Right now there is a big push for farmers and ranchers to join the online conversations. We are supposed to “tell our story.” It’s blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. We are supposed to get out there and build an online community competing with Dr. Oz, Food Babe and other celebrities.
I fully agree. We need to speak up, and we do need to be part of the online conversation defending our way of life. However, what about the communities in which our farms are located?
I was recently told, “You have to go home,” when discussing my blog during a media training. At first I had no idea what this gal was talking about. What do you mean, “I have to go home”?
This is a blog. I want it to reach far and wide. I want anyone that has a doubt in their mind to hear what I have to say. I want to engage with individuals and assure them that our cows are loved and our milk is safe.
Recently, I began to realize what she was talking about, or at least what I think she was talking about. I can reach people all over the U.S., but if my own friends and family do not know what we do, how or why, what is the point? If my neighbors do not feel confident in what I do or say, then what have I really gained?
I think a common misconception farmers have is because they are part of a community or their farm has “always been a farm,” people should just know. People should know we love our cows or that our milk is safe.
The truth is: People don’t know. Maybe some do, but most do not. How do I know this? I am seeing it within my own community. I know this because there are farms in my community that have “always been there” and yet I knew nothing about them until I started dating a dairy farmer.
So I have set out to change this within my community, and I think you should too. I have several things I think every farmer should be doing. Social media is not your thing? No worries; there are plenty of other ways to engage with your customers. Yes, I said customers because everyone is either your customer or a potential customer.
Farm appearance: Take a moment, take a step back and look at your farm. Is your farm next to a road? If so, go stand on that road and look at it from someone else’s point of view. Are the ditches in front of the farm trimmed? Is all the garbage picked up?
Are things put away and not just laying around? Believe it or not, people will judge how you care for your animals or the quality of the product your farm is producing by what they see as they pass by. Most will never enter your farm, or any farm for that matter – is the little glimpse you are giving them something to be proud of?
Letters to the editor: More than a year ago, I started submitting letters to the editor of our local paper. Any time I would write a blog post, I would send it to him. To my surprise, the editor seemed to enjoy what I had to say. I was eventually asked to write a regular column.
It still catches me off guard when I am at the grocery store or the dentist office and someone mentions my column. People still read the paper. You do not have to have a column or a blog to do this. There is June Dairy Month, National Agriculture Week, etc. You do not even have to have a special occasion, just talk about your farm. Talk about your passion.
Engage with other businesses: Have you joined the local chamber of commerce? If not, you should. Ours has a weekly newsletter, luncheon and after-hours gathering. In the newsletter, I have made sure to thank everyone for their support every time they purchase our dairy products.
I have not had much time to attend the luncheons, but I did volunteer to speak at one. I shared about our farm and answered questions. We are a business, and we need to be engaging with the other businesses within our community.
Sponsor community events: There is always a need for sponsorship, especially within rural communities. Do your children play youth sports? Chances are their team needs a sponsor for the uniforms and gear. Is the school having a fundraising event? Is the church having a potluck or special gathering?
There are so many ways to become involved within your community. Being involved in these events doesn’t always require money. Sometimes they just require time. Don’t have time? Make the time. Make the time to engage with your neighbors. These folks are your customers.
These are just a few of many opportunities to make your presence known within your community. Keeping the roads clear of mud, notifying neighbors when you will be spreading manure, etc. Be a good neighbor and build a community within your community around your farm. Your future just may depend on it. PD