I have a friend who is very religious, like, "Harry Potter is the work of Satan" religious. We have a mutual friend who has her doubts about religion but is open to listening. A few years ago, we all went to lunch because our doubtful friend was going through some hard times. My religious friend spent the entire meal quoting scripture, chastising sinners, and telling her how to fix her life. When we walked away from the table, I could tell that every word had fallen on deaf ears. No one wants to be preached to.
We need to stop preaching.
When I first started agvocating online and people asked why I was doing it, I’d say, "To educate consumers." If you were to ask me the same question today, I’d reply, "To share my life with anyone who will listen."
The day I stopped educating and started sharing, was the day it all clicked for me. I stopped worrying about how many likes, comments, or shares my posts received. I stopped comparing what I posted to what others posted. I stopped feeling like the weight of the world and the fate of our industry was on my shoulders. Ironically, it was also around the same time that my likes, comments, and shares started going up. Know why? Because no one wants to be preached to.
What I was posting was really resonating with people — farmers and consumers. I still get messages weekly stating how "relatable" I am, and it’s the best compliment I could ever receive. If someone has a question about dairy farming, who do you think they’d rather ask? The farmer who only posts dairy facts and cow photos or the relatable crazy girl who sometimes admits that she has no idea what she’s doing?
Social media is meant to be imperfect. We need to show them the imperfections. Will there be hard questions? Yes. Is there a chance animal activists will find you? Yes. But will you be creating an opportunity for people who are truly curious about their food to ask the people who actually produce it? YES!
I went to lunch alone with my doubtful friend a few weeks later. After getting a thorough update on her life situation, I made one simple comment about how my faith has helped me through some very difficult times. A few months later I learned that she had been attending a local church. She still has her doubts, but she found a group of people who support her and make her feel welcome. We need to work harder to make people feel welcome. Because when that crazy friend from high school sees a video about animal abuse in the dairy industry, do you really want her asking Google? I don’t!
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.