In the last couple of years TV has portrayed our nation’s livestock farmers in a bad light with some undercover videos. Those bad apples have painted a poor image of the rest of the country’s hard-working producers who care for their animals and care about the food they produce.

The California Milk Advisory Board (CMAP) decided to take the bull by the horns, so to speak, and show consumers the real lives of California dairy farmers. Recently TV commercials featuring these dairy producers have been airing. And I like them very much. Especially the one with young Tyler Regli who plans to be a 5th generation dairy farmer and currently shows cows with his sisters. That sharp, hard-working young man is our future in the dairy industry.

Another shows Essie Bootsma who did not grow up on a dairy but met her husband John while raising calves for the dairy he worked on. Essie is now referred to as “Dairy Lady” by the local community, and the dairy is the only place she wants to be. And then there’s Blake and Stephanie Alexandre who want to put the “culture” back in “agriculture”. Stephanie’s passion for nutrition for her family carries over to the nutrition of their cows.

Michael Freeman, CMAP’s vice president of advertising, says, “Consumers are more interested in where their food comes from and the people who make it. Last year we created the Real California Dairy Families documentary series with day-in-the-life video vignettes of real California dairy producers, unscripted and in their own words on real California dairy farms.” These videos were posted on where consumers could see the diversity of California dairy. “We received such a great consumer response – hundreds of thousands of views – that we decided to extend them into the Family Farms TV campaign,” Freeman adds.

There are more than 1750 dairy families in California, so I asked Freeman how the dairy families were chosen for the campaign. “Choosing was difficult and is an ongoing process for the documentaries, which we continue to produce,” he explains. “We wanted to represent the diversity of dairy size, showcase the multi-generational stories, feature farms from different areas of the state (North, South, Coastal, Central Valley) and show conventional and non-conventional dairies. We also wanted to share the fact that 99% of California dairies are family owned, dispelling the myth that dairies are run by unfeeling corporations.”

The TV spots were tested with focus groups who responded very well to them, Freeman says. “Now that they are on the air we will continue with consumer research to make sure they resonate with the consumer audience and achieve their ultimate goal of driving demand for California milk and dairy products.”

Consumers have no connection to their food and where it comes from, Freeman says. “In today’s landscape of misinformation amplified by the Internet and the speed of communications through social media, it’s even more important for dairy producers to tell the positive stories about their industry. Not just in the media but also in everyday interactions with consumers – the grocery store, at the fair, etc. These are interesting people doing work they love, they should share their passion.”

I applaud the California Milk Advisory Board for this campaign of putting a face on our family dairy producers. I’m looking forward to seeing if our beef and pork industries will follow suit.

Geni Wren
Editor, Bovine Veterinarian Magazine