If you don’t tell your own story, someone else will. This is one of the biggest reasons why farmers should consider sharing their story with the public. There are many other voices – activists, food marketers, environmentalists, and many in the general public who know nothing about your farm life – who will tell it, and you might not like what they say.
I recently attended the 2022 Connect Summit in Nashville, Tenn., which included a panel of some of the country’s top dairy farmer influencers. These dairy farmers and a veterinarian have large audiences of consumers who directly engage with them and follow their posts daily.
The panel, titled “Discover why Generation Z will fall in love with dairy,” featured Marissa Hake, D.V.M. (@CalfVet), Evelyn and Claudia Luebner (@nyfarmgirls),Tara Vander Dussen (@taravanderdussen), Dan Venteicher (@iowadairyfarmer), and Annaliese Wagner (@modfarmchick), and the panel was moderated by Michelle Miller (@thefarmbabe).
The panelists said it was tough getting started sharing their story. There are a lot of questions about what to say, how to say it, and what happens if they do the wrong thing or pick the wrong platform.
Venteicher said you need to “give yourself some grace.” He hated the content he first put out when he started, but it has improved. Now, he likes his videos, is always figuring out ways to improve them, and he's making money on Facebook with his videos.
If you are worried about having to share too much about your farm life, Vander Dussen said, “Set your own boundaries. You write the rules.”
And you can share more than your farm life, even though it might be why people started following you. In fact, it's a great way to find a common connection with people since they aren't on the farm. Wagner said, “I'm more than a farmer. The best way to promote about ag is to talk about our passions outside of ag.” Miller quickly suggested, “Join groups where there aren't farmers.”
When it comes to activists attacking your farm pages, the Luebners said they block and delete them. Meanwhile, Venteicher takes a different approach and uses their attacks. He “leans into the conflict . . . and uses it as an attention grabber.”
“Don't be embarrassed,” Vander Dussen said. “Just start sharing.” The Millennial Farmer, another farmer influencer, had told her to give it six months. Don't expect it to happen overnight.
If you are a dairy farmer and would like to get started using social media to reach consumers and share your story, please reach out to your local dairy checkoff (www.usdairy.com/for-farmers/local-checkoff). They have many resources and are willing to help. Or you can reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The author is a Senior Vice President of Digital Initiatives at Dairy Management Inc.