MANDY Matthews is a sheep farmhand who has made a name for herself as an agriculture influencer using her popularity on social media to help educate people on the various aspects of rural life and the livestock industry.
With 16,300 Instagram followers and 227,000 following her on TikTok (a platform where people create personalised videos), Ms Matthews said the popularity of her accounts came about organically.
Having found she had a lot of opportunities to take great photos and snapshots of life in the country, she decided to invest in a decent digital camera and join Instagram in 2017.
“I used to think Instagram was just pictures of pretty girls showing off, but once I joined I realised there are actually a lot of people from the agricultural sector on it and some really talented photographers – so that’s where it all started for me,” Ms Matthews said.
TikTok was a later addition for Ms Matthews, who created her own account while quarantining in Western Australia after returning home from a trip to New Zealand early last year.
Late last year a video of her kelpie border collie-cross dog, Blue, jumping up on hay bales to the song ‘The Real Slim Shady’ went viral, attracting about six million views.
Resulting in a dramatic increase in her number of TikTok followers, the video continues to be shared on various social media networks and online pages, making its total audience hard to determine.
Comparing the two social media platforms, Ms Matthews said she experienced greater engagement with her Instagram followers.
“TikTok tends to draw a wider audience who will still follow you but might not have a great amount of interest in who you are, but with Instagram I feel you have a bit more of a connection and discussion with your followers,” Ms Matthews said.
Uploading pictures and videos of everyday occurrences on farms, such as a lamb being born, the practices of mulesing and trimming a ram’s horns, Ms Matthews said her goal was to provide a clear depiction of livestock practices to help educate the general public on what farmers did.
However like most online influencers, her raw view of farm life has also drawn backlash from animal activists and the like.
By participating in The Livestock Collective’s leaders workshop last year, Ms Matthews said she had learnt how to have conversations with people who might not completely understand the industry or disagree with some of its more controversial aspects.
More than 100 alumni have been put through the course which helps young people working in agriculture advocate for their industry via social media.
“It’s been a really supportive network for me and really helpful when my own social media blew up, as I didn’t feel like I was alone in managing how I responded to people’s different views,” Ms Matthews said.
Acknowledging that a lot of time does go into being a social media influencer, Ms Matthews is working on how she might be able to monetise her social media platforms.
If successful she plans to use the extra funds to buy better photography and video equipment.
With 16,300 Instagram followers and 227,000 following her on TikTok, Mandy Matthews uses her social media presence to help advocate for the agricultural industry.
Growing up on a sheep and cattle farm about an hour inland from New Zealand’s central North Island, Ms Matthews wanted to be a farmer ever since she can remember.
Her dad still manages the family farm which runs Romney sheep, red black suffolk rams and beef cattle over about 1200 hectares of land.
“In our primary school years my cousin and I tried to set up this thing called ‘easy farm, easy go’ to help educate our friends who didn’t know much about farming – so we were always super passionate about it, even at a young age” Ms Matthews said.
After finishing high school she stayed and helped on the family farm before completing a six month stint in Queensland to play polocrosse.
Following that trip, in 2013 she decided to move to Western Australia.
“I stayed with people I knew through polocrosse and started working on a live export quarantine sheep feedlot near Kojonup,” Ms Matthews said.
“I loved working there, it was busy and full on – each day I’d be counting sheep, picking up on any welfare issues, feeding them and moving them around and they also had a farm there which had some cattle.”
After two years Ms Matthews briefly worked as a farmhand for some sheep farmers down the road in Kojonup before being offered a job in Corrigin as a sheep manager.
“Those days would involve checking and feeding the sheep, a lot of checking water because most of it was on scheme and your general management practices such as shearing and yard work,” Ms Matthews said.
She has since moved on to a sheep and cropping farm in Brookton, which has about 7500 breeding ewes.
“I do everything on the sheep side of things and I’ve been working there about three years,” she said.
Looking forward, she plans to continue to advocate for the agricultural sector through her social media accounts.
With the number of farmers in WA continuing to halve about every 20 years, Ms Matthews said the city and country divide had continued to widen.
“I take it quite personally when people are anti-farming and they aren’t educated about the industry,” she said.
“But you can’t blame them either as there isn’t as much of a connection with the agricultural sector these days.
“When I was younger the country schools used to have exchanges with city schools but that doesn’t seem to happen as much now.
“Most people would have had at least one family friend or a second cousin or someone that lived out in the country so they were able to have some involvement and understanding of agricultural and rural life, but that is also less common now.
“These days, I think social media is probably one of the best ways to help educate the general public about what we do.”
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