Episode 11 – How do you get consumers to trust you? Farmers talk about what works.

In this episode of Your Dairy Checkoff Podcast, dairy farmer hosts, Connecticut’s Amanda Freund (@cowpots) and Washington’s Austin Allred (@royalfamilyfarming), as they have a conversation with dairy farmers, New Mexico’s Tara Vander Dussen (@taravanderdussen) and Kansas’s Melissa Hildebrand Reed (@hildebrandfarmsdairy), about how they share their story with consumers in real life ways that build trust and sales for dairy.

Consumers have become more and more separated from farm life. For them to understand how life has changed on the farm, these dairy farmers have taken to both in person and online consumer outreach to connect directly with the public, answer their questions and become their connection to agriculture. They do this by sharing their stories about sustainability, cow care and life on the farm.

You’ll get insights into how these dairy farmers plan their days, schedule their time, the platforms they use and how often they do it. Don’t miss this episode!
To learn more about the national dairy checkoff and your local dairy checkoffs, please visit www.usdairy.com.

Dairy Farmer Hosts / Agriculture Advocates:
Farmer Host – Amanda Freund (Connecticut)
Farmer Host – Austin Allred (Washington)

Farmer Guests / Agriculture Advocates:
Farmer Guest – Tara Vander Dussen (New Mexico)
Farmer Guest – Melissa Hildebrand Reed (Kansas)

Transcript (Machine generated – please ignore the typos)

Melissa Reed  0:00 

From us telling our sustainability story it’s never from been from a standpoint of feeling like we need to educate the population. It’s more just providing the information of what they’re already looking for. So we’re providing a service by sharing what we’re doing, you know, we’re providing the information. They’re looking for it in an avenue that can be trusted.

Amanda Freund  0:31 

Hey, everyone and welcome to another episode of your Dairy Checkoff Podcast. I’m Amanda Freud, a dairy farmer from Connecticut, and I’m joined by Austin alread, a dairy farmer from Washington. Today we’re talking to Tara Vander Dussen, a dairy farmer and social media influencer from New Mexico, and Melissa Hildebrand read a Kansas dairy farmer. In fact, her family just won the international dairy Federation Association’s 2022 innovative dairy producer of the year. And the topic that we’re focusing on today is sustainability, and how we share that message with customers. I want to actually start by asking Austin, what does sustainability look like for you on your family’s dairy farm?

Austin Allred  1:14 

Thanks, Amanda. First of all, a little intimidating, you three are very good at telling your story and doing everything you do. And to be on this podcast with us. And honor, sustainability has always been very important on our farm. In the last decade, we have added worms to our system to help make it work a little bit better. So really, where I’m at on sustainability is trying to understand and then share how ruminants soil worms in the whole process works together to be symbiotic and regenerative. So that’s really what we’ve been focusing on. And it’s been really, really fun to one learn from all of you on social media and to just try to become better as the time goes on.

Amanda Freund  2:05 

Yeah, I mean, to your point AI is an ecosystem we are participating in and crafting the ecosystem that we want to live in. And for me, the way that sustainability really kind of is displayed and showcase on our farm is that we are are turning our cows manure into a value added product in the form of biodegradable pots that hopefully gardeners and growers all around the world will use instead of plastic and Pete So what started literally in one day of our farm shop as a silly idea has actually gotten some legs under it and and we’re shipping our crap all over the world. So I actually want to kick this off to our to Farmer guests. And I want to understand why you personally felt like you wanted to share your sustainability story from your dairy farm. This is Melissa,

Melissa Reed  2:59 

with Hildebrand firms dairy in Kansas. And I have kind of a unique background in that my parents were divorced. So I actually grew up part time in the urban area and then part time on the farm. And so as far as urban, my classmates growing up in elementary school knew nothing of farming. So from a very, very young age, I understood exceptionally well the gap of understanding and knowledge of agriculture and what we do, but also like the thirst, like that interest and the curiosity that was associated with the conversations when I’d say like, Yeah, my dad dairy farms, and they’d asked like, what you do for fun, and I’d say feed calves and you know, the questions would just start rolling in. So I’ve always been really close and having a good understanding of that. But then once we started processing our product and selling it direct to consumer, just a level of engagement and interest and curiosity, from us telling our sustainability story. It’s never from been from a standpoint of feeling like we need to educate the population. It’s more just providing the information of what they’re already looking for. So we’re providing a service by sharing what we’re doing, you know, we’re providing the information, they’re looking for it in an avenue that can be trusted, and as true, right, because it’s what we’re doing, you know, there’s no it’s, it’s us truly sharing the whole picture and giving them a full glimpse of every aspect. And we do that through social media. But we do that with a lot of on farm experiences as

