by Noelle Munaretto for the Ontario Culinary Tourism Alliance, a ‘Certified Good Food Fighter

Farmer with Laptop

Trevor Herrle-Braun (@Herrles_Market) is not a big believer in marketing. Neither is his family.

“It’s not something that we had ever used,” says Herrle-Braun, of Herrles County Farm Market in St. Agatha, Ont. “We don’t advertise as a rule in our family. We prefer word of mouth.”

But when Herrle-Braun stumbled upon Twitter in March of this year, the speed and ease of communicating in 140-character chunks caught his eye.

“With our business, time is of the essence,” he says. “If I can throw out a quick little blurb it works.”

Today, with over 700 followers, the Herrle’s Farm Twitter feed is capturing a wide audience by sharing authentic stories from the field and the farmhouse.

“All through the planting season I did a hashtag called tractor tweets,” says Herrle-Braun, adding that he would tweet directly from the field about crops he was planting like peas and sweet corn.

He also mentioned how tweeting from his phone during his workdays allowed his customers to better understand exactly what kind of labour and effort goes into running a full-scale farm.

“It’s educational because it puts a personal touch to the business. Our followers can actually connect with a family member,” added Herrle-Braun. “If you’re just going to advertise your business that’ not what social media is about.

Free Range Farmer Mark Hall (@ont_tamworth) is also using his Twitter to give his followers a glimpse into the world of professional farming.

“We’re trying to paint a picture for people about what life is like on the farm,” he said. “We’re also all about connecting with people who have small farms like ours.”

Hall, who farms free-range, grass-fed and heritage cattle, pigs and poultry sees Twitter’s potential in creating meaningful industry relationships. And sometimes, those meaningful relationships can also lead directly to sales.

“It’s an online sharing of information,” he says. “We’ve sold some stuff from the connections I’ve made on Twitter.

Above all, Hall says Twitter has helped challenge the boundaries of traditional communication methods.

“We had a farm blog too,” he added. “But it’s actually interesting because through Twitter we build up connections with people we might not have otherwise.”

At Springridge Farm in Milton, Ont., Niki Hilton (@springridgenow) is a social media manager with a mission.

She’s been tweeting on behalf of the farm since February 2010, and has since been spreading the word about the farm’s products, festivals, tours, and special offers to her 900 plus followers.

“Being a farm market, there’s a lot of other farm markets in Ontario we could connect with on Twitter,” says Hilton. “And being a free platform, Twitter was a great marketing tool for us.”

Hilton explains how this past summer, the farm partnered up with local TV personality Kathy Buckworth for an event, Girls Night Out on the Farm. In conjunction they offered numerous promotions, as well as access to the event, via Twitter. The event turned out to be a success, with a large turnout and great online exposure. Hilton credits social media through Twitter as one of the reasons behind that success.

“That really validated us being on Twitter and investing time in it,” she says.

Hilton has also taken Twitter to the next level by attending regional Tweet Ups – in-person get-togethers for Twitter users from a particular area.

“I’ve been able to attend a few of those and make the connections with our followers face-to-face,” she says. “We’ve made some great partnerships out of that.”

To get tweets from great growers and producers in Ontario follow their list via @OntarioCulinary on Twitter.