Keeping Honesty At The Forefront Of Social Media
⋅ BY CASSIDY NEMEC ⋅
Matt and Kelly Griggs operate roughly 1,600 acres of cotton, corn, soybeans, and wheat in Humboldt, Tennessee. Matt, a University of Tennessee-Martin graduate, began the fifth generation of the Tennessee Century Farm, which can be traced back to 1882 when his great-great grandfather moved a cotton gin to the same, once-bustling Mason Grove community area where the Griggs work and live today.
From Ginning To Farming
“My great grandfather and grandfather all ran the cotton gin until it got shut down in 1995,” Matt said. “We had done some farming on the side, but the gin was the primary industry. When my dad graduated from college in the early ‘70s, he focused on the farming side while my grandad did the ginning side.”
Once the gin became unprofitable and saw its last ginning season, the Griggs family continued farming as their way of life.
“Growing up, I spent all my time on the farm,” Matt said. “My dad really discouraged me from farming because he knew I had the ability to do whatever else and have a lot easier life, but it’s what I grew up loving. Finally, by the time I was getting ready to go to college, I convinced him this is what I want to do. It was God’s calling for me.”
Matt went on to college at UT-Martin and received a degree in plant and soil science before returning home to work with his dad. After farming as a father-son duo for about three years, Matt’s dad passed away suddenly in 2005. It was not long before his father’s death that he met Kelly, his now wife and mother of three children. Journeying south from the Chicago suburbs, Kelly began working on the farm with Matt and transitioned into a full-time role in 2011.
Since 2005, Matt said they have doubled the size of the farm and turned over all their equipment, now holding more modern and useful technologies.
2011 was the year the Griggs started experimenting with cover crops to increase soil health, thereby beginning Matt’s venture into YouTube later into the decade.
“That’s really what we base a lot of our online presence on. It’s what we learned, how we succeeded, how we failed,” he said before commenting he hopes to be a resource for other farmers. “I don’t look at other farmers as competitors; I look at them as resources and would like to be seen the same way. Every farmer gets a wealth of information on their farm every year that could really help somebody else out, and that’s what we want to do and hopefully help other farmers avoid going through a lot of the pitfalls we’ve gone through.”
“If you’re another farmer, we’re an open book to educate,” Kelly added. “We want to educate the public and other farmers on what we do and why we do it.”
Matt emphasized their initial goal was to educate the general public about farming. “You start seeing a lot of propaganda against farming, and the majority of the general public is two or three generations removed from the farm.”
Kelly said some of her favorite people to follow are the smaller farms and those who do something different than what they do, like vegetables or livestock. Matt enjoys following the smaller farms but also those who are more local to see how they’re approaching issues on their farm.
Before COVID-19 swept the nation and world, “The American Farm” premiered on the History Channel in 2019. The Griggs were featured in this reality documentary as one of five farming families across the country. This opened the door for them to expand their presence and step into new ways of sharing their lives with others.
Social Media Today
Starting out on their social media platforms, Facebook was their initial mechanism for sharing information, especially as it related to cover crops. After “The American Farm,” their primary platforms shifted to YouTube and Instagram.
“My target audience at the time was finding other female farmers,” Kelly said of starting out on Instagram. “For me, it was to find friends and to show people what we were doing.”
She said she can explain things in simple terms, being an outsider, but still knows enough of the scientific side from Matt now to rest assured she is not steering people in the wrong direction. Kelly also noted she has found some of the greatest friends all over the country and world through this platform.
“It’s amazing that social media can be used for good,” she said. “Yes, it has been used for bad, but, in my case, I’ve met friends that I never had before who are in this industry and understand.”
As for YouTube, Matt said he works on the videos but that he and Kelly both are in them and provide helpful perspectives as they relate to what they’re working on in the field.
He said that he has been able to make friends a lot closer to home because of his channel, noting one family farm he found through YouTube is 45 minutes away in Dyersburg, Tennessee, and another is two hours away in Middle Tennessee, that came to help them with harvest last season.
“They drove two hours one way just to come help us out. Social media can be used for good, and that’s it,” Kelly said.
Kelly admitted there is a downside to media platforms in that some people get a large following very quickly and sell themselves or change as a person. She said that is what people in the cities are watching and believing, which is where she takes issue as those with the now-large followings have lost the original intent of their platforms.
Kelly said she wants to see them continue to focus on educating rather than growing in popularity. “We’re just showing our real lifestyle and being educators.”
Matt reiterated their goal on social media is to be as open and honest as possible.
“The same information I would have to give to our landlords is the same information I try to provide to the public so there is no discrepancy about my honesty,” he said. “The one thing we care about more than anything is our credibility and honesty. It’s not about how much money we could make — making money is a side benefit — but we care far more about our reputation and our credibility.”
He said over the next five to 10 years, he would still like to be putting out content they are proud of.
“In our occupation, there is no shortage of content. The big players are going to be our daily videos of what’s going on at the farm, but I also like to put out several videos a year dealing with specific topics like how a piece of farm equipment works, a series on how to start farming or even how government subsidies work. I want to have a real impact on people and the industry. I want to help change it for the better.”