“Won’t I just be painting a big target on my back?” asked a dairy farmer in a recent DMI-sponsored checkoff online communications training class I was teaching. “Why would I risk my family and my farm?”
When anti-ag extremists decide to attack a farm’s Facebook page, Twitter handle, or Instagram profile, the things they say can be scary. They threaten farmers and say some of the most awful things I’ve ever heard. It’s hard to believe that another human being would be that cruel and inappropriate to another, especially to a farmer who’s working insane hours to provide hundreds, if not thousands, of people a high-quality food.
“But if you don’t use these networks to communicate with your consumers, then they win. They control your story. Their messaging is found when someone Googles dairy farming,” I answered. But my message is coming from someone who isn’t living on the farm and being attacked all the time.
So, I decided to ask some dairy farmers who are active on social how they deal with attacks. What keeps them going? What keeps them sharing their dairy farm story and engaging with consumers despite being targets online?
Wisconsin dairy farmer Carrie Mess (aka “Dairy Carrie”) has a lot of experience with online attacks and even receiving threatening legal letters from anti-ag groups. She said, “Putting yourself out there and expressing your beliefs can be uncomfortable and make you feel like a target. I have many very negative conversations online, and they certainly drain you and make you question if you should put yourself out there. But then you have someone come along and tell you that you’ve changed their mind or reassured them. Suddenly the negative doesn’t matter anymore, and you see that what you’re doing is making a positive impact.”
“But what about extremists showing up at the farm?” I asked her.
“No, I don’t think our farm is actually at risk. That doesn’t mean that we aren’t vigilant, but I truly believe most of the activists stop at their keyboards.”
I know it’s tough to put yourself and your farm online, but you are the trusted experts in cow care, milk quality, and sustainable farming. Consumers want to trust the food they are buying for their family, and knowing you and how you farm will help build confidence in the foods you produce and how you produce them.
One great way to reach consumers is through our new Undeniably Dairy campaign. Check out our content at undeniablydairy.org. More Undeniably Dairy content is available for your use by becoming a member of the Dairy Hub.
If you have questions about getting online and becoming an advocate for ag, we provide online classes through your local checkoff or you can reach out directly to me and I’ll help you get started at [email protected].