Maybe you've heard of Erin Ehnle? No? How about Keeping it Real: Through the Lens of a Farm Girl? If you're into agriculture and you spend any time at all on Facebook, I bet you've seen her work.
In short, she's been creating an image a day since mid-January, combining lovely rural photography with various facts and quotes about agriculture. She publishes them on Facebook and she is marvelously talented, with an eye for both photography and design. She's a natural ag communicator; not many folks can share agriculture's key messages so very clearly and succinctly. And beautifully.
And get this: Erin is just 20 years old. She's a sophomore at Illinois Central College, with plans to transfer to the University of Illinois next year. Erin grew up on a farm near Edelstein with two younger siblings and her parents, Tony and Laura. She bought her camera by spending hours on the chisel plow, but she'll be the first to admit she wasn't always sold-out on agriculture.
"I didn't really understand it," Erin explains. "My mom is very involved in the farm business and I'd see them come home tired at the end of the day and their backs hurt. I was the oldest of three kids with a lot of responsibility and I thought, 'This is no fun!'"
I totally get that. I remember thinking the same, with a slight variation. Somewhere in my teen years I decided I wanted no part of this grain farming thing. It was nothing but bad weather and bad prices and stress. I'd just marry a nice guy and we'd show cattle. Clueless, with a capital C, that was me.
Erin was ahead of me, though. While it took me until college to see the error of my ways, Erin did her about-face during her tour in FFA. Her eyes were opened to the greater scope of production agriculture.
Along the way, she read the Time magazine story blasting modern agriculture. "I was really upset about how untrue it was, and I was embarrassed that I didn't know people were saying that about agriculture."
It lit a fire in her. And in the past 30 days, she's managed to become a leading advocate for agriculture in Illinois, garnering more than 3,800 "likes" on her Facebook page in a very short amount of time. Her images are shared all across the internet, and particularly on Pinterest.
Erin is one of 15 or so social media interns for the Illinois Corn Marketing Board, directed, essentially, to experiment with sharing agricultural truth on a given social media platform and to provide feedback on her results to the Corn Marketing Board. The cool thing is that all the while, she's connecting with people a farm organization doesn't normally reach.
Check out her stuff. Like her on Facebook and if you're on Pinterest, pin away. And check out the conversations happening on her page. Consumers, conventional farmers and organic farmers, all with colliding beliefs and all connecting through the images of this Illinois farm girl. It's good stuff.