The sun is shining, the birds are chirping and the world is green again. Springtime is the perfect time to throw those barn doors open – but not just to make milking more pleasant.
While attending a presentation analyzing society’s changing perception of agriculture, I heard a producer ask, “What are ways to engage the public?”
With June Dairy Month just around the corner, now is the time to focus on some promotional efforts. Don’t just leave this task up to the Dairy Farmers of Canada and provincial milk organizations – their message, while very important, can only go so far.
In today’s society more and more consumers are far-removed from the farm. And because farms are so foreign to them, they have started to ask to get reacquainted. Consumers want to know where their food comes from and they really would like to meet the farmers producing that food.
So now that you’re opening up those barn doors, think of how you can invite some people out to your farm. Host a summer picnic for the hockey team you coach or invite your church group out for an evening potluck.
Work with your local school to see if any classrooms would be interested in a field trip to your farm. Make it known in your community that you are open to public tours for anyone that is interested.
If you can’t get the people out to the farm, consider bringing the cows to them. Work with other area producers and your community to have a cow parade through town.
Set up a dairy promotion area during your community festival or other public event. See if you can arrange a petting zoo at a school one afternoon.
Other great dairy ideas I’ve heard of include a milk jug boat race where participants must create rafts from plastic milk jugs and float down a river. Arrange for chocolate milk to be served as a refueling drink after a marathon. Create a dairy night at a minor or major sporting event.
Many of these suggestions are a team effort, but dairy promotion doesn’t have to be that complicated. One of my first dairy promotion experiences occurred as a 4-H member.
A group of us offered to hand out cheese samples at the local grocery store. While people stop by for a bite, take a moment to educate them on the nutritional value of dairy products or that you’re proud to be a farmer.
If you are a little hesitant about addressing the non-farm public, get your feet wet by inviting your peers out to your farm. Three dairy producers did just that this spring. Click here to read about Arie, Anita and Gijs Van Den Broek; Alfons and Wilma ten Brummelhuis; and Pieter Yff.
No matter what it is you choose to do, I challenge each of you to find a new way to promote dairy in the next year. Remember all consumers are an integral part of your farming operation. Without them, there is little reason to produce the products you do.
Similarly, you, as an engaged audience, are a vital reason this magazine exists today. To many of you, Progressive Dairyman is a name you’ve been introduced to in the past 16 months.
What you may not know is that we are celebrating our 25th anniversary this year. If you’d like to get to know more about us, who we are and where we come from, I encourage you to review our timeline (Click here to view timeline.)
Meanwhile, let’s keep working to promote the dairy industry and one day we can celebrate the 25th anniversary of Progressive Dairyman’s Canadian edition together! PD