Dec. 13 2016 08:00 AM

This past year I have had the opportunity to expand my tribe by making many new connections I will enjoy for years to come.

For myself, my definition of my tribe is the people in my inner circle. “A distinctive close-knit group” as the dictionary describes it. The trait of distinction of my inner most core tribe would of course be dairy. But I am also a part of other tribes; the Mom tribe, the book reading tribe, and the international pen pal letter writing tribe. Tribes form around those things that spike our curiosity and make each one of us unique and distinctive.

While building a network and adding to your tribe is so important personally, we tend to focus too much on what is at our very core. By letting our curiosity lead us and by venturing to the edges of what interests us we find ourselves in new tribes.

How many of us have been told recently that we need to be telling our stories? Obviously I am a firm believer in that and the power of social media. This past week I attended the AgChat Foundation’s Cultivate and Connect conference in Kansas City. It was another amazing opportunity to connect with my agvocacy tribe. There we were challenged by Vance Crowe to step outside of our core agriculture tribes and venture to the edges of our curiosity. To find those tribes that make us uniquely ourselves and bring them back to connect with our ag tribes.

This is the best reminder I have had lately in telling my story. Since ag makes up just 2 percent of the population, we have to be sharing our story outside of the agriculture world. It’s so easy to have those conversations with a population that understands. But if we really want to connect, if we really want our story to reach those that need to hear it most, we have to step outside our comfort zone.

So I bring this challenge to you. As we end this year and head into 2017, focus on sharing your story with those you normally wouldn’t. In social media, use non-agriculture hashtags. Share your story on your personal pages, not just your farm. Also share the stories that make you, you, outside of dairy farming.

But also, more importantly, step outside your comfort zone in real life. Thank the person in the grocery store for picking up a loaf of cheese or gallon of milk. Jump into that conversation after yoga class about your favorite protein filled snack. Have a conversation with the other parents waiting at after school pick up.

Ultimately sharing our dairy stories with our outside tribes is the most effective method of advocacy. I challenge you in the new year to forge ahead and focus on those connections!

Darleen Sichley

The author is a third-generation dairy farmer from Oregon where she farms in partnership with her husband and parents. As a mother of two young boys who round out the family run operation as micro managers, Darleen blogs about the three generations of her family working together at Guernsey Dairy Mama. Abiqua Acres Mann's Guernsey Dairy is currently home to 90 registered Guernseys and is in the process of transitioning to a robotic milking system.