April 3 2023 10:16 AM

Sharing stories, rather than just facts, helps us better connect to consumers and creates strong agricultural education opportunities.

In my early training as a dairy advocate, I was told to focus on the most interesting and important facts about the dairy industry. “There are no antibiotics in milk,” “There are 13 essential nutrients in milk,” and “Milking a cow only takes five to seven minutes” are some examples of phrases I shared with consumers. The more I shared fun facts and information, the more I realized it had no impact on people, even if they were important things to know. These consumers I used to speak with reflected me in my last math class – eyes glazed over, just simply nodding along. Facts and figures alone do not convey information to people. Stories and experiences do.

I have traveled to many states across and several countries, including Scotland, Ireland, and Greece, and I have experienced agriculture in every one of these places. Combining these adventures with my time in agriculture at home, I have plenty of stories to share.

I am someone who enjoys spending time outdoors, so when I find someone with the same interest, I can tell them about all the times I spent summers outside helping to harvest hay or pick rocks out of fields. I can expand upon this story and say I worked alongside the farmers who care passionately about how their crops perform to provide plenty of nutritious feed to their cattle. I can provide details even further about what cows are fed and how important each ingredient is. What would you remember, a story about summers working in crop fields to feed cows, or how many nutrients are in milk?

I want to expand the thinking of dairy advocates and consumers alike. Yes, of course, there is a wonderful dairy industry in Wisconsin, but there’s also one in the hills of Scotland, and these farmers are all connected by their passion for what they do to feed the world. Thinking outside the box can be challenging to do, especially when trying to make strong connections with people in what may be a single conversation at the state fair. But with some fun stories in your back pocket, that could make all the difference.

Mikayla Peper

Mikayla grew up near Osceola, Wis. She discovered her passion for the dairy industry while working on her neighbors’ Holstein dairy farm. That spurred her involvement in 4-H and FFA, and following graduation from Osceola High School, she headed to the University of Minnesota to pursue a degree in agricultural communication and marketing. During the school year, she worked as a website designer for the University of Minnesota department of animal science, and last summer, she was a farmer relations intern for Midwest Dairy. Peper served as the 2022 Hoard’s Dairyman editorial intern.