I opened up our farm to folks online because I knew that our story needed to be told. When I started sharing, I had no idea what I was doing. All I knew was that I did not like the narrative surrounding our way of life, and I intended on doing everything I could to try to change it.
It took me over a year to really open up. It is scary to take something so personal to you and share it with the world to be overanalyzed and picked apart. Even more so, it is hard to put your family out there, especially your children. While I finally dove in head first, I had no idea how big and how fast what I was doing was going to get.
It seemed like overnight, I had social media posts and blog posts that would go viral. With that came requests to speak, travel for blogger programs, interviews for other blogs and publications, requests to write for certain publications, etc. For a year straight, I was on a plane every month (sometimes two or three times) off on an adventure. It was amazing. I was able to meet farmers and ranchers all across the country. I met scientists, industry professionals, and learned things about cows and dairy products I would never have had the opportunity to otherwise. I visited places I had always wanted to go. It felt amazing.
It didn’t take long though for it to just become too much. I soon found myself dreading my next trip because I was exhausted and just wanted to be home with my family. I didn’t want to post for fear of it becoming popular and drawing the attention of activists. I would post something, and as soon as it would start to draw a lot of attention I would delete it. I wish I could say it was then that I realized I needed to step back, but it wasn’t.
What once was something I enjoyed, had fun with, and looked forward to doing was now overwhelming, unenjoyable, and stressful. The pressure for every post to do well, to talk about the same subjects over and over again (but differently), and to constantly come up with something new was just too much. I broke. I was stressed. I would get online and instantly become depressed. I would take little breaks and then try again. No matter how long of a break or how much I stepped back, I just couldn’t find my way back to where I was before everything got crazy.
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Today I am touring veal farms. These Holstein bulls behind me are about 500-600 lbs. and are about two weeks from going to market. Interesting fact about veal, they are not casterated so they are intact males and they are also not dehorned. I love seeing how they are raised and the care they receive. More information coming soon!
In 2017, I was sitting in an empty office waiting to head to the airport. I had just finished an amazing trip to learn about modern veal practices and visited a processing plant. I was pregnant with our youngest and fighting an all-day sickness. I had posted the things I had been learning along the way on Facebook and Instagram. It didn’t take long for the activists to find me. I received a message from several activists stating that they didn’t agree with how I was being treated and that I had just had my posts shared in groups that contained over 100,000 activists. I knew I was in for a long few days. So I began the ritual I like to call, “Ban & Delete.”
While that was exhausting, the thing that really got to me wasn’t the activists. It was the farmers and ranchers. They were rude and mean. The comments were no better than the activists, filled with misinformation and judgement towards something they truly knew nothing about. I was so disappointed and mad that someone could say, “Please get to know me and what we do,” but also be so quick to throw another sector of agriculture under the bus. They weren’t being open to learning about it because of their preconceived notions.
It was on that trip that I finally realized that telling my story online came with a small dose of depression. So I pretty much took the rest of 2017 and 2018 off. I shared things here and there, but it was forced. I felt obligated to do something, but knew I couldn’t do it to the level I had in the past. I just couldn’t handle the pressure or spotlight. It was too much for me in the midst of a really tough time on the farm.
As a farmer, I am constantly telling my fellow farmers to tell their story. I wholeheartedly think everyone should to some extent. I have told you that it is hard. I have shared that activists are overwhelming and farmers can be jerks. What I have never told you is that telling my story almost broke me. It made me depressed, anxious, and fearful — three things that are not normal for me.
I needed time to rest, to regroup, to focus on my family and farm. I’m not sure that I will ever share my story like I once did. I’m not sure that I can jump back in head first with no fear. I do however now know that social media and blogging isn’t always good for my mental health. So here I am dipping my toe back in the water. Ready to rejoin the fight to some extent, but also very cautious to take better care of myself in the process. I strongly encourage you to do the same.
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 200-cow dairy.