There’s still snow on the ground, but have you started thinking about your outreach goals for this spring? And specifically, June Dairy Month? If not, you aren’t alone. That being said, it is time to start thinking. There’s nothing worse than being rushed and stressed while trying to throw something together at the last minute.
A lot of dairy groups do something special for June Dairy Month to celebrate our amazing industry and to connect with consumers to share our stories and the benefits of dairy products. Whether you are part of a group that is planning something or you want to do something by yourself, there are so many options.
If you love public speaking (like I do), perhaps connect with a local civic organization or any other group that doesn’t draw the majority of its membership from the ag community. It can sometimes be hard to find non-ag audiences in small, rural towns, so this might require expanding your search and including the nearest city or suburbs if that is still within a reasonable distance. Before you contact the group you’d like to speak to, decide what your focus is and have a few different ideas. When I spoke to a local Lions Club a few years ago, they wanted to hear about specific topics, so I made sure to work those into my presentation. Many of these groups plan their meetings and speakers far in advance, so contact them soon to make sure you can get on their calendars in June.
Another reason it’s good to start planning now? Planting season will soon be upon us, and there probably won’t be much time for this kind of planning for a while.
Whether you are speaking to a civic organization or are at an event with consumers, be mindful of what you do because people are watching. When I spoke to that Lions Club, I ordered milk with dinner and didn’t think anything of it. Well, I heard someone later say to their friend, “Look! She’s drinking milk! Maybe we should order that instead.” People are watching and listening. Set a good example.
Most people think of big events when they think of June Dairy Month celebrations, but not everything has to be a big event. You could do a small farm tour with a specific audience (kids, adult groups, etc.), host an open house on the farm (think breakfast on the farm or something similar – this falls more into the “big event” category) or participate in another event that is already going on in your area, such as a parade or street fair. Those big props, such as equipment and animals, tend to draw consumers in and help start conversations about dairy farming.
During the Year of Dairy Cows at the 2012 Indiana State Fair, we used a wheel of dairy with questions ranging from nutrition to animal care to environmental stewardship and milk safety to start these conversations. We also had prizes. People love prizes. Your local dairy checkoff or farm bureau may have some items you can give away. Both are great resources if you are planning an event like this, even if it’s just to get some more ideas or to spread the word to local media.
Social media is huge. Maybe you have a Facebook page for your farm, or perhaps you’ve been thinking about starting a blog. Now is a great time. As long as you stay positive, there’s not really a wrong way to promote dairy on social media. Everyone does it a little differently. Just be consistent and don’t feel like you need to be on every single social media site. Pick your priorities. On my blog, I try to keep the mood light and occasionally touch on hot topics as they fit with the rest of the content. People love recipes. Draw them in with a recipe and then share something about what’s happening on the farm that day.
Always be yourself online. Don’t feel like you have to pretend to be someone you aren’t. People will sense when someone isn’t being genuine and won’t trust them. And building consumer trust and confidence is one of our primary goals in these outreach efforts.
If your plan includes social media, share some photos from planting season. This will help build your audience in preparation for June Dairy Month. Most people aren’t on a farm every day, and many have never been to a farm, so little everyday things that may seem routine for us are extremely intriguing to our target audience.
Whatever you do, be realistic. We are all busy and have so much to do every day as it is. Add outreach events and it can be overwhelming. If you are just starting out, pick one thing (or maybe two) that you feel comfortable with and start there. As you get more comfortable with it and find more time, you can always add more later.
Here are a few more tips for being a dairy advocate.
My final bit of advice: Have fun! June Dairy Month is a celebration, and we should all be having fun regardless of whether we are blogging about some fun facts, hosting an event on our farms or speaking to consumers at a meeting. PD
Kimmi Devaney is the agricultural marketing and industry development manager with the Indiana State Department of Agriculture. She also writes an agricultural blog.
PHOTOS: Photos by Kimmi Devaney.