Amanda Freund  4:41 

well. Why did you decide that it was important to start sharing your sustainability story?

Tara Vander Dussen  4:48 

My journey to sharing I feel like was maybe a little bit unconventional just because I don’t have like a traditional job on a dairy like I was a consultant for multiple dairies throughout New Mexico. doing environmental work. When I first started sharing it was about six years ago, which is not that long ago. But in the space of sharing online about sustainability in agriculture. It’s a while like people weren’t really talking about like greenhouse gas emissions, they were talking about it. But farmers weren’t talking about it. The general public was asking questions, but farmers weren’t talking about it. So when I decided to kind of share online, I had a lot of encouragement from dairy impacts our checkoff to start sharing. And I just remember telling them, I don’t really know what I’m going to share about I don’t work with the cows, I don’t do anything that’s related to cow health or milk quality. And I just felt like that was most of the conversation online coming from dairy farmers was more like the animal welfare side of things. And then it kind of just clicked that I was, had just had my daughter. And so I was in a lot of mom Facebook groups. And it was crazy to me to see how many of the comments and questions around serving cow’s milk were about environmental impact. And so it was kind of like, I guess, my aha moment, I need to lean into what I do and what I share about and just be about sustainability. And so that was really what led me to start sharing our sustainability story was simply it was just my background, it was what I was doing, I was working with soil health, water quality, you know, cow manure, the lagoons. And it was funny because when I told my husband I was going to share it was kind of the classic response of like, I don’t know what you’re going to share about like we don’t really do anything unique on our dairy or dairy is not very, like high tech or anything like it’s a very basic dairy compared to all the rest of our dairies in the area. But it goes back to just the fact that everything we do on our dairy is, you know, unique or surprising to people who don’t dairy farm, or don’t farm at all, that you can just share this simplest, smallest little piece of information. And people can find it so intriguing and have so many questions, just because it’s so outside of their realm of you know, their day to day. And so that’s what I really found is just sharing the simplest things about sustainability can have the biggest impact on in biggest response from people questions that you get in conversations, they get started,

Austin Allred  7:07 

you’re both do such a good job to I pay attention to both your social media and Tara, you have done really good at filling that niche for the sustainability. You said that, in your experience, farmers were slow to talk about greenhouse gases. Why do you think that is,

Tara Vander Dussen  7:26 

there’s a really big disconnect, obviously, a lot of times in agriculture, where we just get inside our bubble, we get in our like tunnel vision and are just so focused on ag and we think everyone knows and is doing what we’re doing. Because we live in like rural communities, a lot of times, we hang out with other farmers, ranchers, just other people in ag. And I feel like when a lot of us, you know, next generation kind of coming to the farm went away to college, it for me, it just opened my eyes to an entirely different way of how people saw agriculture, what they thought about it. And so, you know, coming back, it was like, everyone’s talking about sustainability and agriculture’s impact except for farmers. And so we were a little late. I really think it was about though if we don’t talk about it, like nobody will be talking about it. And instead, it gave everyone else a chance stablish, a storyline and a narrative, they kind of gave us our own narrative. And I think it’s led us to playing a lot of defense to combat misinformation. Versus if we had just come out and been like, we have a really great story to tell, and we should be sharing it, it could have really changed that narrative. But now with where we’re at, there’s still a ton of opportunity and a ton of positive stories. And, and I still believe so strongly that we should all be sharing our sustainability story.

Austin Allred  8:44 

And the irony, Tara is farmers have the ability for the largest impact, I think, amongst anybody, any other industries out there, what we can do with our soil sequestration, and in the whole methane conversation, we are in such a strong position to be such a positive impact on the carbon story and the greenhouse gases.

