Once upon a time…telling the ‘rice’ story

Vicky BoydIf you don’t tell the story of the rice industry, somebody else will, and you may not like what they say. That was the take-home message from two growers and a media expert who shared their experiences using social media to connect with consumers.

The three, each of whom taps social media in a slightly different way, were part of a “storytelling” panel discussion during the recent Rice Outlook Conference in San Antonio, Texas.

Gridley, California, rice producer Matthew Sligar started his Rice Farming TV YouTube channel after acquaintances asked him how he grew rice. Some have described his weekly video as “edu-tainment,” which Sligar says is spot on because he wants to educate people about rice in a fun way so they don’t actually know they’re learning.

Although the bulk of his videos deal with rice, he also has made ones about trips to see his in-laws in Brazil, a visit to the Big Apple and even site-seeing in San Antonio before the Outlook Conference. Sligar says the non-ag videos show viewers he is more than just a farmer — he’s also a son, a husband and a father. Having an occasional non-rice topic also allows him to capture viewers he may not otherwise be able to.

Sligar cited as an example his video on a Northern California comic book convention where he asked costumed attendees whether they preferred white or brown rice. Viewers may have found the video after they googled comic book-related subjects.

Kurt Richter, a Colusa County, California, rice producer, decided to focus on podcasts because he saw it as an untapped medium. The format also lends itself to multi-tasking — the audience may listen while they’re plowing fields, harvesting crops or doing dishes. His monthly “Rice Radio” podcasts average about 20 minutes, allowing Richter — who spent 13 years in TV news broadcasting before returning to the family farm — to delve in depth into current issues.

Fox, who used to live in Utah, admits he knew nothing about the industry before he married into the VanDyke family, who farm near Pleasant Grove, California. But he has used his talents to make videos that capture the emotional stories of farmers tied to Rice Growers of America. One video he recently posted to Facebook followed a young aerial applicator as he flew fields shortly after a close friend died in an airplane crash.

Telling your story on social media doesn’t have to be as formal as the three panelists, either. It can be something as simple as sharing images of your family, dog or farming operation on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

Regardless of the medium, the panelists had two tips: Be real and be true to yourself.