“When most people think of technology in Washington, they’re thinking Microsoft or Amazon, but I want them to start thinking about dairy,” says Michelle Schilter, third-generation dairy farmer from Chehalis, Washington.
“I use technology every day on the farm, and I’m excited to share that story with attendees at SXSW,” says Schilter. “I want people to feel comfortable about the relationship between technology and farming, and recognize the benefits it has on our food system and planet." Schilter is one of 20 U.S. dairy farmers attending South by Southwest (SXSW) to bust food myths and discuss the benefits of technology in today’s food system at workshops and panels during the Austin, Texas, event.
Schilter and her husband, Lonny, run an organic dairy farm about 90 miles south of Seattle with their three kids, Zach, Cassy and Joey. While Schilter spends a lot of time in her barn boots, her off-farm responsibilities stretch much further than the pasture – they take her throughout Washington state and around the country. Schilter serves as a board member in a national dairy organization, Dairy Management Inc. (DMI), and chair of the Dairy Farmers of Washington board of directors, one of the state’s largest agricultural organizations. Both jobs keep her on the road weekly as she works to increase demand for Washington dairy products through research, innovation and education.
Food and nutrition are huge topics at this year’s conference, and dairy has a big voice in that discussion. Schilter was invited to SXSW by DMI to be one of these voices and share her dairy story.
“Consumers want to know the story of their food from farm to table, as well as the faces behind it,” Schilter says. “I’m eager to answer their questions and highlight the reasons why dairy is a perfect product – it’s local, responsibly produced and packed with nutrients.”
Schilter’s main objective at SXSW is to highlight all the exciting things happening in dairy and hopefully change a few attendees’ perceptions along the way.
“People think we wear overalls and a straw hat, but I’m ready to promote the advancements we’ve made and show what modern-day dairy farming is like,” she says. “From robotic milkers – which actually improve the cows’ quality of life – to climate-controlled barns to anaerobic digesters that can turn waste into electricity, we are becoming more sustainable and efficient every day.”
—From Dairy Farmers of Washington news release