Tara Vander Dussen  9:09 

Yeah, that’s like that’s such a like a mic drop statement that you’ve just taken off this podcast is such a powerful statement. But it’s so true in other industries, they are buying carbon credits, they have to pay for those credits. They’re not actually making a sync, like agriculture already is a carbon sink. Sure, it’s only by 1%. But we’re just at the beginning. We’re already a carbon sink. Like I imagine where we’re going to be in 10 years. We all know we’ve set these goals for 2050. I think we’re going to blow those out of the water. We can only improve from here. And so while we’re improving, we just need to make sure we’re taking people along on that journey

Austin Allred  9:44 

on one of those farmers that sells 1000s and 1000s of carbon credits to other industries so that they can reduce their impact because at the end of the day, everyone else is is racing to be most improved in the carbon conversation. Whereas we have the opportunity to literally pull carbon out of the air and sequester in banking in the soil, us, forestry are the only real industries that have that option. There is some stuff going on in the oil industry, and they can actually their technologies of pulling carbon and putting it back in the ground. But really naturally, it’s us in forestry that can really, actually eliminate reduce carbon, not just put less out there.

Amanda Freund  10:27 

And using the resources that we have, it’s not investing in fancy new technology necessarily to be able to do that. I want to jump on something that Melissa said earlier where you said it is not about educating the consumer, right. It’s about sharing an experience and exposing them to what it is that you’re doing. And I think, in my mind, that’s where the conversation around our environmental stewardship as farmers is hard because it is science. It is information. So I’m wondering, how do you share that sustainability message without feeling like you’re educating consumers, but you’re, you’re sharing something that they can have an actual like, am fact emphatic and, and an emotional reaction in response to,

Melissa Reed  11:16 

I think we’ve learned over time that nobody likes to be told or educated, if they’re not interested, if they’re searching for information, by all means, let’s share it. But if they’re just in their natural habitat, and just living the day to day and scrolling through social media, and they’re more than likely not wanting to hear a lecture from a dairy farmer about our sustainability goals, but they are interested in cows, they are interested in what we’re doing, we can kind of incorporate that just share the day to day that sustainability message comes through, I talk about sustainability in three parts. And I always boil that down and make it very basic level. When talking about it. When I’m talking to consumers, I oftentimes say, you know, sustainability for me is three things, taking care of my girls, it’s taking care of the land, and it’s taking care of my farm, so my kids can potentially farm if they want to in the future. That’s it. And so all of that is pretty easily communicated from our day to day, you know, so as we provide tours of our farm, we spend a ton of time talking about how we take care of the girls, you know, whether it’s water, resource management, utilities and electricity, everything we share within that tour, is in a focus of keeping our cows sustainable, the land as well as our farm, I mean, essentially, that our is a sustainability seminar in and of itself, but we don’t call it that we don’t label it that we’re just sharing what we do. Because as farmers, so much of our effort goes into sustainability in those three categories, pretty much that’s what we live in breed, we’ve just never really put it into context. And I don’t even know if you have to use the word sustainability with it to really make that point drive home. It’s just what consumers are looking for. And wanting to know,

Tara Vander Dussen  13:17 

you’ve seen me speak, I have a slide that says we need to stop educating our consumers, like our consumers are very educated people. They just don’t know anything about agriculture. And they don’t like being told that they don’t know about where their food comes from. Like when it’s something as personal as food that you serve on your family’s table, you don’t like being told you don’t know anything about it. And so it’s really like about taking them on that journey. One of the things I have found when you get like questions or comments, the root of almost all questions, no matter what they say is they just want to make sure their food is safe, nutritious and good for the planet. Like they just want to do the best for their family. I think anytime you go into a conversation with that in mind that people even if they come off as defensive or combative, and this obviously there are people that are the extreme. But the average American is just wanting to make sure like the very basics of the food that it’s those things. And so I love that you break it down into that simple strategy, because I do think that’s the root of all of it.

Austin Allred  14:13 

It’s been my experience that the gap. Lois, you started with Tara, you’re talking about now, this gap between farmers and these consumers rural versus urban. In Washington, it’s the east side versus the west side. This gap really is not as big as we make it out to be in your experience. Tara, Melissa, do you think that’s accurate?

