‘Tell your story’: WA farmers urged to have online presence to encourage buying local as prices rise

Headshot of Shannon Verhagen
Social media expert Meg Coffey provided farmers with advice on how best to use the platform for their farm businesses.
Camera IconSocial media expert Meg Coffey provided farmers with advice on how best to use the platform for their farm businesses. Credit: Shannon Verhagen/Countryman/Countryman

It has never been more important for WA farmers to tell their story, according to a leading digital strategist in the State’s horticulture industry.

The State’s $11 billion agricultural sector is facing crippling labour shortages and major supply chain interruptions off the back of the COVID-19 pandemic, which is anticipated to have flow-on effects to those purchasing produce at the supermarket.

Meg Coffey — the strategist behind the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development’s Buy West Eat Best — said it was “critical” farmers connected with consumers to encourage them to continue to support local when prices did rise.

The way to do it — an online presence.

Get in front of tomorrow's news for FREE

Journalism for the curious Australian across politics, business, culture and opinion.


“We’re not telling the story well enough,” Ms Coffey said.

“We want to know about the farm — educate us and tell us your story.

“We’re more willing than ever to support local.”

It is even more important to humanise the products on store shelves amid the challenges of the pandemic, she said.

“Yes there’s the whole farm-to-fork movement, but you’re buying from a person, from a family, not just a faceless, nameless corporation.

“I think a lot of us through the pandemic have learnt empathy. As long as we’re being told what’s going on, we’re understanding.

“So if you say, ‘we’re rising prices and the reason is because fertiliser has gone through the roof,’ it’s going to be far more palatable than not knowing and people asking, ‘why is our mango now $6?

“By having an active social media presence and a website that’s up to scratch, when you do need to tell your story you have an outlet.”

While it could be a daunting prospect for some growers, Ms Coffey said farmers just needed the basics to get started, and set manageable goals for their online presence.

“At minimum, make sure you have a functioning website with contact details — that is as important as the licence to your business, the petrol to your tractor,” she said.

“Start with a website, maybe an email blast, a monthly, ‘what’s growing on the farm’. Start a conversation with your customers other than, ‘this is the product.’”

Knowing your target audience will determine what platform you should be using, Ms Coffey said.

“lf you’re talking to other farmers, it’s Twitter, if you’re trying to talk to Georgia and her two kids, it’s Facebook, if you’re talking to food bloggers and media, you need to be on Instagram,” she said.

Conceding social media might be the “last thing” on some farmers’ minds, or they might not think they have the skills, she said it was important to start out with “reasonable” targets, so farmers can maintain them.

“You really want to be posting 3-4 times a week but let’s be realistic, if we can get something once a week it’s still something,” Ms Coffey said.

“So when something like the supply chain crisis happens ... you’ve got an outlet to tell the story and push the story and control the narrative.

“A lot of farmers right now, they don’t even have their websites up to scratch.”

While it can be an intimidating step, Ms Coffey said businesses that had worked on a “recognisable brand” and invested in marketing and connecting with their consumer had “flourished” off the back of the “support local” trend.

“I think the big thing is don’t be afraid,” she said.

“Yes it’s a powerful medium, but just tell an honest story.

“Social media can change your business and change your life for the bad and good and I think we don’t know how long the pandemic will go and how long the buying cycle will be interrupted.

“So they need to keep reinventing and finding new ways to reach their customers.”

Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails