Ag-vocacy: Why the passion of a few must become an obligation for all

Sometimes when I visit my family back home I help wait tables at their restaurant. My family and the employees there always end up teasing me because I end up talking to a table for 20 minutes about how great milk quality is, and what a fantastic job farms do taking care of their animals.

One weekend an older couple from the Detroit area stopped in. Somehow the conversation turned to antibiotics in milk. They had so many questions, and they just were curious overall about how we produce milk. When our conversation had ended and they were leaving I told them “thanks for stopping, and thanks for letting me talk to you about dairy farmers and our products.” They smiled and said, “No, thank you! We learned so much! We had no idea all you do to keep milk safe and delicious.” That day I was able to tell our story as an industry, and
reassure consumers we do a great job.

With a surplus in the industry, milk prices low, and the extra added work needed around farms, you are most likely thinking you don’t have time to talk to consumers about what you do. But maybe that’s the problem. We all have had that view for a little too long, and the time to work on that is now.

Dairy farmers are blessed to be in an industry that impacts the world, but the world around us hasn’t been blessed to be a part of the lifestyle we all live. Let’s explain our stories through FARM program, blogs, fairs, and other community events. If we don’t reach out to teach our neighbors, and extended family who will?

We can no longer just assume that the consumer will buy our products. We need to share our individual stories to paint pictures for them of the hard work, love, and dedication that is put into producing a quality product. We must explain what we do so they understand and want to support family businesses. We all enjoy being appreciated or hearing “thank you.”

The next time you’re at the store instead of thinking to yourself, “He needs to buy more milk,” or “Why is she buying almond juice?” Try reaching out and saying “As a dairy farmer myself I just want to say thank you for supporting my livelihood.” Or ask a question, “As a dairy
farmer, I am curious to understand your purchase of the almond juice? Are there questions I can answer to better help you understand what we do?”

It is not always easy to make ourselves vulnerable to strangers, but we’ve stayed in the background for so long the consumer needs to place a face with the product they are consuming and know the people behind the product feed their families the same products too.

June is Dairy Month—don’t forget to celebrate! I challenge you to reach out to a consumer in the store, at a friend’s house or in church. Post a picture on social media of your favorite cow, or a fun story of something that happened on your farm. Sometimes promoting our industry reminds you why you love what you do, and that’s always a good feeling.

For more ways to celebrate this month, take part in the United Dairy Industry of Michigan’s “Thank You Consumers” campaign. Each Michigan producer will be mailed postcards you can give to consumers who purchase dairy products.

–Bridget Moore

This article originally appeared in the June 2017 issue of the Michigan Milk Messenger. Bridget Moore is member representative serving MMPA farms in the Thumb region of Michigan and writes the blog, FarmHer’s Know Best