At a recent meeting, I got into a great discussion with some industry members, both producers and supporters, about gene editing. We all readily agreed that it could be the next great breakthrough in genetics. Especially the work that’s being done on polled genetics. But in the same conversation we all instantly agreed it would not be a technology that would be accepted by our consumers.

An easy parallel for this comparison of technologies is genetically modified organisms (GMOs). As farmers, we understand the science, but we obviously have not done a good job of connecting with our consumers on the subject. The misinformation surrounding just this one topic is so astronomical. I often get a good giggle out of some of misconceptions that are out there.

In reality, it’s not funny at all. I would like to say it’s an educational issue, and to some degree it is. Where we as farmers have really failed is connections. I put connection with the consumer over education at this point because in this day and age the consumer wants to be connected to their food supply before understanding the science behind it.

In order to eventually be able to have those educational conversations with our consumers, we need to first make a connection and earn their trust. The easiest way to reach the largest audience right where they are is online.

We should all be sharing about our farm life on whatever platform we enjoy the most. You don’t even need to start up a farm page, if you’ve felt that just isn’t for you. There are plenty of people right in your friends list that need to know more about what you are doing as a dairy farmer.

Online is great, but don’t forget in person as well. This is where we make the biggest impact. Strike up a conversation with the person behind you at the grocery store with milk in their cart. Bring chocolate milk as the team snack to your kids’ next spring sporting event. Invite your child’s school class for a farm tour. Connect yourself as the local dairy farmer to your community in whatever way works best for you.

Getting back to the basics and making those connections first, will put us in a better position to educate later. There are some great new technological advances that are headed our way. We need to have the opportunity to have them accepted by our consumers.

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 transitioned to a robotic milking system in 2017.

Join us for our upcoming webinar on April 9, 2018:

Donald Sockett, D.V.M., Rachel Klos, D.V.M., and Jason Lombard, D.V.M.

The webinar “There’s a new calf killer in town” will be presented on Monday, April 9 at noon (Central time).

Veterinarians Donald Sockett, Rachel Klos, and Jason Lombard will discuss what producers should know about Salmonella Heidelberg outbreak in humans and cattle and the management practices associated with its introduction and spread in a herd.

The webinar is sponsored by Land O'Lakes Animal Milk Products Company.

Register here for all webinars.