The Shark Farmer Opens Minds to Agriculture with Social Media

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By Frankie Gould, LSU AgCenter

     NEW ORLEANS—Growing up on the family farm in Illinois, Rob Sharkey took over the business after college and invested in hog production.

     In 1998, though, the hog crash happened and he nearly lost everything.  Instead of filing for bankruptcy, he and his wife Emily started a white-tail deer outfitter to diversity their income in order to continue farming.

     Sharkey soon started tweeting through the #Agtwitter site to raise awareness, create disruption and conversations on agricultural issues. This lead to his podcast, “The Shark Farmer,” interviewing farmers and producers about real-life issues and successes.

     His podcast now has millions of downloads and is sponsored by a multitude of companies making more income from social media endeavors than farming.

     Sharkey conducted a social media workshop here at the 97th Annual Convention of the Louisiana Farm Bureau. There he advised agricultural social media enthusiasts, 
 “You are more real if you be yourself,” Sharkey said.  “Agriculture audiences want authentic people.”

     He asked the attendees to think back five years ago and ask ‘how did you sway people on an issue, and what platform did you use?’ The answer, he said, is newspapers or TV.  Now it is easier to reach a niche audience by using social media, which he says levels the playing field so anyone can succeed.  In addition, he said that content is king and you don’t have to be perfect.

     Sharkey went on to discuss the advantages and strengths of the most popular social media platforms. 
     “YouTube has the most potential and is the most effective platform but requires the most work,” said the Shark Farmer. He also follows several social media post such as @thisfarmwife, @harmlessfarmer” and the English “Rock and Roll Farming.”

     His wife Emily helps Sharkey with the producing and editing of his social media venues. He compared their commitment to the speed control on a John Deere farm equipment.
     “You commit to 100% or #FullBunny and follow through while keeping your priorities,” he said.

     “What The Farm” is a new podcast that Sharkey co-hosts with Lesley Kelly, interviewing consumers to address farm to urban issues. The topics range from food and agriculture perceptions to mental health. 

      “One of the hardest parts of the new podcast is having to listen to both sides of the issue and then discuss solutions,” he said.  “The participants often become Ag advocates.”

     You would think that Sharkey would be satisfied with all that he and Emily have accomplished but he isn’t. He is now onSiriusXM radio joining AgPhd, the co-founder of the Farm and Rural Ag Network and published an online magazine, AG NOW. All this is addition to being parents of four children.

     The SharkFarmer podcasts and other media can be found at https://sharkfarmer.com .

     For more information, visit www.lfbfconvention.org.  

     Founded in 1922, the Louisiana Farm Bureau Federation is the state’s largest general farm organization representing more than 137,000 member families.

lfbf19Monica Velasquez