Digging Deeper


Farmers #occupycombine at harvest time

With all eyes on the big cities and the Occupy (insert city here) movements, you’ve been missing a good virtual show coming out of farm country.

Farmers are busy harvesting and taking to the Twitterverse in a movement of their own, called #occupycombine.

“This movement is built on the ideals of ethics, family, hard work and transparency in how food is raised,” Mike Haley, an Ohio farmer, wrote on his blog, Haley Farms. “This is a peaceful movement, there are no demands, only prayers for good weather to help get the crops harvested in a quick and safe manner.”

I emailed Mike yesterday and he called me back in between all the work going on. He was dealing with a grain bin rupture that left a 2,000-bushel corn spill, in addition to harvesting soybeans and caring for his family’s cattle.

Mike said he couldn’t take credit for starting #occupycombine.  He first saw it on a Facebook post, then found it moving on Twitter. He wrote the blog post hoping to infuse a little humor into the Occupy Wall Street coverage, he said, but also to throw a little sarcasm into the conversation.

“The way I’ve been brought up is that if you work hard and put your mind to something you’ll get compensated for it,” he said. “So me and other farmers work hard to occupy the combine and hopefully things go well and my time pays me back for it.”

The #occupycombine string apparently was started by Mark Rohrich, a North Dakota farmer who tweets @sunflowerfarmer.  Susan Crowell, an editor at Farm and Dairy, an Ohio weekly newspaper, soon hooked up with the hashtag on her Twitter feed @scrowell and then chronicled the #occupycombine movement on the The Social Silo blog.

Susan wrote that #occupycombine is really about the remarkable rise in social media that has kept so many in farm country connected, even when they’re out in the fields or, yes, in the combine seat.

“The OccupyCombine movement has nothing to do with our national economic discontent, but everything to do with the growing social media camaraderie and community that is building connections within agriculture online — a community that is also extending its voice to the nonfarm community in powerful ways,” she wrote.

Mike, 31, has been an integral part of that social media community in farm country. He was among the folks who founded AgChat, a non-profit group dedicated to empowering farmers and ranchers to tell their stories through Twitter, Facebook, blogs, YouTube and Linkedin.

“What better way to comment with how your food is grown than to connect with a farmer on social media?” Mike said. “It breaks the urban-rural social barrier.”

He’s got a point. Because you can hold a sign in a park, or take your message online, no matter what percentile you’re living in, as Matt Boucher, an Illinois farmer, did last weekend @boucherfarms:

“I am of the 2%. The 2% of the people who choose to work hard to provide the 98% with quality #food products. I am a #farmer. #occupycombine