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Tell me your dairy story

By Jolene Griffin 

My first class at Michigan State University was overwhelming. I had left my family’s dairy farm in our small town in western Michigan just a few days before to officially become a Spartan, and fulfill a lifelong goal. That first class was in a lecture room with over 300 other bright-eyed students, on a hot August Monday morning. As we got to know each other, I told the young man who sat next to me that I was from a dairy farm in the western part of the state, a few hours from his home in downtown Detroit. At that point, he looked at me and stated, “You don’t look like a farmer!” After that, I took every opportunity to answer his questions about farming. That semester flew by, as I was able to share my love for agriculture with my new friend.

In those conversations, I was talking with just one consumer who had never visited a dairy farm. This happened just as Facebook was starting to take over college campuses. The beauty about Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and other social media channels is they allow us to tell stories to dozens, hundreds, or thousands of consumers, like my classmate from Detroit who had never met a farmer and had lots of questions. We have an opportunity to share the story about how we in agriculture produce safe and wholesome food that feeds not only our families but those across the country and the world.

True, not every dairy farmer has the time or the desire to become involved in social media. But, is someone on your farm or in your family already active online? Could you work with that person to share stories about how you cared for a new calf during the Polar Vortex, or how your family is anxiously awaiting spring so you can plant the crops that will feed your animals for the next year, or how about how your family has been involved in dairy farming for five generations?

We want our story to be heard by those who purchase the products, so we need to be the ones talking to them, in any venue. Any positive conversation we have with consumers in any setting about dairy is a win. Now’s the time to invite the local school to your farm for a tour this spring, or to enter online conversations, or get your local media excited about June Dairy Month. Now’s the time to tell your dairy story!

Through this column, we at the dairy check- off want to help you get excited about sharing those stories online. We will share social media tips and introduce you to some of your peers across the country who are doing a great job talking about dairy online. In the meantime, don’t hesitate to let me know of any questions you have, or any topics you’d like to discuss.

Homework assignment - Tell us how you’re sharing your dairy story through any conversations with consumers

Jolene Griffin is the director of farmer activation and consumer confidence at Dairy Management Inc. where she works on behalf of America’s Dairy Farmers. She helped lead the team that created, implemented and maintains the myDairy social media program encouraing dairy farmers to use their online channels to connect with consumers. Jolene has a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture and Natural Resources Communication from Michigan State University and is proud to have started her career on her family’s dairy farm in Hastings, Mich.