It’s been almost eight years since I was introduced to dairy farming. I still look back on the first year of dating a farmer and how I was completely overwhelmed with learning new things. To this day, I still feel like I am still learning, not only about dairy farming but other areas in agriculture. I have been so fortunate to meet farmers from different backgrounds to get my questions and concerns addressed about the food I am feeding my family. Even more importantly, a majority of them answered all my questions regardless of how ignorant they may have been.
Many people are not as lucky as me. With less than 2 percent of the U.S. population feeding the other 98 percent, most people don’t even know a farmer. So when they have questions and concerns about the food they are feeding their families, much like I did/do as a mother, they go to the internet to find those answers. I would love to say that when they go there, they find all these amazing stories and facts from farmers and ranchers — but they don’t. Most of what you find online about farming is written by folks outside of agriculture or, even worse, those who despise certain ag sectors. So it’s no surprise that their “facts” do not add up to what truly happens on our farms and ranches.
For the past several years along with many others in agriculture, I have spent countless hours sharing what I have learned and opening the barn doors of our farm to anyone who is interested in learning. Through words, photos, and videos I have had so many amazing conversations with consumers of dairy products (aka our customers) who have been so happy to see what truly happens on the farm and ease their mind because of all the negative they have been exposed to.
I truly believe that every farmer and rancher should in some way, shape, or form be telling their story. Everyone has their strengths, whether it be giving farm tours, talking at the local schools, connecting with local representatives, sponsoring local youth sports, or sharing daily life online through social media. They are numerous ways to get our story out there because of how many farmers and ranchers there are.
With all that said, there are also quite a few farmers who all they tend to do is complain. They complain about how checkoffs represent them, complain about how other farmers/ranchers tell their story, complain about how “dumb” or “stupid” consumers are and constantly complain about how hard they work and how underpaid they are. I am just so beyond over the complaining. I can’t take it anymore. Farming is tough. Farming is stressful. Farming can flat kick your butt sometimes. But farming is the life that all of us have chosen, and it’s something we can leave at any given moment. No one is forcing any of us to continue this way of life.
I know farm life can be hard, I know. We are first-generation dairy farmers. But calling our customers names, telling them how stupid or “uneducated” they are doesn’t really help any of us. It would do me no good to go online and complain about how milk is priced, about our cooperative or any other thing that consumers cannot do anything about. Our customers want to know that we care about the animals, the land, our employees and most importantly about them. We chose this life, we do this for ourselves and our families. Complaining and constantly being negative isn’t good for us, and it isn’t good for business.
I can honestly say that eight years ago if I had been introduced to a group of farmers who constantly complained about what they do and made me feel stupid about my questions and concerns that I would have never wanted to stand up and share my story — let alone stand up for them.
I think it’s time that farmers and ranchers take a step back and figure out how to make a positive connection with the folks that are feeding their families with what we grow or raise. It’s time we show a little appreciation for our customers and treat them with respect regardless if we feel they deserve it or not. Let’s try to focus on why we do what we do and share that passion with our customers and save all that other stuff for conversations within our industry where the changes can actually be made.
Krista Stauffer is a wife, mother of three, and first-generation millennial dairy farmer. Krista works side by side with her husband and kids on their 140-cow dairy.