The father of one of our employees used to say that he was born 100 or 200 years too late. He wanted to be a pioneer, to paddle a canoe for Lewis and Clark or work on the first transcontinental railroad.

After his wife died, he was confounded by the mysteries of the microwave, the TV remote and the answering machine. So one day when he threatened to set up his camp stove in the kitchen, our employee said to him, “It’s not too late, Dad. Be a pioneer. Learn how to use the microwave.”

Sometimes we need a nudge like that in agriculture.

Today most farmers use computers, the internet, cell phones, smart phones, perhaps even PDAs like tablets or notebooks. But when it comes to Social Media, many still lag behind. That may mean they are missing great opportunities to interact with and educate the public, not to mention promote their farms and their products.

Let me ask a simple question to see how Social Media Savvy (SMS) you are. What do the 2010 Person of the Year and the 2010 Word of the Year have in common? Here’s a hint: the Person of the Year is Mark Zuckerberg and the Word of the Year is crackberry. If you knew the answer even before the hint, congratulations, you are SMS. If even the hint has you scratching your head, you may need some help getting comfortable in this relatively new world of Social Media. But first, let me answer the question — Mark Zuckerberg is the founder and CEO of Facebook and a crackberry is someone who is addicted to his or her smart phone.

I don’t know if I’m a crackberry or not. Certainly I’ve never done what one farmer does who flips his steering wheel forward on the tractor and lets the GPS navigation take over as he sits back and Tweets. And another admitted on a national TV program that he’s glad his church has poor cell phone reception; otherwise he’d Tweet through the entire sermon.

While I may not qualify as a bona fide crackberry, my comments about Social Media are serious. As Commissioner of the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS), one of my jobs is to be a spokesperson for agriculture. I’m learning more and more each day that I must use Social Media to do that most effectively. I’m learning this from my children, age nine and five. 

My daughter, who is in the fourth grade, recently came home explaining how much she loved a new application she used on an ipad in class and asked when she could have her own Facebook page. Suddenly I realized that Social Media is here to stay.