March 2022 FloridAgriculture eNewsletter
By J. Scott Angle
UF/IFAS recently helped recruit a new Florida Farm Bureau member and nationally known agriculture messenger to Gainesville, and we’ve begun helping her add a distinctly Florida aspect to the American agriculture story.
Michelle Miller is popularly known on social media as “The Farm Babe,” and last year was looking for a new home—far away from ice and subzero temperatures, closer to a city and in a place with a greater variety of commodities.
UF/IFAS horticulture professor Kevin Folta had worked with Miller debunking misinformation about the food supply. Come to Gainesville, Folta told Miller. Your neighbors will include one of the nation’s best land-grant universities as well as the headquarters of one of the nation’s leading voices for agriculture, the Florida Farm Bureau.
She did two things when she arrived: She became a Farm Bureau member, and she called the UF/IFAS Extension Alachua County. There she connected with horticulture agent Tatiana Sanchez, and Dr. Sanchez brought her to a watermelon farm. The result: A story in agdaily.com, where Miller is a columnist.
What really sets The Farm Babe apart as a communicator is her reach of 2 to 3 million people a month through Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms. She delivers the story of agriculture in visual, bite-sized chunks to draw attention and engagement. She has more than 206,000 regular followers.
When she shares our stories, our voices get amplified before new audiences. I invited her to campus recently to thank her for reaching people that I’m not reaching.
I will tell the story of Florida agriculture to anyone anytime. But I also recognize that some folks, even if they’re interested in the story, won’t be interested in hearing it from me because of my vested interest in the institution I work for. The Farm Babe works for herself. And she understands people who buy into myths about our food because she used to be one of them.
Then she met a farmer, took the time to learn about how food is really produced, and experienced a conversion. She now travels the nation as a keynote speaker, social media influencer and self-described “myth buster.”
In January, she made the first of what I hope will be regular visits to campus. We’re great at show and tell at UF/IFAS, and in just a few hours here, The Farm Babe saw and heard from an economist who is developing a “Turbo Tax” for labor and hiring decisions, a master’s student using a 3-D printer to create food with custom recipes in novel shapes, an engineer investigating whether biogas from an anaerobic digester might be used to produce food packaging, and an animal scientist who gave her a tour of our goat unit for an up-close look at her favorite farm animal.
We like to believe that she was drawn here by one of the most exciting places in the world to work in agriculture. She can help us reflect that in a broader way.
J.Scott Angle is the University of Florida’s Senior Vice President for Agriculture and Natural Resources and leader of the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS).