Redefine Yourself as a Farmer, Says Rob Sharkey
A near bankruptcy when he first started farming set Rob Sharkey on a journey to define who he was beyond a farmer, he revealed to crowds attending the Main Stage presentations sponsored by Successful Farming at the Commodity Classic.
Today, a rapidly growing audience of farmers follow Sharkey on his Shark Farmer podcast. “But back then, when I came back to the farm in 1996 after college, I just wanted to farm,” says the fifth-generation farmer. “So I borrowed a hog house from my dad, I bought hogs, I bought feed, and headed in. My hogs were ready in 1998 . . . one of the lowest points for hog prices in recent history. I lost everything and was staring at six figures of debt and bankruptcy.”
While climbing out of debt (he and his wife, Emily, decided against bankruptcy), Sharkey got to thinking about who he was and what he wanted to accomplish in life.
After many missteps and different ventures, Sharkey ventured into social media after ranting on Twitter about the inability of his power company to get electricity back on after a winter storm. That Twitter feed gained him a huge following of readers. What followed that was a podcast, a digital magazine, and radio program.
“I did have this desire to create, and I think all farmers do. I think its second nature to us,” the Shark Farmer added. “I wanted to contribute to agriculture. And I wanted to be heard.”
Sharkey quickly pointed out that social media is not for everyone. “I’m not saying this is for you if you are looking for a new venture . . . that is getting into media. You need to define what it is that you do best and what brings you fulfillment in life,” he urged the audience. “But don’t be afraid to try something new and never allow the thought ‘all I am is a simple farmer,’ prevent you from trying new ventures.”
A huge tool in any farmer’s arsenal beyond land, machinery, and livestock is social media, Sharkey contends. “You can use this to work with your landlords, for example. You can use social media to work with consultants. You can use social media to share your knowledge with other farmers as well as get information on what works for them.”
Today, Sharkey is still redefining himself and has gone beyond social media to share his thoughts and build a business, employing a podcast to do so.
For more information about many of the Shark Farmer’s ventures and his life, go to sharkfarmer.com.