Bill Christoph operates Liberty Jersey Farm, which milks about 400 Jerseys in Fallon, Nevada. Christoph recently was interviewed by the Los Angeles Times for an article about the new Dairy Farmers of America (DFA) milk powder factory, also in Fallon. The article explored how Chinese demand is driving the dairy export market.
How did your interview with the L.A. Times come about?
That was through DFA, who built that plant. The writer from the L.A. Times had been stationed as a correspondent for four years in China, so he had a lot of experience with that.
He was trying to make the connection as far as the interdependency of Chinese and American markets. He contacted DFA, and we were one of two farms they [the L.A. Times team] visited when they were up here.
We have no problem with doing that. We have done – not a lot, but some – tours for elementary school kids and that sort of thing. We like that; it’s a good thing to do.
Have you done other interviews before?
Small ones. Nothing of this caliber. Local newspapers and things like that.
Were you nervous before it? What did you do to prepare?
We weren’t really nervous. It’s just interesting. We were kind of looking forward to it.
Did you learn anything from the reporter?
He explained a lot about the Chinese market and how they look at things. I think we learned more about that. Having been there for four years, he had a better taste than the average person who goes over for a week or 10 days.
Was anything odd or surprising to you about the reporter’s visit/questions?
We were wondering where he’d want to go with the questions. But really there was nothing that was too controversial or anything like that. He commented about the Chinese insistence on purity and quality, and this kind of thing. That was not news to us. We already knew after the melamine incident several years ago.
I was comfortable during the whole interview. There was nothing I felt was controversial or objectionable. He seemed well prepared and like a nice guy.
I didn’t sense he had any agenda of any kind other than to get a feel for how [the markets] interacted.
Did he speak mostly with you?
He and his photographer were here during lunch. My son, who has a large portion of responsibility as far as the dairy is concerned, was here. My wife was here; my daughters were here on school break.
Were you satisfied with the piece that they produced?
All in all, it was fine. I didn’t really have any objections. I think the – how would I put it – the concepts he wrote about as far as what he would have gotten from us were fairly stated, although not exactly in the same words. He didn’t misrepresent what we said; he re-verbalized it in spots. It was fine.
Have you made any new connections or had any interesting experiences as a result of the story running?
The most interesting thing about it was, a week or 10 days after the article came out, I was contacted by a guy from German public TV. He asked if we’d be agreeable to doing a documentary. They came, flew out from Washington, D.C. – two men and two women.
I was expecting an hour or hour-and-a-half. They were here four or five hours. It’s not all about us, but part of it’s about us, about the Chinese economy and interdependence on the West. That was fun. That’ll be on German public TV sometime this fall. They’re supposed to send us a copy in September.
What advice would you have for other dairy producers who may be doing interviews?
I just think if we have our house in order, we shouldn’t be afraid of public scrutiny. That’s been my experience. Maybe in Southern California or some of those places with PETA and the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine or those groups, you have to deal with that.
We don’t see that here. The experiences we’ve had with our tours and the limited interviews we had have all been good. It’s a great opportunity to tell our story and not have someone else tell it for us.
I really like the elementary school tours, not so much for the kids, that’s fine, but for all the adult chaperones who come along with them. It’s a huge eye-opener for the adults.
People don’t have any idea how food is produced in a more modern context in agriculture; their memories are of Grandpa when they were a little kid– he was probably retired with a pig and a few chickens. We always look forward to it. If our house is in order, we should have nothing to fear.
We like the opportunity to interact with the public and tell our side of the modern agriculture story and put it in terms people can understand. PD