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Farmers, Commodity Traders Find Common Soil on Twitter

Twitter on the Farm
A lot of people go to Facebook to harvest fake crops on fictitious farms. If you're interested in real farming, however, you're probably better off heading to Twitter, where both farmers and Wall Streeters alike are exchanging valuable, first-hand information about farming conditions across the globe. As Forbes reports, some farmers originally began using the social network as a way to advance their own political agenda. Over time, however, commodity traders began taking a greater interest in what the farming Twitter community had to say, as they soon realized that a 140-character missive could make the difference between profit and loss.

Trader Thomas Grisafi follows about 50 farmers on Twitter, along with a collection of weather forecasters, agricultural companies, and any other user who might be able to provide some insight into the crop commodity market. According to Grisafi, he's usually able to find breaking news or inside scoops on Twitter more quickly than he can on more traditional business news sites. And, more often than not, tweets straight from the farm can offer the kind of in situ insight that's hard to find elsewhere. Last week, for example, Grisafi received a flurry of tweets from European farmers, who claimed that the weather had been drier than most reports had indicated. The trader had previously assumed that the market price of wheat would fall, but, after reading the tweets, he quickly changed his position, and avoided a loss as prices rose.

Increasing numbers of farmers have begun using the micro-blogging platform to structure their own financial strategy as well. After a freeze hit Oklahoma in 2009, 30-year-old farmer Mike Haley noticed that most news outlets were reporting that most of the state's wheat fields were undamaged. On Twitter, however, wheat farmers were claiming that the freeze had indeed killed most of their crops. Haley, then, decided to delay selling his own wheat, and ended up making a 10-cent profit per bushel when he finally took his yield to market.

On both micro and macro levels, Twitter seems to play the same role in the agricultural market that it does in news coverage. In bypassing the major media middle man, it provides both suppliers and traders with a constant stream of information, directly from the source. When it comes to financial markets, that kind of transparency can be truly invaluable.

Tags: agriculture, commodities, farmers, farming, social media, social network, social networking, socialnetworking, top, tweet, twitter