North of Moses Lake, Wash., there's a kind of agricultural revolution going on. You won't see it in banners or flags, but at the farm of Sue and Ron Tebow, the revolution comes from Sue's computer. The Tebows run TBO Cattle Co., a cow-calf and custom haying operation, but Sue also works in marketing for the local rodeo and for a regional publication called Venue Magazine. Yet she's getting national attention for her efforts to do something different — tell agriculture's story.
Sitting in the Tebows' modest living room, it would be hard at first for a visitor to know Sue is connecting with ag-interested folks from across the country, and even overseas. The Tebows are hard workers who enjoy their farm life. Ron is also a cowboy poet. These folks are storytellers, and for Sue the platform for the stories she tells stories is Facebook and Instagram.
COMMITTED TO AG: Ron and Sue Tebow raise cattle and do custom haying on their Moses Lake, Wash., operation. Ron is not only a farmer, but a cowboy poet, while Sue has a penchant for promoting agriculture.
In 2016, she started the Facebook page agri.Culture. "And I've published more than 400 stories on that page since we started," she says. "We share a story a day."
Tall order for someone with a day job, but Sue is committed to sharing those stories. And she admitted there's another benefit for her: She loves meeting the people and learning about their part of the ag world.
"I've been to a lot of operations and seen so many different things," she says. And if she meets you and you're connected to ag, chances are she's going to want to tell your story. (Note: the author shared his story with her for use on the page, too.) Her focus: Who better to tell the story of ag than the farmers and ranchers themselves?
Sue is good with a camera, and it shows in the images you can find on the page. From grizzled ag veterans to fresh-faced kids who show cattle or who have already committed to a life in this business, it's a gallery of interesting vignettes.
And it's important to note that she didn't grow up on the farm, but came into this life when she married Ron. Yet in their years of marriage, she hasn't shirked any farm duties; from running equipment to branding cattle, she's there to help as needed, and she enjoys the work.
Photos are the heart of the Facebook experience, and they're eye-catching images of the faces of the industry. Sue takes all those photos and captures the stories. And the stories can range from longer pieces that share insight into someone's job to shorter paragraphs that capture in a few words the essence of what that person thinks of a specific topic.
"We were with several children at an event and got them to tell their stories," Sue says. "Each might have only been a sentence, but all showed what those kids thought of agriculture." And for the curious, Sue does get a signed model release from each child (the child's parent signs, of course) featured.
In fact those model releases are a story, too. "I was at a rodeo, and, as always, looking for stories," Sue recalls. "I saw a young man walking a miniature donkey."
Sue got the photo of the young man and his mini-charge, and when asked about signing the model release, he asked if one was needed for the donkey, too. "It turned out the donkey was not his; he was just walking it at the show," she says. "The donkey worked with the owner's horses to help keep them calm."
It's those kinds of stories that make agri.Culture interesting. You can find the site at facebook.com/agri.culture.people.
Site 'likes' bring national views
When the agri.Culture site was created, Sue was happy when she topped 1,000 likes. "It was exciting," she says. "Today, we're over 8,000 likes on the page." The site went live in April 2016 — on Sue's birthday — and has been building ever since. In fact, her work gained some national notice when she received an award for her work.
During the National Ag Day celebration in Washington, D.C., in March 2017, Sue was honored with the Agriculture Council of America's Charles Eastin Award. The award is designed to recognize an "outstanding individual who has contributed as an advocate for communications between farm and city."
That meant a trip to Washington, D.C., for the presentation. But it also was an opportunity for Sue to gather more stories. "We met so many people, and I'm not afraid to ask questions," she says.
In fact, losing her fear of asking questions is what makes her site interesting. At any event, she's looking for people who are interesting, but she's also learned that all folks have a story to tell.
"I often hear people tell me, 'You should talk to someone else. I don't have much to say.' And then they tell me some interesting story," she says. "If you want to know what people are thinking or doing, just ask — then remind yourself to listen.
As the site continues to build momentum with those individual stories — one original posting every day of the week — Sue sees more traffic. And the comments that have appeared have been positive. "People want to hear what it's like on the farm," she says.