The names of his calves, Hashtag and Jpeg, were suggested by his 3,200 followers. Hervé Pillaud, a farmer in the Vendée region of France, considers Twitter a fabulous way to forge a connection between farmers and consumers.
TECHNOLOGIST How did you learn about Twitter?
HERVÉ PILLAUD Like many farmers, I was hard hit by the mad-cow crisis in the late 1990s – we were treated day in and day out as if we were out to poison everyone. I realised that if we wanted to keep this kind of thing from continuing, we’d have to take the lead and show people the reality of who we are and what we do. I created an account in 2010 without really knowing how I could use it. Then I became addicted.
TECHNOLOGIST Your following has certainly grown.
HERVÉ PILLAUD In France, 80 percent of farmers connect to the Internet every day. Once I had figured it out, I found Twitter to be the most practical platform from which to share my day-to-day life. Since I always have my smartphone with me, I can easily share a thought or a message, take a photo of a calf in a field, a video of a calf nursing. I can take up the conversation again later and respond to people who have commented. The media became interested, and some ideas really clicked, like when I asked my followers to suggest names beginning with “H” for a newborn calf. They came up with “Hashtag”.
TECHNOLOGIST Is using Twitter a way for farmers to improve their public image?
HERVÉ PILLAUD Barely two generations ago, everyone had an uncle or a cousin who was a farmer, children spent a few days on a farm during the summertime. We knew that milk didn’t come from cartons in the supermarket. Today, there’s a real desire to re-establish this connection. People want to know where and how their food is grown and livestock are raised. Twitter is one way to reassure them as to the quality of the food they are eating. It’s a way to explain what it means to be a farmer, the difficulties and joys of the profession.
By Jean-Christophe Piot