Social media can allow farmers to reach new audiences and ultimately inspire a new wave of young agriculturalists.
The distance between farm and fork is growing. In the United States, food travels an estimated 1,500 to 2,500 miles from the farm before reaching your table, a distance that has increased up to 25 percent in the last two decades. Consumers are growing more and more disconnected from the food they eat as the number of farmers continues to shrink, putting the future of the agriculture industry in question. How can consumers become better connected to the food they eat?
Social media is a potential solution. Young agriculturalists are leveraging social media platforms to share their stories, experiences, and insights, using platforms like Instagram and TikTok to connect with a broader audience and educate them about the world of agriculture. These digital storytelling efforts are helping to bridge the gap between rural communities and urban consumers, fostering engagement and promoting a positive image of agriculture in the digital age that could ultimately inspire a new wave of agriculturalists.
Potato Ty: Finding a Potato Future Online
Vancouver, Canada-based potato farmer Tyler Heppell—or, as you may know him, Potato Ty—started his social media journey in 2022 in hopes of raising awareness about some of the most productive farmland in Canada that was at risk of being developed. After collecting over 80,000 signatures on a petition, Heppell became a national news story and started to grow his following on social media, prompting his idea to continue sharing his passion online for protecting farmland.
“I started to create daily videos of how food was produced and was shocked at how the vast majority of people didn’t know how their food was grown,” explained Heppell. “I made it my mission to educate the end consumer on how farms work—the struggles, the successes, and everything farm related. I believe if we have a more educated end consumer, it will greatly reduce the amount of food waste we see.”
The narrative of a farmer taking to digital platforms is not merely about adapting to technology; it is a testament to the innovative spirit of modern agriculturalists. For Heppell, social media was not just a place for selfies and snapshots, but a battleground for advocacy, a place to rally support, and a medium to enlighten thousands about the nuances of farming.
Heppell now has an online following totaling more than 645,000 people on Instagram and TikTok collectively. He uses his accounts @potayty (Instagram) and @heppellspotato (TikTok) to share engaging and creative content centered around potatoes. Through his posts, he showcases various recipes, cooking techniques, and unique ways to enjoy potatoes, as well as the behind-the-scenes of being a potato farmer.
Heppell’s social media success goes beyond passive audience engagement—he even gets his audience to participate in what he calls Ugly Potato Day. “I want to show the end consumer how hard we work to put food on the store shelves, and how much work goes into each harvest,” said Heppell. “I see how much food waste there is, and if the masses only knew how much work went into growing a crop, I know it would help reduce the food waste we see in North America. That’s why I created Ugly Potato Day, where we give out our ugly potatoes to the public, so they can see first-hand that just because a potato is ugly in appearance, doesn’t mean it’s not nutritious and delicious.”
Heppell’s biggest Ugly Potato Day had more than 4,000 people show up and raised over $6,400 for food banks, giving away a total of 45,000 pounds of “ugly” produce to the community. Heppell now aims to have an Ugly Potato Day every two months at his farm.
Avery Claire Mallory: Saving the Family Farm
Avery Claire Mallory, known for her work on her family farm Lily Hill Farm, is another prominent creator and influencer in the agricultural space. With a passion for sustainable farming and homesteading, her content on topics such as organic gardening, animal husbandry, and self-sufficiency resonates with a wide audience.
“My agricultural journey has been a whirlwind of challenges, growth, and unwavering determination,” said Mallory. “It all started when my father, facing physical and financial limitations, considered selling our family farm. The thought of losing such a significant part of our lives was unbearable, and deep down, I knew I had to do something to save it.”
Mallory left behind her career in international finance to return to Georgia with her husband and take over the family farm. They knew very little about agriculture initially, but were eager to learn and willing to put in the hard work. It has been a rollercoaster ride—they have made mistakes along the way, stumbled, and have faced their fair share of financial hardships—but they never lost sight of their vision to make the family farm profitable again.
“As we navigated the challenges, I realized the power of storytelling and connecting with people. That's when I turned to social media. I started sharing our journey, the ups and downs, the joys and struggles. It was a way to document our progress and build a community around our farm,” Mallory shared.
Using social media to showcase their story became a vital part of Lily Hill Farm’s agricultural journey and provided them with a voice, with a way to connect with like-minded individuals and build a loyal customer base. “Overall, our agricultural journey has been a testament to the power of passion, resilience, and the ability to adapt. It has taught us that there is value in sharing your story,” said Mallory. She has over 102,000 followers on her Instagram page @lilyhillcattle and over 17,000 followers on TikTok, also @lilyhillcattle.
Mallory’s social media presence has a significant impact on the perception of agriculture. In many ways, agriculture has been misunderstood or underappreciate by the public, but by sharing their story, their struggles, and their successes through social media, Mallory has been able to provide a glimpse into the world of farming and bridge the divide between farmers and consumers.
Angus cattle flesh out easier than other breeds due to a combination of genetic factors, feed efficiency, early maturation, and adaptability. They have been selectively bred for meat production traits, which contribute to their ability to develop good muscle mass and easily marble.♬ original sound - Avery Claire
“One of the key impacts of our social media presence has been the opportunity to showcase the care and dedication that goes into raising our beef. Through photos, videos, and personal anecdotes, we have been able to highlight the love and attention we give to our animals, the sustainable practices we follow, and the beauty of the American’s farmland. This has helped dispel misconceptions about the agricultural industry and shed light on the responsible and compassionate side of farming,” explained Mallory. Through storytelling and authenticity, she has been able to create a more positive, informed, and transparent perception of agriculture, helping consumers appreciate the hard work and dedication that goes into producing their food. They have opened up a dialogue where people can feel free to ask questions, learn about farming practices, and gain a deeper understanding of where their food comes from.
Fighting for a Future: Inspiring Young Agriculturalists
Sharing their journeys online may have started as a way to get their stories into the world, but it has transformed into far more; Heppell and Mallory hope to inspire the next generation of leaders to get engaged in agriculture. With the average age of the US farmer nearing 60 years old, Heppell and Mallory’s mission to inspire young agriculturalists is more important than ever.
“The next generation needs to see how fulfilling and fun the farm can actually be,” said Heppell. At Heppell’s Potato Corp, they help educate the next generation by hosting multiple school tours per year. Their goal is to show kids how farms work, and that being a farmer can be a fantastic career. “I would encourage every farmer or rancher to reach out to a local school and set up a tour of your farm. You never know, that could be the difference in someone’s life and push them to pursue the beautiful life of a farmer.”
Mallory follows a similar philosophy. “I strongly believe that social media is an incredibly powerful platform to engage the next generation of leaders within agriculture. The younger generation is already deeply immersed in social media, making it an ideal space to connect, educate, and inspire them about the opportunities and importance of agriculture,” said Mallory. By featuring her experiences, challenges, and accomplishments, she hopes to inspire and empower other young people to consider pursuing a future in agriculture. “It's important to emphasize that farming is not just a traditional occupation, but a dynamic and rewarding profession that allows individuals to make a meaningful impact on food production and the environment.”
Reconnecting people with the sources of their food while spotlighting the intricacies and beauty of farming has never been more crucial. As global challenges such as climate change, population growth, and diminishing natural resources loom, the next generation of agriculturalists will be at the forefront of developing sustainable solutions. By taking their stories to social media, farmers like Heppell and Mallory are not only challenging misconceptions, but are also sowing the seeds for a sustainable future.