Editor’s note: Jack Boyne, director of communications, Bayer CropScience.

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. – Farmers who blog and tweet? Who would guess? But there are a whole lot of them – just take a look at “Farmer Bloggers“ and you will get an idea of just how active today’s modern farmers are with social media.

At the 2012 Ag Issues Forum held in February in Nashville, Tenn., farmers such as Ryan Weeks, a corn grower in Nebraska, discussed how they use social media. Weeks said he uses Twitter, Facebook and blogging to share what he does in his farming operation. “No matter where you are, there is always a chance to talk about what you are doing,” he said.

Weeks’ blog, “Days of the Weeks,” informs readers about life on a fifth-generation family farm located in South Central Nebraska. The Weeks family raises popcorn, commercial corn, soybeans, alfalfa and prairie hay on the same acreage settled by their great-great grandparents in 1892. According to Weeks, a tremendous amount of management and bookwork are required in a farming operation, because it is a full-fledged business. Farming is also a family-oriented enterprise.

Jillian, another farm blogger who describes herself as a “Florida farm girl in love with an Alabama farmer,” blogs as follows: “I swore that when I got a new camera I would begin blogging like it was no one’s business. Oh well, here’s to good intentions! It’s planting time! Jared and the boys have been in the field late every night trying to prepare new ground, fix terraces and actually get this wonderful purple cotton seed in the soil.”

Getting those wonderful seeds in the soil is only one aspect of what modern farming is all about. Farmers are technologically savvy and engage with companies such as Bayer CropScience for the technology, tools and knowledge necessary to produce healthy, affordable food, fiber and fuel to help feed a hungry planet.

That kind of sharing is important to non-government officials such as Suzy Friedman, deputy director for working lands at the Environmental Defense Fund, an organization dedicated to improving the environment through science and economics. She stated at the Forum that she tracks supply chain decisions that farmers, retailers and others make in the way food is produced and distributed. Friedman is interested in documenting the sustainability of different farms, with a view toward economically viable solutions to agricultural production goals.

Sustainability is a hot issue in agricultural circles. “If you do not have sustainability as a core value as a farmer, you might as well not start,” said Weeks, who works with a local group to educate urban dwellers about farming through his use of social media channels.

Social media-oriented farmers such as Weeks and non-government officials such as Friedman are influencing the agriculture industry in unique ways. The opportunities to advance sustainability efforts involve and impact a wide range of stakeholders throughout the food system, all the way from growers to consumers, and it is important for all entities to engage in a dialogue. Social media facilitates those conversations.

The Ag Issues Forum was hosted by Bayer CropScience for the seventh consecutive year as a way to cultivate ideas and answers among agricultural thought leaders and farmers. Bayer CropScience also launched a new social media hub in February 2012 to engage in dialogue with a wide range of stakeholders throughout the food system. Found at http://connect.bayercropscience.us, the social media hub discusses food, fuel, fiber and feed production, trends and coverage in the industry, consumer perceptions and advocacy for agriculture. Readers can leave comments or ask questions. The website also features videos and links to Bayer’s other social media pages.

The Bayer CropScience Twitter page has more than 1,200 followers and is just getting off the ground. During the 2012 Bayer News Briefing at Beltwide Cotton Conferences held in January at the Orlando World Center Marriott, Bayer CropScience used the hashtag #BWCC12 to keep followers updated on all conference happenings. Complex challenges demand broad thinking and participation, and social media will help engage diverse audiences in important discussions concerning the opportunities and challenges that impact agriculture today.

Recent guest blogger Leonard Gianessi, director of the Crop Protection Research Institute of the CropLife Foundation, discusses how sustainability in agriculture has improved over the years, saying, “Compared to using a moldboard plow, no-till farming reduces soil erosion by as much as 90 percent! No-till farming is extremely important in places like the Pacific Northwest, where steep slopes make soil erosion a big problem.”

Within the agricultural industry, social media offers the promise of enabling those interested in big innovations to benefit farmers to share what they know. All of us benefit from this, because life depends on sustainable agriculture.

Bayer CropScience is one of the world’s leading innovative crop science companies in the areas of crop protection, non-agricultural pest control, seeds and traits. The company offers an outstanding range of products and extensive service backup for modern, sustainable agriculture and for non-agricultural applications. Bayer CropScience has a global workforce of 20,700 and is represented in more than 120 countries. This and further news is available at: www.press.bayercropscience.com.

(c) Bayer CropScience