree in business from the University of Nevada, Reno, and lived in the Bay Area before returning here in 2001. New media connects growers with customers, he said.
"People refer to you as their farmer," Muck said. "I'm the guy you can talk to."
Bishop said he and Muck benefit from consumer interest in the source of what they eat.
"People want to know where their food comes from," Bishop said. Bishop, speaking at the AgrAdvantage event held by the Yuba-Sutter Farm Bureau, the Chamber of Commerce and others, said phone calls and emails were how the Wheatland pumpkin farm once heard from customers, he said.
"Now we listen via social media," Bishop said.
He read reviews from tripadvisor.com and advised that you want good comments to outweigh the bad by about 4-1. Change what you're doing if the positive and negative are about even, Bishop advised.
"You grow because more people like what you do," he said.
Sometimes you lose people who liked what you did when you were smaller, Bishop said. One commenter said the Wheatland site is too commercial.
"We've heard that for about 35 years," he said.
A business must be profitable to survive through generations, he said.
"For some reason, lots of people are not proud of making a profit," Bishop added. "I see nothing wrong with it."
Along with new communications technology, Bishop had some more basic advice for success.
"Answer the phone," he said, "and do what you say you're going to do."
Bishop's Pumpkin Farm hired more than 300 people for the fall, and besides its payroll spends more than $1 million yearly in the community, he said. The Wheatland site, with about 155,000 customers who come mostly from outside the area, "brings wealth into the community."
Anna Farrell of the Farrell Design Group said the foundation of how people find out about business, including agricultural, is online.
"The website is the foundation of your brand," she said. "Make it personal."
People want an emotional connection with those they're paying money to, Farrell said. They also want information faster than ever — and in forms that include video, she said of media that show such events as a new animal born on the farm.
"That gives people an instant way to engage," Farrell said.
CONTACT Ryan McCarthy at firstname.lastname@example.org or 749-4780. Find him on Facebook at /ADrmccarthy or on Twitter at @ADrmccarthy.