Tara Vander Dussen  14:39 

I do. I think the average American is somewhere in the middle and they’re curious like kind of like what Melissa said they genuinely do want to know more about their food, and they’re interested in our lives and our lifestyle. And so I mean, like look at the success of a show like Yellowstone you know, people are interested in the entire idealistic lifestyle of living on a farm or ranch And so I think there’s, there is a gap. But I don’t think it’s as, like complex I feel like as we like to think it is, I think

Melissa Reed  15:09 

the gap is narrowing. But I think that for a while, as farmers, we felt like there was a line down the middle of like almost good and evil, and that we kind of almost alienated people that asked questions, because they were potentially on the bad side, and questioning what we were doing and taking things, you know, those were their extremists. And that’s such a small minor sector of the population, that for us to spend our time and our energy worried or consumed about such a minor area of the population is really doing us a disservice. In 13 years of selling my product direct to consumer, I’ve had maybe two negative encounters of some sort, that were no more than maybe 30 seconds of my day, all of the 1000s upon 1000s of people I’ve talked to and impacted with my dairy story, it’s not even a blip. And I think that we spend too much time potentially worrying about that sector that I would consider like not the movable middle, you know, the pretty staunch, you know, animal activist side. And in doing so we’re missing out on the true majority of the consumers that I always joke, like I have an innate ability to turn any conversation, to dairy farming and cows, I don’t care who I’m in a room with, by the end of the day, we’re going to talk about dairy farming cows, and I don’t know how I have the ability to do that other than the fact that I say what I do, and the interest and the curiosity just goes, you know, and it’s on right. And so I that’s what tells me that there’s more people than not that want to know and are really open to learning. But they again, they don’t want to be educated, I

Tara Vander Dussen  17:00 

have found with sharing online, too, is sometimes not focusing on it. But just every once in a while highlighting some of the crazy activist and kind of the extremist goes a really long way of then consumers and just the general population. Realizing that when they see a video online to not just believe it, like when they get to see kind of the behind the scenes of what those type of people are saying to farmers, they really come to our defense more often than not. And so I don’t, I definitely don’t try to make it a focus of my page at all, but just sprinkling it in there as a reminder of like, this is why you shouldn’t believe everything you see on the internet, that’s negative about agriculture, because this is the type of person that’s putting that content out there. And so I personally have found a lot of success with that with just kind of confronting it a little bit, just head on.

Amanda Freund  17:47 

I will say when when I host farm tours, especially to high school students, there is in fact a opportunity to talk about critical thinking. I mean, you wouldn’t think that when you bring a class on to a farm, that that’s what I’m going to be talking about. But to highlight the fact that what they’re seeing what they’re being exposed to on my farm might not be lined up with what they’ve heard what they’ve seen. And that’s okay, like, but I’m going to tell you about what we do here. And I’m going to let that be a nugget that you can hold on to and use when you have to confront something that might contrast that I want to know in practice. What are you doing? Like how are you sharing that? That sustainability story? Is it exclusively online? What is it

Tara Vander Dussen  18:40 

I personally do a combination, I feel like the things I share obviously online, I have a blog and social media presence, but then also just doing basic outreach within my community even and then broader than that, like speaking anytime I can get an opportunity to speak someplace, I definitely try to take it and go there and share about dairy sustainability. I think one of the great things about advocating is it can be so personalized to what you love to do and where you want to be. So you can be just on social media and never have to like leave your farmer house or you can be more in person and attend events or speaking opportunities for advocating agriculture are endless. It’s just you saying yes to whatever you’re comfortable with and whatever you love to do, and whatever feels like authentic to you.

