We have some construction work going on at the farm, and a driver came out not long ago to deliver new pipes. He obviously was on a dairy for the first time and asked my father if he could see our cows.
My dad opened the barn door, and this man suddenly was mesmerized. He was more than 6 feet tall, but he seemed like a little kid as he approached our herd for a closer look. He reached out to touch a cow when he suddenly pulled his hand back.
“Are they going to bite me?” he asked.
My father patiently explained that cows do not bite, and he showed the man how cows only have one row of teeth. The man was so excited that he took pictures and walked away thoroughly enlightened.
The bigger enlightenment, however, may have been experienced by my father.
I operate our farm with my parents, Lori and Brian, and youngest brother, Thomas, and I have been talking about the need to do more of what we did that day – open our barn door and let people in.
My suggestion was met with resistance … until that day. It hit my father that this man lived within 20 minutes of our dairy, yet he thought a cow could bite him. This was indeed a lesson in how far removed people are from our farms no matter how close they may be. They no longer have a grandparent or cousin who connects them to farming.This is why we launched Undeniably Dairy, an industry-wide campaign being led by the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy and our national dairy checkoff. It is a program designed to unite and ignite an entire industry from the farm to the processing plant and all points in between.
We’ve been too humble as farmers. As a parent, I applaud this attribute, but as farmers we can’t be shy when talking about the things we should be proud of. We take care of our animals, and 98 percent of the milk produced in this country comes from farmers who are part of the FARM program. More than 97 percent of our dairy farms are owned by families like ours. I’m a sixth-generation farmer, and you better believe the conservation efforts we’re doing today will allow us to usher in a seventh generation.
These are our stories, and we all need to do more to share them. Become more active on social media, and engage with consumers where they are, such as church, school, or the grocery store. Host a breakfast event at your farm.
We all dairy differently and that sometimes makes it hard to see what we have in common. But imagine what we can achieve if we all pull together in one direction.
We now have a name for it . . . it’s called Undeniably Dairy.
Amber Horn-Leiterman is a Wisconsin dairy farmer and Chair of the National Dairy Promotion and Research Board.