July 20, 2018
For most people, agriculture can mean planting crops and taking care of animals. For me this summer, it has meant learning how politics and the industry come together, and communicating through social media.
Agriculture has left an impression on my life. I grew up on a hay and grain farm in Wayne County, Ohio. When I was 10, I started a herd of registered Hereford cattle with my father that has grown in size and quality. I showed my cattle as well as horses in 4-H and showed horses in dressage across the nation. Spending this summer as an intern with the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) seemed like the perfect opportunity for me to combine my political science major and my farm background.
I work in the Communications Office, and my main task is running ODA's social media platforms on Facebook and Twitter. I have created posts for National Dairy, Wine, and Ice Cream months. One of my favorite themes was #winecrushwednesday for Ohio Wine Month. In June, one of the most successful posts was a photo contest for National Dairy Month. We had over 55 entries! Throughout July, I have done "Did you know…" posts about ice cream. Our followers also seem to love "ag memes." I also have been interviewing other divisions in ODA for "division spotlight" posts, which has allowed me to learn about ODA as a whole.
My most extensive project has been using social media as a way to share and celebrate Ohio's farming history. Every Thursday I highlight an Ohio Century Farm with the goal of including a farm from each of Ohio's 88 counties. Additionally, I am working with the farmland preservation division. I am reaching out to farmers and their sponsors who have been granted easements for their property. After I learn about their farm's story and history, I will put together stories that will be featured on ODA's website. I can relate to the passion and pride people have for their land since I feel the same about my farm.
Creativity was not something that I associated agriculture or my major with before, but I enjoy having a job with this focus. I love thinking of new themes for each month and designing posts that will spark interaction and conversations. I have learned an immense amount about social media: how to gain followers, what our followers want to see, what posting times work best, how to create captions with the most impact, etc.
With that being said, because we are a regulatory agency, we are only educators which means that we cannot advocate. We can only present the facts and let people formulate their own conclusions. I am learning a lot about being sensitive to all of our audiences.
In political science, we learn about theory and how things work, but we cannot see those theories applied in the classroom. This internship has shown me not only how government agencies work firsthand, but also how they communicate their messages through social media, website and news releases.