With social media being both more impactful and controversial than ever, dairy producers collectively share even more responsibility for keeping up their social license.
“Farmers once felt that they produced the milk and paid other people to promote it, and that was the end of the story. Today’s consumers are very different than 20 years ago, and they are much more interested in what common values they have with the people producing the food,” said Mark Hardesty, veterinarian at Maria Stein Animal Clinic based in Ohio.
During the clinic’s virtual dairy producers meeting, “Farmer of the Future: Social License, Our Consumers, and Social Media,” Marissa Hake, D.V.M., shared a story about a friend who said he wasn’t sure if he loved the product, but he loved the hands that made it. Farmers can use this trust to transition into greater comprehension.
“Our mission as producers and people who support producers is to tell those stories and help consumers understand why we do what we do,” Hardesty said of hearing Hake’s story.
Hardesty sees this support as being part of what veterinarians and support staff need to do not just once or twice, but on a regular basis.
“We always talk with producers about something they should be doing and they aren’t, and this is just another one of those issues. It’s like — here’s how to prevent ketosis, and here’s how we make ourselves familiar to customers,” said Hardesty, who also is a columnist for the Hoard’s Dairyman Cowside Practice column.
Look to the future
Hake stresses that producers need to look up and look forward to where dairy is headed.
“You have to have in the back of your mind that the people in leadership need to have a five, 10, or even a 20-year view in mind. You can’t always focus on that day-to-day business in front of us. You have to prepare for the future,” she said.
While younger people are commonly involved in social media, Hake doesn’t see it as an age issue.
“It’s not an age thing, it’s a personality thing,” she said. “People have to have that entrepreneurial spirit and ability to adapt to different markets. People who can pivot or be agile will be the ones to do it. Dropping the ‘this is the way we’ve always done it,’ adapting to consumer concerns, and sharing about it is what’s going to make us successful in the future.”