By Rachel Bertone
For Central Illinois farmer Bill Graff, when it comes to this year’s drought, modern technology helps him stay ahead of the curve.
Graff, who grows 1,400 acres of corn, soybeans, wheat and hay, turns to his Twitter feed for the latest news and updates on drought conditions. “I can get a half-way decent idea of what’s going on out there instantaneously,” he says.
Graff and his wife are already technologically savvy, managing four blogs and two Twitter accounts together. They are part of a growing number of farmers who are tuning into social media to gather and share information on the current growing season. Especially during this year’s drought, Graff said that gaining insight on how other farmers are faring is especially helpful.
The USDA is a good resource for farmers on what is happening with crop production due to weather conditions, but social media outlets, specifically Twitter, are less cautious and give more immediate information. Graff said that what he learns from Twitter helps him decide how and when to market his grain. “You can start piecing together where the corn’s growing, and whether the trend is good or bad,” he said.
According to Graff, some of the best people to follow on Twitter are crop scouts because they provide a bigger picture. They monitor insects, weeds and disease, putting them in the fields every day.
Currently, Graff estimates that only 5 percent of farmers he knows are on Twitter. For him, the social media network serves as a type of support group for farmers. They can search hashtags like #drought12 and feel better in the fact that they are not alone.