It might seem like an unlikely combination, but I argue that few people are more rooted in their communities than Lions Club members, Rotarians and dairy farmers.
Over the last couple of months I’ve been busy speaking to a variety of local community groups, including Lions Clubs and Rotary Clubs, to tell the story about dairy farming. As a participant in Mid-Atlantic Dairy Association’s dairy farmers speakers bureau, it has been great encouragement for me (and my husband when I am able to drag him along) to get out and talk to groups that we probably wouldn’t otherwise.
What I’ve found is a great group of people that are connected to their communities and are excited to learn about a sector of their community, dairy farming. They are genuinely enthusiastic to hear about cows and life on the farm.
The problem is that oftentimes dairy farmers are concerned about the “scary” questions that an audience might ask. We automatically tell ourselves that, “Consumers don’t understand” and we never make the effort to even reach out to speak to the groups….but this is the exact opposite of what we should be doing – educating.
Taking a couple of hours every now and then to educate consumers has been very personally rewarding, and I’ve had a lot of fun. In many cases, I’ve found that the question-and-answer session is just as long as my presentation (and sometimes my presentation even becomes a question-and-answer session)!
The audience asks questions like…
- How long do cows live?
- What time do you get up to milk the cows?
- How long does it take to milk a cow?
- What’s the difference between beef cows and dairy cows?
- When do cows have their first calf?
- How often do they have calves?
They are genuinely interested in how things work on a dairy farm and how we care for our cows. That’s the bottom-line.
And even if they ask one of the questions that we are so “afraid” of such as about raw milk or hormones in milk, a clear, honest answer is what they are looking for. When I can say with confidence the reasons why I don’t promote consumers drinking raw milk, I feel that my opinion as a dairy farmer goes a long way.
It’s all about taking some initiative and making telling your story a priority. Dairy farmers often get caught up in everything else that they do day after day, but they need to take greater responsibility in educating consumers and ensuring a future market for their product.