When I started the #farm365 project on January 1, 2015, I couldn’t have imagined that simply taking a picture a day from around the farm would generate so much interest from the media, from consumers and from my fellow farmers. Looking back over last year, I thought I’d share my 5 biggest surprises:

Surprise 1 – People actually want to see what is happening on the farm.

Don’t get me wrong, I hoped that people would be interested in seeing what was going on around the farm. But to see thousands step in and hit the follow button was exciting and added a little bit of pressure to the challenge. A good kind of pressure that helped me post a picture each and every day. For anyone that did follow along – thank you! I’ve had a great time showing off our farm as well as what we do as dairy and grain farmers in Ontario.

Surprise 2 – Other farmers want to show off their farms as well.

With critics that go after farming using fear, guilt or downright lies, we in agriculture can’t expect others to talk up the sector for us. It is why I think advocacy is so important. Talking about all the positives that are in agriculture, food & farming is an important job because there are so many great things to talk about! To see other farmers want to post something as well, or want to repost or favourite the pictures from other farms shows that together we can do a better job at reaching out to consumer.

Surprise 3 – Vegan activists like their soapbox and want to protect it

Maybe this isn’t as much a surprise as a reminder. Vegan activists are passionate about their cause – even if they appear to blindly follow a movie or some Internet memes. They use that fear and guilt that so many other critics pull out and are used to getting an emotional response from the audience. But when they got up on their soapbox in this case and found that farmers weren’t falling for their tactics and instead were going to open their farms to the online public and show what was happening, they kicked up their campaign to the point the media and many consumers started to see this was preaching rather than helping anyone. Being honest, truthful and passionate to help consumers make the choices they want to make is how we as farmers can push these online activist trolls to the sidelines. They want to dictate how people should live. We just want people to have the information they need to make the choices they want.

Surprise 4 – It isn’t that hard to find a picture every day.

I worried early on that I might find myself in trouble for pictures partway through the year. I’ll admit, some Sunday’s that were simply chore days, (doing the essentials of milking, feeding and bedding) coming up with something unique could be a challenge. But then I realized unique is all around us. We get to see the sunrise every morning, to see a milker go on the cows twice everyday, and the tractor driving around the yard — all of that isn’t something most other people get to experience. As farmers, we are truly blessed to be surrounded by natural beauty. We shouldn’t be afraid to show that.

Surprise 5 – The questions about what is next.

While I didn’t intend to go cold turkey on posting pictures from around the farm I was quite surprised by the number of people that started asking in early December about my plans for 2016 and whether or not I’d continue to take pictures. I took it as a complement and figure I’ll keep taking photos as we head into a new year. After all, the demand for information about food isn’t dying down. If anything it will only intensify, so as farmers we have to step up our game at making an effort of building consumer connections. It is time to keep opening up our sectors before someone else does it and has an impact on the next marketing claim of a fast-food chain or government regulation that changes how we do our job as farmers.

Related: Celebrating a Year of #farm365

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