Oct. 19 2020 09:30 AM

The dairy community is finding unique ways to interact with members of Gen Z.

A brand new type of farm tour is on the horizon, and it’s here to reach the latest age of consumer: Generation Z.

Dairy Management Inc. (DMI), the organization setting up these farm tours, defines the current “Gen Z” as people in their early teens to early 20s. This is a tech-savvy, social network-based age bracket that gets much of their content, including social topics, through their phones, and a growing number of whom interact with "gamers" online.

Gaming refers to video games that may be played alone or with and against others. YouTube has become a popular platform for influential gamers to show viewers how they play. It’s also created an evolving social community as people watch, share, and comment on the videos. In fact, 90% of Gen Z is involved with gaming, according to DMI.

“We need to be where the people are,” CEO Tom Gallagher said in explaining DMI’s newest promotion to combine this trend of gaming with sustainable dairy farming.

It may seem that the two have little in common, but DMI has found a natural way to bring them together. In the popular building game, Minecraft, farms are already a key part of the experience. DMI is partnering with four gamer influencers to bring virtual dairy farms to their YouTube viewers.

The first step is for each of the gamers to experience a virtual farm tour themselves. Through video calls with dairy farmers, the gamers will experience how a dairy farm is set up, how animals are cared for, and what sustainability practices are used. The focus will be on the farm’s commitment to sustainability, although dairy products will also be highlighted at one of the tour farms that makes cheese and another that makes ice cream.

Colorado dairy farmer Aric DeJager of Icon Holsteins volunteered to be one of the host farms for the tours. He has been surprised to learn the reach that these gamers have. “There’s 40 million young, impressionable people watching them,” he said. “It’s a great idea.”

Indeed, the combined reach of the gamers involved in this project is over 120 million. Much of this group is people who are starting to develop their own food habits and making their own decisions.

After the gamers hear from producers and tour the farm, they’ll be building a virtual dairy farm in Minecraft and sharing dairy facts as their followers watch and learn. Viewers will also be encouraged to build their own dairies, and DMI is hoping to showcase some of those creations as Gen Z puts their dairy sustainability knowledge to the test.

In this way, the two-way communication that Gen Z thrives on can develop. They want to know about the sustainability of brands they patronize and will walk away from those that don’t seem to care, Gallagher said. By being proactive in telling dairy’s environmental story, the industry can encourage customers and avoid unnecessary regulations. “It’s not just sustainability for sustainability’s sake. It needs to be profitable,” he emphasized.

Katelyn Allen

Katelyn Allen joined the Hoard’s Dairyman team as the Publications Editor in August 2019 and is now an associate editor. Katelyn is a 2019 graduate of Virginia Tech, where she majored in dairy science and minored in communication. Katelyn grew up on her family’s registered Holstein dairy, Glen-Toctin Farm, in Jefferson, Md.