Melissa Reed  19:30 

So with our on site, farm store, we have a customer base that’s coming to our farm constantly. For us, it’s just, you know, creating dialogue, just be like, Hey, what are you cooking for supper tonight? You know, and just starting conversations. So we do a lot of one on one through our farm store, and then sharing kind of what we have going on here and creating those personal connections. Social media is huge. I want to share as much as we can on social Media by just showing kind of glimpses of what we have coming and what we’re doing day to day. But then also, you know, as I mentioned previously, our tour is essentially a one hour sustainability, here’s what’s going on in the world of dairy. And I will say on our firm, I don’t feel like we’re doing anything extremely special or innovative in the world of sustainability, like Austin is with worms, and so many other dairy men are doing us we’re doing the little things, well, we’re taking care of our girls. And we put a lot of focus to the land and utilities and the infrastructure around us. And those are the little things we share why I’d love to be doing, you know, methane digesters, and really cool stuff that’s happening with manure separating, and all sorts of stuff. It’s just not necessarily in the works for us right now. But we’re always, as we’re looking to expand and grow. Sustainability is huge. And our mindset, you know, that’s, that’s there at all time.

Amanda Freund  21:07 

Well, I just want to say I want to highlight that point. As a dairy farmer, you see your peers, you know, what is available on dairy farms. And so it is so easy to say, Well, I’m not doing that, that and that. But for your audience, for the people that are buying your product, you are the dairy farm, I think a lot of dairy farmers are quick to say they aren’t doing the best thing out there, because they know somebody has a bigger digester or somebody doing, you know, some crazy cool recycling activity. But that’s only within our niche within our little dairy farming community. But outside the people that we really want to deliver this message to, they don’t know that they have no idea.

Tara Vander Dussen  21:53 

I’m glad that you mentioned that a big like pillar of mine is sharing that sustainability doesn’t have to be complicated or complex or expensive. Sometimes sustainability just has to be a little baby step in the right direction. I always use the example of like recycling water, you know, if ever every time a dairy farmer does something that just recycles a little bit more water, and then their neighbor does it and you know, ripple effects from there, that saves you know, millions of gallons of water. That’s how we’ve gotten our water reduction over the last, you know, 20 years is because of small changes in the bar. And it’s not anything, you know, complicated or big. But at the same time, I obviously love those big projects. As Austin’s note I traveled up to his farm just to see his bio filter system like, that’s what’s amazing, though about farming is every one of us is so unique, it’s so specific to you that you have the opportunity to share whatever it is you’re doing. And even if your neighbor’s doing it like recycling water, the consumers don’t know that. Like you have to remember who your target audience is when you’re talking online or sharing anywhere, is that you’re not sharing to your fellow dairy farmer down the road who’s doing exactly what you’re doing. You’re just trying to highlight what you’re doing to other people. And I even make that part of my story is like I will often hear from consumers will share your recycling water but not all dairy farmers. And I’ll be like, actually, almost every dairy farmer I know is doing this exact same thing. And by making it personal first and sharing my farm story, but then amplifying it to say actually most dairy farmers are doing that. I think then the consumer start seeing all of dairy in a positive light. And just you know that we’re all striving to do better, even if we’re making small changes or if we’re all hoping to one day have a bio filtro like we’re all like working towards something or doing something to be more sustainable.

Austin Allred  23:38 

All I’ll add to that, Tara, I think the ruminants are superheroes. Our girls that we all employ are the greatest recyclers on this planet earth. What they’re doing on a daily basis to support our soils are beyond anything that anybody can really imagine who doesn’t understand what we’re doing on the dairy the conventional the very basic dairy farm. These girls are recycling upcycling, making the most available proteins out there. I think it’s it’s been up to this point. We’ve talked about the the gap, if you will, the misconception maybe that for for the old time farmer that might be a little nervous to get into social media, maybe the gaps not that big. I think that’s part of what we talked about and then and then now we’re discussing how we are all sustainable because we employ bovine. We are employing some of the greatest creatures on earth to do amazing things, regardless of how many worms or digesters or whatever it might be that we are using. We all have a story to tell. What is your advice to the person listening right now who’s saying, Okay, you covered that one. I’m not scared of the 1% back diverse. All right. All right, thank you. Okay, I am sustainable. I am doing it. Okay. What else do you think is keeping the farmer the everyday farmer from being more active

