Young farmers educate customers and face criticism via social media

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There is a new breed of social media influencers shaking up Australian agriculture.

A growing number of young farmers are attracting hundreds of thousands of followers on platforms like TikTok and Instagram with their honest, educational and entertaining posts about life on the land.

Peter says Patrick is not a great herder and mainly hunts dogs around the farm “living his best life”. (Landline: Kerry Staight)

Better known as Mallee Boy, Peter was one of Australia’s first farmers to take off on social media and now has over 760,000 followers on TikTok and around 30,000 on Instagram.

The mischievous alpaca Patrick

Many come for his funny animal videos, with the farmer baptizing an entire group of seemingly ill-mannered cattle.

The family’s mischievous alpaca, Patrick, has become a social media sensation for not doing much at all.

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Play the video.  Duration: 1 minute 26 seconds

Video montage of TikToker, known as Malleboy3490(Credits: Malleboy3490)

Although there’s a lot of laughs, the farmer says the industry shouldn’t take social media platforms lightly.

“There was interest from people from all walks of life, from all parts of the world,” he said.

“And I just saw what an incredible opportunity it is to connect someone who knows absolutely nothing about farming with someone who can give them the right information.”

Photo of a smiling man with a dog.
Peter Vallance says people engage with his content very quickly and believes he can educate his audience about rural life through social media.(Landline: Kerry Staight)

With such a diverse global audience, Peter also comes under intense scrutiny, particularly when it comes to animal welfare.

“You must kill them with kindness and facts.”

TikTok influencer hits millions

South Australian farmer Mel McGorman, or Lady Ba Ba as her roughly 160,000 followers on TikTok call her, is also using her social media platforms to counter anti-farming sentiment.

Photo of a smiling woman with sheep.
Mel McGorman says that across all platforms, TikTok is key to showing urban dwellers what rural dwellers are up to, as the reach is “simply phenomenal”.(Landline: Kerry Staight)

“And I think there was a group of people in agriculture who really thought, ‘wow if they’re pushing this and a lot of people are listening to it, we really need to push.'”

The farmer, who runs a sheep feedlot with her husband Ryan, has been surprised by the misconceptions some of her followers have about everyday farming practices.

“This generation is happy to say, ‘What is it, I thought they killed a sheep to shear it.’ And that made me say…oh my god, they don’t know what’s going on,” she said.

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While Mel McGorman first took to TikTok showing the impact of the bushfires on her family’s farming business, most of her content focuses on the positive aspects of rural life.

Photo of children throwing grain.
Anna, Sally and Harry McGorman love growing up on a farm, and their mother, Mel McGorman, is focused on capturing the positive side of life on the land.(ABC: Lincoln Rothall)

Like Peter Vallance, she believes that social media is a powerful tool for an industry that people rely on, but often don’t fully understand.

“The reach is just phenomenal,” she said.

Farm content for everyone

Sixth-generation Victorian farmer Mark Merrett took a different approach to changing the way people think about farming.

Photo of a family with a child in a construction pipe.
Mark Merrett says his audience is made up of farmers, young farmers, young kids with a passion for agriculture.(Landline: Kerry Staight)

He has created a popular YouTube channel, where he shares more detailed videos of what is happening on his farm.

“I like details and I like facts,” Mark said.

The avid farmer often shows how advanced agriculture has become.

“I really like highlighting the use of technology and GPS and yield mapping,” he said.

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Mark hopes that with more farmers embracing social media, there will be a lot more authentic and accurate farming content to see.

Watch this story on ABC TV’s landline at 12:30 p.m. Sunday or on iview.

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