By Lee Reinsch for Dairy Strong
Jessica Peters and Katie Dotterer-Pyle are young farmers who aim to change the way the dairy community interacts with the world and vice versa.
Peters posts videos and slice-of-life diary-type entries on the Facebook page for her farm, Spruce Row Farm in Meadville, Penn., as does Dotterer-Pyle, from her farm, Cow Comfort Inn Dairy in Union Bridge, Md. They presented, “Changing dairy: Starting with how we advocate,” on Jan. 24 on the Innovation Stage at the Dairy Strong conference in Madison.
Below is a Q&A with the two.
Regarding the title of your talk, how do farmers tend to advocate?
We’re not trying to discourage any farmer from advocating. If anything, we need more farmers to do so!
Farmers tend to advocate to their friends, through a personal page on Facebook or Instagram. Their “friends” on social media are (with) both those that farm and those that don’t. This means they’re preaching to the choir to probably the majority of their friends while completely confusing their non-farming friends. Example: If you’re going to do a post about TMR (total mixed ration, a term used in feeding dairy cows), you had better be explaining what that acronym means. Otherwise, you’re only reaching your inner circle. Keep your personal pages, but create a business page that reaches so many more people — people you normally wouldn’t talk to. These are the people who want/need to learn where their food comes from.
Don’t you open yourself up to nastiness from opponents of livestock farming?
We get it; a lot of people are scared. We were too. And the hateful vegans and animal rights extremists are horrible. But there are so many tools now to help you deal with all of that. You also learn to grow a thick skin, pretty quick. Hurtful comments don’t even phase us anymore. The amount of positive and inquisitive questions and conversations with complete strangers who legitimately want to learn the origins of their food completely outweigh the Internet trolls.
Farmers should keep it positive, right?
Another thing farmers tend to do is only post about the good that happens on their operations. Social media has become a highlight reel of people’s lives. It makes it seem that bad days never happen anymore because you don’t see those posts! People aren’t stupid; they know it’s not all sunshine and rainbows all the time. Be more real; post the not-so-great aspects of farming. Yes, we post about our cute Jersey calves, but we also keep it real with posts about surgeries, selling cows, sick cows, etc.
Also, make yourself personable so that people relate to you. Don’t be afraid to be you. Jess is a lot of fun and adds silliness and wit to her posts. Katie is sassy and adds some snarkiness to hers.