Webber uses social media to educate
CLAYTON, Del. — Bobbi Jo Webber had been using social media on a personal level for years before using Facebook to show people how her family raises organic chicken for Perdue Farms’ Coleman Natural Foods.
Along with managing eight chicken houses, Webber, her husband Matt and Matt’s father Bill farm 1,500 acres near Clayton, Del.
During the long hours on the tractor and growing chickens, she soon realized there was a lot she could show people who don’t know how farms operate.
“So many people are removed from the ag world,” Bobbi Jo said. “So I thought, ‘Why don’t I use the platform to show people what we do.”
The Webber family started farming at their location in the 1960s, operating a dairy. Bill started growing chickens in 1991 with two houses and built two more the next year.
In 1998, two more houses were built to make it feasible for Matt to come back to the farm full-time.
In 2014, the family completed the transition to USDA organic production and added two more chicken houses.
Bobbi Jo started the Facebook page, Webber Family Farm, in 2017 with a string of posts titled “Follow the Field” that ran the length of a season growing timothy hay.
With positive feedback from that effort, she launched “Follow the Flock,” taking followers inside the chicken house from Day 0 when chicks arrive to the day they leave.
Before she started the poultry postings, Bobbi Jo said she met with Perdue personnel to discuss the company’s social media policies and make them aware of what she wanted to do with the page.
She said she averages about four posts a week — “Summer is busier because we’re busier,” — using a mix of photos and short videos with an explanation of what’s happening that particular day.
“We could give you a list of all the big and little things that can go wrong or break down,” she wrote on Feb. 10. “Today it was a water leak. Thankfully something simple to fix, but it could have easily been much worse.”
She also works to blend new aspects of chicken farming she hasn’t addressed with some of the basics for new followers of the page, along with unanticipated issues that popup during the growout cycle.
Along with all the other chores on the farm, Bobbi Jo said she puts in about four to six hours a week on social media for the farm’s page.
She said it’s important to give it due time to make sure what she posts is accurate, understandable and engaging.
“I have to look at it from the perspective of someone who doesn’t know what they’re looking at,” she said. “There’s a lot of thinking and rethinking and revising.”
With more than 1,500 people following the page, Bobbi Jo said feedback has been mostly positive, with people asking questions and expressing thanks for the information.
“I never get tired of answering questions because I still like it,” she said. “I like the fact that I am giving them knowledge on something they don’t know about.”
Since starting the page, she’s been invited to speak on two discussion panels, one directed toward animal care groups at Perdue’s Animal Care Summit and another for employees at Butcher Box, a subscription meat delivery service.
The increased attention to the farm has also brought a few school groups to the farm for field trips.
The Webbers showed the students the chicken houses and take them to wetland areas on the farm that illustrates how water from the farm is filtered naturally as it moves.
She said that while it’s been great to open the doors of the farm to a few local groups, using social media helps her reach people farther away and keep the farm open, in a sense, when heightened biosecurity or other reasons aren’t conducive to visitors.
“This is my livelihood, this is my paycheck,” she said. “These birds have to come first.”
The “Follow the Flock” and other posts don’t add anything to her paycheck, she added.
But she said she hopes sharing what happens at the farm has helped people understand more about what they buy in the supermarkets and other retail outlets.
“I really do enjoy teaching people about agriculture. Less than one percent of the people do what I do,” She said. “I think we need to do it because we need people to be in the know,” she said. “People do need to trust us. The only way for them to do that is to learn.”