We shouldn’t be surprised to read the latest articles about the dairy industry or about animal agriculture. It should come as no shock to any of us that blatant misinformation and unsubstantiated opinions are being broadcast to the masses as facts. Why? The public has no idea what we do. As farmers and producers we know our operations and most similar agriculture businesses from soup to nuts. We have to be economist, conservationist, meteorologist, veterinarian, nutritionist, accountant and all optimist. But what we have failed to recognize is that the public has no idea who we are, what we do, and most importantly why we do it. They’ve got milk? they just don’t get us.
The average American knows that if they go to their local grocery store there will be a dairy case where they are free to buy milk, cheese, yogurt, and the like. Not giving much thought to the practices of farming but rather noticing prices and products that fit into their families lifestyle. They want is fast, cheap, and easy. In 1949 Americans spent 22% of their disposable income on food. Now we spend less than 10%. It’s the safest and cheapest food supply in the world. But we have forgotten to remind them as they are reaping the benefits of our innovative and progressive industry about you and me. So now articles from the Washington Post and NY Times are published and once again Americans are being fed well let’s just say a load of recycled alfalfa. We'll all shake our heads and mumble under our breath about the articles and how wrong they are as we are going about our lives as farmers. And that folks is why we are failing at what is so vitally necessary today, educating our consumer about us! As dairymen we have done an amazing job at reminding them that milk is a nutritional powerhouse and that dairy is cornerstone to a healthy lifestyle. While we were fighting the good fight we neglected to remind them that it is the farmers that bring that milk to the table not the celebrity with the milk mustache.
Most Americans are three generations removed from the farm. Think about that for a moment? It boggles my mind as a mother of three small children to imagine living without microwaves, washing machines, and television. But that’s how my grandmother raised her babies back then. Now that feeling is exactly how John and Jane Q Public think about milking cows or hauling manure much less what it must be like to palpate a cow. It is an unfathomable lifestyle that is so far removed from their lives that it's no wonder what little information is out there, no matter the accuracy, is being accepted as fact. There are only .8% of the US population in animal agriculture and less than 50,000 dairy farms nationwide. More Americans are in prison today than are farmers. Do you see how easy it has been for them to forget about us?
So now here’s where the rubber meets the road. We can either read about another article or news story that is wrought with lies or we can stand up and say enough. If the squeaky wheel gets the grease then fellow dairymen the time is now to tell our story. It’s not enough to tell them to drink their milk anymore. We now have to tell them how that milk got there from cow to glass. We are a proud industry and have an amazing story to tell which makes this all the more simple for us to do. From Facebook, Twitter, blogs, to your own local network of schools, churches, businesses the opportunity of speaking on behalf of your farm and farmers across this great land is there. Because if we don’t share our story I promise you someone else will and then we have lost our voice. I am proud to dairy and even more proud to tell everyone about our amazing livelihood. Will you join me?