May 4 2023 09:13 AM

Being real is the best way we can connect with consumers.

When I was growing up, it seemed as if we kept our stories to ourselves. Social media wasn’t a big deal when I was younger, so I didn’t really tell folks what all went on in my daily life. Back then, we more or less accepted our daily jobs and didn’t want to “bore” folks with our day-to-day tasks nor “burden” them with any troubles.

As Facebook and other social media vices came into popularity, everyone wanted to know our story. A simple photo of a cow would soon become the center of attention for days on end. A picture of a hay field or an old tractor led to questions and lots of chatter about the “good old days.” Now we as farmers have to ask ourselves, how do we tell our story?

When telling, “our story,” we must figure out how transparent we should be. Do we tell them all the good and skip the bad? Do we tell them the stuff we try to forget? What is the best way to approach it? I have found that folks prefer the real world. They love to hear what we do on a day-to-day basis. I’ve learned folks appreciate the good times, try to empathize with the bad, and always are up for a good story.

I’m not saying we need to share every last little detail. Controversial topics like dehorning and castrating can be portrayed through educational means, but it’s not necessarily the best idea to post more “graphic” photos. However, stories where you’ve shown pictures of a cow in labor should not just end if the calf doesn’t make it. Explaining the situation and showing all the work you put into it is better than just leaving folks in limbo. Folks are more open to seeing the work and listening to the story than to just receive an unfinished ending.

It’s important for us to tell our stories. As most everything we do on the farm, it’s a work in progress learning how to do that. It’s not always easy, and sometimes we don’t know what to say, but finding a way to do it will help us connect consumers and producers through a more realistic way. We are human and everyone wants to be treated like they matter. So, tell your story, share it with a friend, and be open to questions. You never know when you may shed light to a topic and sway someone in a positive matter.

Courtney Henderson

The author is a sixth-generation farmer and fifth-generation dairy producer in southwest Virginia, where she and her family own and operate a 145-head Holstein dairy. Courtney is involved in agriculture organizations throughout her community and is a graduate of Virginia Tech.