Generations of Leffler farmers found their tribe at the local coffee shop or diner. They gathered each morning to have a few cups of coffee and discuss planting, harvest and maybe some local gossip. But fourth-generation producer Jacquelyne Leffler found her group somewhere else: online.
Leffler returned to her family farm after college and started her own cattle operation, Leffler Prime Performance. She’s no stranger to offline work, but her activity on social media has allowed her to learn, innovate and advocate beyond the reaches of her hometown of Americus, Kansas.
Returning to work on the family farm wasn’t in Leffler’s plan when she left Americus to attend Kansas State University as a full-scholarship track and field athlete. She declared a major in kinesiology and had plans to become a collegiate track coach.
She realized that dream for a while, serving as a throwing coach at Emporia State University while attending KSU, but discovered an interest in agricultural science. She was not able to change her major due to the requirements of her track scholarship, but took an interest and decided eventually to return home.
“I’m the fourth generation, and it’s just my sister and me,” Leffler said. “I don’t have any brothers, and I didn’t want to see four generations of farming go because I didn’t have any brothers to take over.”
As Leffler began her new role on the family farm, she began sharing photographs through social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram. She later got involved with Leadership KFB through the Kansas Farm Bureau and attended a discussion on telling the story of your farm through social media.
“I had always posted pictures of what we were doing on the farm on my social media,” she said. “But as I continued, I realized people were interested in exactly what we were doing, how we were doing and why we were doing it, so I started using my Twitter and Facebook to tell our story.”
Posts on Twitter, Facebook and other platforms have connected Leffler with farmers, ranchers, dealers, industry professionals and more from around the state, nation and world. She interacts with individuals, organizations and companies online, and can see how other farms operate.
Social media has allowed Leffler to find friends in the industry, but also to learn from industry leaders, government officials, ag scientists and more.
“We’re really using it as a tool for our business as well,” Leffler said. “Connects through Facebook or Twitter have given us the opportunity to get some technology out on our farm that we may not have been able to if I hadn’t seen it or heard about it online.”
Building a business of her own
Leffler grew up involved in 4-H. She showed beef and quickly noticed a trend at 4-H livestock sales.
Buyers would ask if families had any additional cattle to sell if they liked what they saw at the auction. Since she was involved with the family farm, Leffler’s grandfather gave her a few head of cattle as her own. She began taking a couple extra steers or heifers to livestock sales to earn extra money.
That idea grew into her own operation -- Leffler Prime Performance.
“I thought, 'why aren’t we doing this now?'” she said.
The Leffler’s have feeder and stocker cattle they feed up to 800 pounds and ship off to be finished.
“I pick five or six I like off the top of those, then feed them out for butcher and sell the meat locally,” Leffler said. “I also sell to a couple people out of state.”
Her active online presence has been a tool for that business as well. She’s used community pages on Facebook to sell beef, as well as using social media to advertise.
“If for some reason I’m having trouble getting rid of some beef, I’ll have a few friends share a post about it,” she said. “I’ve usually gotten it sold within a week.”
Leffler isn’t a fan of the “millennial” label because she sees a negative connotation to it. But in her eyes, embracing social media and an online presence is part of adapting to markets.
“I guess I am fully embracing the fact that I’m a millennial, but the world is moving that way,” she said. “It’s like that on our farm. If you want to cover a lot of acres, you have to keep up to date and learn to utilize new technology on your operation or get left behind.”