May 23 2018 01:30 PM

Invest in us, and we’ll tell our story.

For years now, farmers have heard from various organizations and companies within the agricultural world that we need to be advocating for our industry. Many of us have risen to that challenge in spectacular fashion. The awesome thing about it is that everyone does it differently, but we all have a few things in common — our limitations. We’re farmers, which means that we’re short on time, money, and often technical ability.

The photos and videos being produced by the activist groups are awful yet perfectly executed. They’re well-funded, professionally made, and effective. I started making videos after watching one with a little old man in a suit, in front of a table full of dairy products. He’d describe each with phrases like ‘mammal sack secretions’ or ‘solidified udder fat,’ and use clever puns and quick, funny comments to bring every fact we’ve ever spoken about the goodness of milk crashing to the ground.

And you know what? I watched all five minutes of it. On the other hand, I can’t get through a three-minute video of a friend talking about their farm because it’s literally just a person talking to a camera. Don’t even try searching the word ‘dairy’ on YouTube, the results are horrifying.

For now, people still trust farmers. Why aren’t we capitalizing on that? We have big, amazing ideas; what we don’t have is the time, money, or skills to pull them off.

So, where’s our support?

Would it really be so farfetched for the companies or organizations we spend money with to invest some money back into us? Maybe they could sponsor farmers to attend YouTube conferences? Or why not collaborate with farmers to help them produce and distribute fun, informative videos that people actually want to watch? Because if it’s fun, they’ll watch it. And if they watch it, they’ll learn something, too. I don’t think it is a reach to say that we don’t need more free water bottles or calendars, what we need is support. Maybe they could reallocate some of the money spent on cow-shaped stress relief balls?

Look, I get that agriculture companies exist to serve and support agriculture businesses. Technically, their responsibility is to us, not consumers. Dairy farmers especially feel more lost than ever right now — I know I can’t be alone in feeling this way. Knowing someone actually has our back would be nice for a change. And if a big part of our industry’s problem really is public perception, the bottom line is that if we go down, they go down with us.

Jessica Peters

The author dairies in partnership with her parents and brother at Spruce Row Farm in Pennsylvania. Jessica is a graduate of Pennsylvania State University, and since 2015, she has been active in promoting dairy in her local community. You can find her and her 250 Jersey cows on Facebook at Spruce Row Dairy or on Instagram at @seejessfarm.