What you need to know:
- Young and ambitious, four top farmers share the secret to how they use social media platforms Instagram, Twitter and Facebook to sell produce, get corporate events and encourage tens of other people to get into agribusiness.
- Mr. Agriculture (@Rodgers_Kirwa) grows horticultural crops and keeps poultry and fish in Uasin Gishu and mainly uses social media to promote his agribusiness.
- Jecinta Pierra Nyaruai (@Pierrajecy) farms and supplies mama mbogas traditional vegetables like terere (aramanth), managu (African Nightshade), collard greens (sukuma wiki), spinach and broccoli from her farm at Maili Sita in Nakuru County.
- Gidraph Mwangi is the owner of Havilah Farms in Nakuru where he rears pedigree dairy cows and runs a model poultry farm.
To make farming appealing to the youth, make it cool, so goes the phrase that is often repeated at many agricultural forums.
Experts have suggested the use of machinery and information and communication technology on the farm to achieve this end.
Enter social media and the realisation is that you don’t need to use expensive technology to make farming appeal to the youth.
Tweets and posts are fast-changing the farming narrative from a preserve of the uneducated and the old to an admired profession done by young people.
Social media sites are currently awash with young and ‘cool’ men and women engaging in different farming activities and making money out of them.
Seeds of Gold spoke to four top farmers on social media on how they use the platform to better themselves, their businesses and others.
He ventured into farming soon after clearing Egerton University.
He grows horticultural crops and keeps poultry and fish in Uasin Gishu and mainly uses social media to promote his agribusiness.
“Besides farming, I manage client farms in different parts of the country, consults for corporates and markets their produce online and offline. I also train and mentor young farmers on my demo farm.”
To him, publishing his activities on social media has cemented his brand. “Social media is a free tool where you are allowed to market yourself and sell your brand alongside your produce. Why not maximise on it?” he poses.
With a following of 65,600 on Twitter, Kirwa has been privileged to not only work with local companies but travel to other countries and secure fellowships abroad, thanks to his tweets.
“Social media is powerful and useful but it all depends on how one leverages on it,” he says, adding he has helped encourage many people to take up agribusiness.
He sells his produce on social media directly to consumers. “Buyers are all over social media, but the good thing is that they are in one place.”
The downside of digital farming, Kirwa notes, is passing off unverified information that misguide those willing to practise farming.
“As a digital farmer, your followers need to see practically what you do offline. This helps to authenticate what we you are posting, which is good for business.”
Jecinta Pierra Nyaruai @Pierrajecy
She farms and supplies mama mbogas traditional vegetables like terere (aramanth), managu (African Nightshade), collard greens (sukuma wiki), spinach and broccoli from her farm at Maili Sita in Nakuru County.
With 6,000 followers on Twitter and thousands of friends on Facebook, Jecinta, who is also a writer, is a farming brand.
“I recommend use of social media a lot because it brings everyone in the value chain in one setting, from the produce, broker, market and consumers,” she says, noting that she does not engage brokers.
She started farming after apprenticing on her father’s farm soon after finishing secondary education.
“I now farm organically, having started four years ago, pushed by increased demand for safe produce. I use compost, animal manure and rabbit urine to fertilise and feed my crops as well as keep invasive pests at bay. And this is what I promote on social media.”
Social media has put her on the national map and through it, she inspires young girls, showing them that one can be successful by taking up blue collar jobs.
With almost everyone on social media, she says it is easier to access market. “With vegetables, the option is always going for a commodity that does not take long to leave the market and is highly consumed.”
To grow one’s status on social media, Nyaruai says you have to keep your followers updated by posting your activities consistently.
“Also, respond to people’s comments and your content should be unique, fresh and original.”
Farmercist @Caleb Karuga
He runs Wendy Farm in Kikuyu, Kiambu County, and keeps poultry, fish, dairy goats and grows traditional vegetables. Karuga has over 31,000 followers on Twitter for which he updates daily activities on his farm.
He writes in one post, “During today’s morning assembly, I admonished the cocks not to chicken out whenever an opportunity arises.” The message that is accompanied by a video generates several questions on poultry from farmers.
Karuga says his social media activities have seen him get opportunities to train farmers either on his farm or theirs as well as get hired by corporates to promote farming and agri-preneurship.
A good number of his customers also come through social media, buying his chickens, goat milk and vegetables.
“Social media helps me interact with clients including those in the diaspora, who want farming start-ups for their parents back home.”
As a good measure, Karuga says he posts both his achievements and mistakes in his business to paint a clear picture for his followers that farming is not always rosy.
“This helps to wipe out the illusion that farming is all boom or gloom. It also helps to appreciate hardwork that go through various activities,” he narrates.
“I readily do market research on social media helping me to forecast future trends and understand the current ones.”
Through Twitter, he is also able to understand the demography of his clients and which product are preferred by which gender.
“My goat milk that I sell at Sh200 per litre is mainly bought by people with lactose intolerance, parents with young babies who have eczema and those with diseases like HIV/Aids. I would not be able to know this if I was supplying the milk to retailers for sale. But through social media, buyers contact me directly thus I am able to understand them.”
He converses with people mainly on Facebook, gets corporate deals on Twitter and uses Instagram to link with the diaspora.
“Social media has rendered brokers irrelevant because you deal with clients directly.”
He cautions that over-posting can create consumer fatigue that would translate to losses.
“One needs to know when to sell their produce to avoid viewer fatigue and un-appreciation of their work,” Karuga concludes.
The owner of Havilah Farms in Nakuru rears pedigree dairy cows and runs a model poultry farm.
Having amassed 5,000 followers on Facebook, he uses the platform to link up with buyers of his milk, heifers and other animal products.
He started the farm six years ago after graduating from Africa Nazarene University with a Bachelor of Commerce.
“I started building my profile by posting cows on Facebook not necessarily for sale but for fun before deciding to make it a full-time venture.”
Social media has made it easier for him to sell his produce.
“My strategy is to ensure I remain relevant on social media and not fatigue my followers. I engage them by responding to their comments and queries, especially by providing ‘how-to’ answers to dairy farming enthusiasts.”
Each day, he chooses a topic to educate his followers on and he is open to questions and advise.
His go-to-app is Facebook, noting it is easier to use and is interactive with a wider audience that information can be shared with ease to many pages and other social media friendly groups.
“There is always someone willing to buy what you are selling on social media.” He produces 140 litres daily from six out of his nine cows. The downside of using social media to sell, according to him, is the difficulty in telling serious buyers from jokers.
Kenneth Njihia, the eHub project coordinator at the Dedan Kimathi University in Nyeri, says social media has enabled farmers project their enterprises in a way never seen before.
Through the platforms, people know in real-time what farmers are doing, what helps to encourage others to take up the business.
He notes that social media is cost-effective and reaches wider audience making it a better option for start-ups.
‘‘Digital exposure helps create a brand and a loyal community, giving you as the brand more visibility and creating lasting relationships that help drive new sales,” says Njihia.