Social Media for Agricultural CoPs

Social Media for Strengthening Agricultural Communities of Practices (CoPs) in an Era of Misinformation

With internet penetration rates growing in both rural and urban areas in Canada, individuals and organizations are increasingly turning to social media to share information and form online communities. Stakeholders, such as producers, input dealers, advisory services, producer organizations, and non-profits are also increasingly using social media to share their concerns, discuss agriculture-related issues and deepen their knowledge and expertise. Connected through social media, these various stakeholders are also forming so-called Communities of Practices (CoPs), which are at the core of this proposal.

While social media and CoPs provide numerous benefits to all involved, there are also many risks due to the alarming rise in the circulation of misinformation across various social media platforms. Misleading and contradictory information related to food, produce, technology and policies quickly circulates among producers as well as other stakeholders. The spread of misinformation may, and often does, lead to confusion, fear and conflicts, and this creates barriers for making informed decisions by farmers, industry partners and policy makers in Ontario.

By applying a mixed-method approach, the proposed initiative seeks to answer the central question of how agricultural CoPs are using social media for learning and relationship-building, while dealing with misinformation related to sensitive topics, such as animal welfare, genetically modified crops, and sustainable agriculture. First, relevant CoPs on Facebook and Twitter– two popular social media platforms among agricultural professionals, will be identified. Social network analysis, as well as a manual and automated content analysis will be used to gain insights into the inner workings of these online communities and determine which topics are discussed publicly. To complement and validate our observations, key informants from each CoPs will be conducted. The initiative will contribute to the scholarship of ‘digital’ and ‘data driven’ agricultural projects by examining the use of social media as a means to strengthen agricultural CoPs and combat misinformation related to this sector. The proposed initiative is an important endeavor because it will contribute to the contemporary praxis of social media for supporting collaboration, knowledge mobilization, and social processes in the agriculture and rural sector in Ontario and throughout Canada.

The project has a vision to create a platform for research related to agri-food, climate change, and rural misinformation. The established platform ( ) will facilitate knowledge sharing, generate new ideas, and encourage conversations on these topics. It will also offer opportunities for collaboration between emerging and established scholars. Ultimately, the platform aims to promote and advocate for research related to agriculture and rural development among international scholarly and practitioner communities.

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