Tara Vander Dussen  25:11 

time? I would say time, I feel like farmers are like, I am doing so many things. And I can’t add one more thing to my list. And I think that that’s a valid like, concern, it’s a valid thing to bring up I, I mean, at this point, like sharing as New Mexico milk meat is a huge part of my job. And that’s just not feasible, obviously, for everyone. But I do challenge that to say that it doesn’t have to be that complicated. You can put into it as much or as little as you want. Getting on a consistency schedule is really great scheduling post out, like you can sit down on Facebook and schedule, you know, all your posts for an entire week. And like 30 minutes, a lot of people share, you know, Instagram Stories is a great example, that doesn’t have to be complicated or time consuming at all. If you figure you share 10 Instagram stories that are 10 seconds each, that’s literally 100 seconds of your day, like a minute and a half. And it goes a really long way for people feeling like they’re a part of your entire day. But that’s me, I think that time is really like the next big obstacle,

Melissa Reed  26:17 

I will say that, even myself, I struggle sometimes to stay on top of social because it can seem like a larger time commitment in my mind than it truly is. So I personally have to put it on the calendar and dedicate 1520 minutes of my week to it. And when I do I feel so relieved. And I’m like, Why do I make that such a thing? But sometimes I do. But you know, for let’s say that older generation farmer that is still maybe even social media verse, I think we need to encourage them just talk about what they do if we love talking about dairy farming, right? But make sure that as we’re talking about dairy farming, that we highlight the cool things that we’re doing. And we acknowledge that even if it isn’t the coolest thing that you’ve heard that week, it might be to that person that’s across the conversation from you. That’s like putting the big toe in the pond. Before jumping in into the social media realm. You know, I’ll be honest, I’m an introvert. So but yeah, when you start getting me talking about dairy farming, I light up and I’m like, let’s go, you know how much time you got?

Tara Vander Dussen  27:25 

I would say, generally speaking, we all scroll social media. And so I have get taken a lot of my time that would be maybe me just scrolling and enjoying content, and really pivoted to say instead of like that hour I spent on social media doing that, like transition that into actually like growing my page growing my following be more strategic about the time I spend on my app, like if I’m going to open Instagram, I’m not saying I never scroll, but I really try to be very intentional about the time I spend on the app, and strategic in saying, Okay, I’m going to get on, I’m going to interact with pages that are like mine, I’m going to do my posts, I’m going to hang out for a little longer and comment on my most recent comments. And then I’m going to exit out of the app and like move on with my day. And so being just more intentional with your time spent on the app can go a really long way for growing and sharing. While not necessarily adding another like time commitment to your day.

Amanda Freund  28:21 

I oftentimes feel like I’m using up the money in my piggy bank when it comes to social social media. So I’m posting, posting, posting, but I’m not really putting stuff back in my piggy bank. I’m not feeling fulfilled by my time. And so this past summer, I decided to host a series of farm strolls where I invited my community and my neighbors to come and to literally just walk through the fields with me and to learn about why we plant corn the way that we do and when we apply manure and what maturity of a grass plant looks like. And they were small gatherings, I’m not talking hundreds of people I’m talking 10 1215. But with respect to the experience of engaging with the people that drive by my farm each day and seeing how they’re perceiving my farm and taking in the sights and the and the smells, which were not all bad for me to like, reinvigorate my desire to connect with people. It actually took an in person experience, it took me having my neighbors come and for me to be able to share what I’m doing to remind myself like there’s a story that I am need to be telling. I just wanted to share that because it is not all social socials, great social is a big deal. But it’s also sometimes just inviting your neighbor to come walk a field with you.

Tara Vander Dussen  29:47 

I grew the least on my social media like the year of COVID. And I fully blame it on the fact that I just wasn’t going out and speaking at things I wasn’t going to events. I wasn’t going to conferences and Learning information or hearing from other farmers. And I felt that exact way. Sometimes you just need to focus on like filling your own cup up to be able to share about agriculture, like get back on fire for why you started to begin with. And I think one of the things that I share about too is being really rooted in your why, like, why you choose to share, because then when you are kind of feeling down and like just not in it, when you go back to that, like, Why did I start? Why did I start this in the first place? It I feel like it kind of relates that fire for me to like, get back out there and like, Okay, this yes, this is why this is why I was doing this, this is why I love to do this.

