(Originally Published February 12, 2014)
In the dairy industry, we talk a lot about “reaching out” and “creating trust” with consumers. But at the same time, we’re constantly fretting over the progress we have or have not made with our attempts at public outreach. So what is it that we’re missing? Why do we, as farmers and industry advocates, feel like we’re taking one step forward while our consumers are taking two steps back the other way?
In my experiences at school, I’ve never been able to get used to the reactions of my peers to us “farmers.” Wait… I come from a dairy farming background? NO WAY… Yes way. I, Rebecca Shaw, grew up feeding calves, cleaning poop out of pens and finding excuses to keep me out of the milking parlor. But why is that so hard to believe? Are others more willing to listen to me, as a farmer, now that they feel a similar peer connection?
For us to tell our story, maybe what we need to do first is show our consumers that we’re not that much different than they are. In fact, we’re exactly like them in some ways. Farmers are consumers that shop at the local super market and members of a community who serve on the school board next to you. Farmers are parents, little league coaches, dance moms and fans starting chants at a high school basketball game. Farmers travel the world and may have a few beers or virgin cocktails along the way. Farmers stop at Dunkin Donuts for a fancy latte and Sheetz for a tank of gas and the latest Cosmo magazine (or maybe that one is just me…).
My point is, that people are more willing to listen and create a connection with those who they can relate too. Other than having a 24/7 job that requires a person to cancel dinner plans last minute, skip a few years of vacation here and there and wake up around 4am every day (including holidays), farmers really aren’t that different from their consumers.