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HERd management: Get out of the barn and share your story

Raechel Kilgore Sattazahn Published on 22 August 2014

females on farm

Promoting the dairy industry has always been important to me. I was a dairy princess at heart long before I ever put on a crown and sash.

Even though those years as dairy royalty are long over, I still feel the need to tell our story about agriculture. After all, if we don’t tell our story, who will?

However, I know not all dairy farmers are as excited about talking to the general public as I am, including my husband, Doug. Let’s just say that in our relationship, I am the talker, but Doug does a great job speaking whenever he is in front of a crowd.

He just doesn’t like to go out of his way to put himself in those situations. That’s where I help with a gentle nudge … or he would claim that my nagging is a bit more like a cow kick.

I serve on the dairy farmer speakers bureau for our local dairy promotion organization, where a coordinator helps to schedule speaking engagements for me at community and civic organizations. It’s a great opportunity to get to speak to groups I wouldn’t ordinarily reach out to, and they are normally very fascinated to hear me talk about our dairy operation and dairy farming in general.

Depending on the time of year and the time of the speaking engagement, I can sometimes convince Doug to join me for the program. It takes a lot of back-and-forth to get him to commit, but I think he knows it is important to take time out of his day to do something like this.

It never fails; Doug always seems to steal the show when we present together at one of these meetings, and I’m OK with that. As he says, “I’m living the dream,” and while he might not normally say it during the presentation, the audience understands that point. He enjoys talking about the cows, the crops and what it means to operate a dairy farm today.

As with any presentation, a little prep work is a must. This is especially true when two people are doing the presentation together. I have put together a basic PowerPoint I use at these meetings, and when my husband is able to join me, we simply split up the slides. A few basic props such as a bag of TMR and some cow eraser giveaways make for great additions.

Besides the actual presentation, the question-and-answer session and time with the audience is also an important time to share our message. While we as dairy producers might be ultra-sensitive about questions we think will be asked, I’ve found that people generally just want to know more about cows and what it is like to be on a dairy farm.

Doug and I make a good team when fielding questions because he answers many of the day-to-day questions about being on the farm and leaves the industry and nutritional questions for me.

I know there are many dairy farm women reading this article and saying to themselves, “I would never be able to get my husband/brother/father to go along!”

I say, give it a try and start planting the seed now. After each speaking engagement I am able to drag Doug along with me to, it seems to make it a bit easier to get him to commit to the next one.

We are all busy people, but the 60 minutes it takes to attend a meeting and speak on behalf of the dairy industry is well worth the time. We as dairy farmers need to make it a priority to get out of our comfort zone and reach out to people we wouldn’t ordinarily interact with.

Plus, I have found that going on these speaking engagements makes me even more passionate about the industry I am part of (and I know it does the same for Doug). It is exciting to talk about what we do and why we do it.

Start today by reaching out to a local civic organization to introduce yourself and see if they have any meetings where they would allow you to present as a guest speaker. Then plant the seed with others on your farm to come along. This small investment in your time and effort will have huge rewards for the dairy industry in future years. PD

  • Raechel Kilgore Sattazahn

  • Dairy Producer
  • Womelsdorf, Pennsylvania

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