Austin Allred  30:33 

And I’m totally energized. When I share with people, social media does not energize me, I have to pay my sister a few $100 a month to really help me do it. Because I just can’t find the time and the energy to do it. But I love showing people around and I love talking to people, I love going to events. And I really get energy from that.

Amanda Freund  30:59 

And honestly, there’s no event that’s too small. I mean, when the local Rotary Club asked me to come talk at a senior center for 10 people, whatever, it’s an audience and somebody wants to know what we’re doing, I’m going to take the time. So you

Tara Vander Dussen  31:13 

can get so wrapped into what everyone else is doing and feel like oh, I should be sharing on this platform I should be sharing here I should be public speaking, when really like just make sure you’re actually doing what you like to do. Because it’s going to come off so much more authentic, so much more real, it’s going to come through when you share that you truly love whatever it is you’re doing. And there are 1000s of dairy farmers out there. And if we’re all sharing and how we love to share, we’re going to be covering a lot of bases that that’s another reason why I’m a big proponent of everyone sharing their story. There’s plenty of space for you to find what you love to share about and to go out there and do it.

Austin Allred  31:47 

I agree. Grassroots literally came from what we do every day, that whole concept we created as farmers. And that’s what we’re touching on is grassroots. If, if you’re scared of social media, who cares, do what you can, in whatever lane you can, and it will make a difference.

Amanda Freund  32:08 

I think the cornerstone of sustainability is thinking about the future. It’s being optimistic about what’s to come and our part in in building that future that we want to be a part of. So I’m curious from both of you. What is the future for you when it comes to sharing our sustainability story? What do you plan to do?

Tara Vander Dussen  32:31 

So I actually have been working on a huge passion project. If you follow me on social media, you probably know about it by now. I teamed up with Natalie Kovarik, a cattle rancher who also advocates for sustainability on beef ranches. And we created a program called elevate ag this won’t come as a surprise if you’ve heard me talk for the last like 45 minutes. But elevate AG is really about helping farmers have the tools and resources they need to share their story. I believe so passionately that we all have an important story to tell. And I want to help farmers do that make it easier. share everything I’ve learned the pitfalls, the mistakes I’ve made, the mistakes Natalie’s made over the last combined 10 years of sharing, we put them into an E course, we’re going to be launching on March 7. Also, we’re releasing our own podcast to accompany that and really help farmers. And beyond that this course will actually help farmers understand how to better monetize their businesses, whether that be sharing on social or having an actual physical product. And so this is just a project I’m so excited about for the future because I believe the future of agriculture sustainability is a sharing that and having people better understand what our sustainability story looks like.

Melissa Reed  33:37 

Looking to the future for us, I’m always looking around the room to see if there’s anyone my generation in the room, because oftentimes at the farm I met and I will tell you, future looks good. I mean, with my vendors, the fellow dairy men around me, we’ve shown up, we’re here that the young generation is ready, and we’re taking more of a voice than ever before. And that’s really going to be huge for our sustainability story. So for us on our farm, we are transitioning into robots. And in that transition, a huge portion of that is focused on tourism. And how can these robots be available for people to see potentially 24/7 where they can come and watch the cows being milked at any time. And then also having you know, TVs in our on site farm store so that they can watch the cows being milked. So as we’re, you know, creating this expansion project, it’s with the consumer in mind, and we’re thinking about them and how we’re designing, building. It’s cow number one and consumer number two. So that’s really exciting for us, and we look forward to continuing to kind of share what we do and the robots are gonna really help us elevate that story in a big way.

Austin Allred  34:52 

Awesome. Thank you so much. I’ve learned so much and what you guys have talked about today. Appreciate you coming on, Tara, Melissa, you, Amanda, you’re all in the 1% of what you’re doing. You’re doing a fantastic job. But I think maybe more importantly, we touched on all of us as farmers are sustainable, and we just need to live where we stand. Thank you so much, Tara and Melissa, it’s been a really fun discussion today. We appreciate you coming on. Amanda. Thank you for your time and for what you’re doing. Tune into future episodes wherever you’d like to listen to podcast, or check out the website at Dairy Checkoff. podcast.com for more future episodes. Until next time, have an awesome day.

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