Agriculture and social media: Q&A with Sue Colucci

By on April 7, 2009

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Like we mentioned in our Facebook…and Farmers post, many agriculturists are finding value for themselves and their customers, suppliers and producers in social media tools like blogs, Twitter, Facebook and more. Here, we’ll highlight local organizations and businesses using these programs and find out how they’re benefiting from them.

Sue Colucci is an area-specialized agriculture agent for Buncombe, Henderson and Haywood counties, with responsibilities for commercial production of vegetables and small fruits. She started with N.C. Cooperative Extension last July after finishing her M.S. in plant pathology at N.C. State University. Since then, she’s created and managed the WNC Vegetable and Small Fruits News blog since August 2008.

Why did you start the blog?

I started WNC Vegetable and Small Fruits News to highlight and document the problems I encounter in the field. I want to report these problems to educate my growers and other agriculture educators, but also for myself. I figure if I document a problem in August of 2008, there is a good chance I might see that problem again in August of 2009. My goal is to take high-quality pictures of diseases, insects and abiotic plant disorders to educate growers and other extension agents on problems they might see in the field. By including pictures of the symptoms and signs and including recommendations I hope to empower my clients to diagnose problems in their fields and manage them in an appropriate and effective manner.

Blogging is also a creative outlet for me. Though I love science and agriculture, I also enjoy photography, writing and design. My blog has been a way for me to tie all of these things together.

What kind of information do you post?

Because the Cooperative Extension only disseminates research-based information, the recommendations on my site are from university specialists and are mostly specific to North Carolina. The blog has morphed from a diagnostic site to a site that includes event announcements, discussion and introduction of farm policies, awareness of what other groups are accomplishing in Western N.C. and across the state, and links about agriculture news.  I also like to blog from conferences that I go to in order to share any important information or exciting news for those who could not attend. I have received only favorable comments about my blog. Occasionally I receive e-mails from readers that are appreciative for my content. Sometimes these positive comments come from outside of the Southeast! It has been very fulfilling. I hope to spread the blog out farther and wider to help as many individuals as possible.

Do you know of other N.C. farmers or agriculture organizations that use social media?

There are a number of Cooperative Extension agents blogging about things, from the green and nursery industry to home gardening and environmental issues. There are also groups on Facebook for just about anything you are passionate about: local food, organic farming, raising llamas, etc. I am also an active Twitter user, tweeting about the events I attend or the programs I am conducting on any day.

I think blogging and other social media are just getting started in the world of agriculture. Currently, many rural areas lack high-speed Internet access, but I think those days are coming to an end. And because growers are busy during the growing season, they might just start searching the Internet for answers at night or on the weekend. It is my goal to be a source for those answers.

How are new technologies like blogs and social media helping farmers and gardeners?

More and more farmers and gardeners are turning to the Internet for information. It is important the Cooperative Extension reaches these individuals and markets our programs using appropriate technologies to stay relevant. It is also becoming increasingly important that we use technology in an effective way to decrease travel costs, printing costs, etc.  It is very “green.” I would encourage anyone to use technologies such as blogging. It is so easy and efficient. Sometimes we need to get information out to our growers quickly, and waiting until your monthly or bi-monthly newsletter comes out may be too late.

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