Oct. 14 2019 10:30 AM

We need to stay united, not divided, in the eyes of consumers.

I grew up in a small town where most everyone is a farmer. Some 15 years ago, I had come back for a hometown visit with my new wife. We were hanging out with my brother in a local bar on the town square.

Suddenly, a fight broke out. The crowd gathered and watched, but no one was breaking it up. My wife looked at me with wide eyes and I took that as I should do something. As I went to see if I could help, my brother grabbed my arm.

"Don't worry about it," he said matter-of-factly. "They're brothers."

Soon, the fight was over, and everyone went back to doing what they do on a Saturday night.

Now I'm seeing farmers fight again. But this time, it's online and with words. And the audience that is surrounding and watching them won't understand the context of what is going down. They will just see the back and forth of angry comments.

It seems when something happens on a farm like an activist attack, a serious weather problem, or just bad luck, other farmers take swipes about the size of the farm or the employees or the farm's setup and operation (even if it is in a different part of the country). All I can think is "Why?"

Why do that in front of a consumer on social media who doesn't understand farming and who sees farmers as hard-working, friendly, and salt-of-the-earth people who would do anything to help another person? This just confuses them.

And it also gives power to whomever might have inflicted damage to that farm, such as an animal rights organization.

When a farmer takes a hit from the weather, an activist organization, or bad luck, the last thing they need is an opinion from another farmer about what they should or shouldn’t have done. They need support and help from the farmer community. And if you don't want to give it because you have issues with them, then take the high road. If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say it at all. It doesn't help anyone.

There are places you can vent and talk about things but those are in closed groups or private messages. Farmers need to be united to grow the dairy industry — division and negativity will only take everyone down.

If you need help in handling social media for your farm, your local and national dairy checkoff can help — please reach out to them via dairy.org or myself at don.schindler@dairy.org. If you would like to learn more about your national dairy checkoff, you can join our Facebook group or visit dairy.org for more information.

Don Schindler

The author is a Senior Vice President of Digital Initiatives at Dairy Management Inc.