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HERd Management: Let’s embrace our differences

Raechel Kilgore Sattazahn for Progressive Dairyman Published on 24 August 2018

Too often in life, we divide ourselves into two sides on an issue. A quick browse on my Facebook newsfeed, and this definitely seems to be the case. Even in the dairy industry, we polarize ourselves – sometimes without trying.

We have a large farm or a small farm. Our farms are conventional or organic. We like red tractors or green tractors. This list goes on and on.

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After more careful reflection, I think you will agree with me: For the most part, we are not all on opposite sides of every issue. We are not defined by one item or the other. Many times, we fall somewhere in the middle – or maybe in a different category altogether. It may seem crazy, but there are farmers who have red and green tractors.

Even beyond the categories, the words we use aren’t always clear. What is “large” to me isn’t “large” to you, and it may certainly have a different meaning in the eyes of a consumer.

Yes, we are all different, but it is something we should celebrate. We all approach dairy farming and our lives through different perspectives, and that is OK. Instead of using our differences to divide ourselves, we need to use our differences to bring ourselves together.

There have been many wonderful instances of dairy producers doing just this, especially in recent economic conditions, but I can also think of many other times where dairy farmers have done more harm to one another than good.

I also believe we must embrace the differences we have with our non-farming neighbors. Too often, we limit our interactions to fellow farmers – and while it can be helpful to connect with others in similar situations, interacting with others in circumstances different than our own is inspiring and impactful.

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I encourage everyone to take a step away from your comfort zone to gain perspective. This can come in many different ways. A few ideas might be:

  • Instead of sitting with your dairy farmer friends at a Farm Bureau meeting, sit with the apple growers.

  • In addition to dairy girl or dairy moms social media groups, join a local women’s social media group.

  • Shop at an upscale grocery store and strike up a conversation with someone.

  • Participate in a civic or young professionals club meeting.

I know this is all easier said than done. Oftentimes, when left to make our own decisions, we will flock to what is comfortable. I am guilty of this too. But when we are comfortable, we aren’t growing.

When you are in those situations, be sure to do just as much listening as you do talking. There is much you can learn from others and others can learn from you. Some of the best conversations I’ve had have been with complete strangers in an unplanned situation.

It is in these conversations I feel I made an impact on the person, how they view the dairy industry and how they view me. These conversations also inspire me to get out of my comfort zone more often. Most importantly, the conversation is not one-sided, so I also learn from the other person about their passions, and the discussion broadens my view of the world.

We should embrace the differences of others around us, no matter if they are another dairy farmer who drives a different color of tractor or a teacher at a local school who knows nothing about farming. Instead of holding it against others for being different, let’s celebrate their involvement in our communities, our country and around the world.  end mark

Raechel Kilgore Sattazahn
  • Raechel Kilgore Sattazahn

  • Dairy Producer
  • Womelsdorf, Pennsylvania

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