Advocacy comes in all shapes and sizes. Whether small, large, shared, separate, national or local, constantly sharing the story of our industry is a necessity as consumers get more curious about where their food comes from.
Land O’Lakes has made a name for itself on a national scale as an authentic voice of agriculture because of our farmer ownership. This same authentic approach can be just as effective in local communities, which is why a group of Land O’Lakes members partnered with a local field staff representative to tell the agriculture story on the small-town streets of Oxford, Pennsylvania.
Aaron Harris, Member Relations technical service specialist, is currently a member of the Young Dairy Leaders Institute sponsored by the Holstein Foundation. The institute provides members of the dairy community an opportunity to learn more about leadership and advocacy for the industry.
“This was an outreach opportunity to advocate in the community my wife and I live in, with the help of local member-owners,” says Aaron.
As a part of the institute, the young leaders are tasked to develop an advocacy event. Aaron chose to set up at Oxford’s first Friday celebration, a small festival hosted on the first Friday of every month. The vendors range from food to clothing to informational booths and provided just the right crowd for Aaron.
During the event, Aaron and four member-owners, Walt and Ellen Moore and David and Katie Pyle, welcomed over 800 people to their booth and were able to have impactful conversations with over 150 of them. The visitors had a chance to speak with member-owners about their farm experiences and even meet a dairy cow and a bull calf.
“I love to educate the public,” says Katie. “I am very passionate about advocating for our industry, especially since we are less than two percent of the population. The Moore’s brought this big, pregnant red and white Holstein and the calf we brought was a Jersey. It was cool to educate the public that not all dairy cows are black and white, there are actually six different breeds of dairy cows.”
The group educated consumers on a variety of topics, but with a mama cow and newly born bull calf, the group focused on animal care. As questions such as why are the mama and calf separated, what is the gestation length and how big can calves get were asked, the public had the opportunity to learn all about the measures farmers take to provide the highest levels of animal care.
Throughout the event, Katie said the consumers were engaged in conversations and even came back to ask more questions or to simply check on the cow and calf. The interaction between producer and consumer allowed for crucial conversations with people that are a part of the dairy industry every single day.“Once you take the initiative to reach out to the community and get started, you’ll find it’s easier to reach out to the community again and again,” Aaron says. “Events like this one can easily be duplicated across the country and leave a powerful impact on consumers.”
And by working with local producers, consumers had the opportunity to see and hear the real, positive stories of the dairy industry.
“Not one person can do this by themselves,” Katie says. “Farmers may be tired of hearing they need to tell their story but I don’t think some of them realize how important that it is, especially for the dairy industry. If every dairy farmer did something like this once a year, we could make a difference, even if it’s just a small difference.”