Tim May says he’s “just a farmer down the road.”
But the Rockwood, ON dairy farmer — better known as ‘Farmer Tim’ in the social media world — and his 43 cows are certainly punching above their weight in the fight to help consumers understand what really happens on the farm these days.
Three years ago, the soft-spoken dairy farmer decided he had to do something to address the misinformation about farming proliferating on social media. That’s when he became an agvocate and made his Facebook page available to consumers hungry for Farmer Tim’s insightful, genuine and entertaining look at day-to-day life on his dairy farm.
Since going public, May has amassed more than 35,000 followers on Facebook and Twitter from 44 countries around the globe. Some people call him a ‘rock star’ farmer, but he deflects that tag saying he’s just doing what needs to be done. “It’s our story… Farmers need to take responsibility and get the message out there,” says May.
His goal and approach is very simple: he works to earn the trust of consumers so they understand and believe what happens on his farm. “I make people understand I’m just like them,” he stresses. “I’m an average person, I have a family, we’re part of the community, we go to the same grocery stores they do, we buy food – we’re consumers as well.”
Hear Farmer Tim share his thoughts on how he uses social media to connect with consumers in this interview with RealAgriculture’s Bernard Tobin at the recent FarmSmart conference in Guelph.
May says he really doesn’t plan what information and farm stories he shares with his followers. He wakes up, heads to the barn and it goes from there.
“I’ll share my good days with them and I’ll share my bad days with them. I want to let them know I have feelings and emotions, and (help them) experience the farm and farm life.”
Along the way, May looks for ways to educate his non-farm and farming followers. Photo and videos focus on the cows and day-to-day happenings on the farm, but he wants to show people he’s more than just a farmer. “People want to know you, not just your farm,” says May.
It’s also important to show compassion and let people know you care about your animals, your family and your farm.
Of course, there are activists who follow him on social media and comment on his farm. How does he handle them? May understands that negativity and nasty comments are all part of social media. He chooses to rise above the activists, keep a level head, and be nice. That’s appreciated by consumers who really want to learn about his farm. It also opens conversations with people who’ve been exposed to misinformation from activists. Many of them are willing to listen, he says.
May even acknowledges that being part of the farming minority has its advantages. He sheepishly admits “we’re kinda like rock stars — we’re cool. Farming is cool again. If you introduce yourself as a farmer…people want to know what you do.” And Farmer Tim is happy to tell them.