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Instagram-famous farming couple captures audiences with authenticity

Mel Dickinson, the creator of Unconventional Acres on Instagram, snaps a close-up.
Mel Dickinson, the creator of Unconventional Acres on Instagram, snaps a close-up.(NBC15)
Published: Oct. 22, 2019 at 10:51 PM CDT
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A first-generation farming couple finds marketing success on Instagram.

Mel and Ben Dickinson raise grass-finished beef and forest-raised pork, among others, in Arena. Their Instagram page

has more than 41,100 followers.

“Unconventional,” Mel says, because “we’re always outside the box. We’re always doing things different.” Her feed features images of highland cattle, colorful eggs and the couple engaging in daily farm work.

Mel, who mostly runs the account, updates her Instagram Stories several times a day with a behind-the-scenes look at farm life—in the good and the bad.

“We’re real people going through real struggles,” she said. “(We’re) entrepreneurs trying to get things up and running.”

The Instagram account began as a way to update friends and family. Mel said it is still a way to release her creative energy.

The account also serves a business function, as the couple hopes to expand and get larger accounts. “We are using it as a platform to connect with the community, to connect with our customers, to connect with other businesses,” Mel said.

Don Stanley, a faculty associate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, studies social media techniques and explored the reasons for Mel and Ben’s online success.

“What I think makes them so successful is that they share some of the mundane,” Stanley said. “You’ll see videos of them fixing pieces of equipment on the farm. They (also) share a lot of the cute stuff, the animals, the animals being born, the nature that surrounds their farm.”

Stanley added that the couple’s authentic voice is captivating and exactly what audiences are demanding.

"People are looking for people who are genuine in what they create,” he said. “There’s this humanness that really makes them relatable. I think that endears people to say, ‘I want to know what’s going on this week, I want to see what they’re doing and I want to follow them to see what’s happening at their farm.’”

Mel, however, said she does not strategize about appearing authentic. An unfiltered perspective, she said, comes naturally.

She described her process as, “I look around, and I see beauty so I capture it.”

Adorable cows and goats with Insta-famous Mel!

Posted by NBC15 Madison on Tuesday, October 22, 2019