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Long winters, hashtags and avoiding the couch

Prairie winters: Nature’s mental endurance test. Writing this column, a task I usually have no shortage of ideas for, is forcing my mind to think faster and harder than the weather and daylight allows. The winter doldrums are tough for most. And, it seems, the memory of warmer, fun-filled days only lasts ’till, say, about Christmas. January is the moment in the endurance test when you decide to battle through the short days or succumb to the couch.

The only thing in my life resembling farming right now is the occasional need to clear snow (using a bi-directional tractor) and the line of bins visible from my dining room. January, from what I have been able to gather, is research and development time for the savvy farmer. This, of course, is due to the bitter colds of western Canadian winters herding us indoors, and forcing us to battle boredom and apathy. Where I’m from, there is a phrase about idle hands being the workshop for, well, you know.

Don’t succumb to the couch. Stay sharp and learn something new.

Social media

Now, I know what some of you may be thinking at this point: Twitter is a funny word, created by an unemployed city slicker. Wrong. Well, I actually don’t know if that’s wrong or right, but I do know Twitter can be a very useful tool for a farmer.

Soon after my wife and I moved to Manitoba from Toronto, I went for coffee with my dad and a bunch of other farmers. There was talk of a crop-tour group in the U.S. heading out to survey yields and inspect the drought damage. A farmer at the table mentioned something about this particular group using a #hashtag, allowing anyone using the Twitter program access to the group’s findings, in real time. For those who don’t know what a #hashtag is, take the time to google it; not a complicated concept to grasp, but very useful.

So, at the local coffee show, the newbie farmer, me, “he must know about these so-called #hashtags,” was called on to access this information. The usefulness and timeliness of the information had every mind, including mine, at the table rapt.

I have learned a lot about farming, agriculture markets and country living through social media.

Do some research on how to setup a Twitter account, start following some ag-business people or anyone else you may find interesting, and stay sharp. And, signing up does not mean you need to participate; you can just sit back and take in information that is at least 12 hours fresher than anything on tv or print.

For online publishers and newspapers, Twitter functions like the traditional paper route, delivering news to your front door. Only, in this case, the front door is the phone in your pocket or the computer at your desk. In this case, the amount of followers you have is the amount of people on your route. And, to extend the analogy, the people you follow are the columnists and reporters you have chosen to read.

To those already in the social media know, you’ll note I have neglected to mention the many other platforms that also provide real-time, fresh agriculture news, but, if you can master Twitter, you’ve earned social media knighthood. Happy tweeting. †

About the author

Columnist

Toban Dyck is a freelance writer and a new farmer on an old farm. Follow him on Twitter @tobandyck or email [email protected]

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