Editor's note: Dairy Herd Management launched a new “Social Media” column in its June 2014 edition, featuring Carrie Mess, a.k.a. “Dairy Carrie.” Join the conversation.
I am a dairy farmer. More days than not, I feel like instead of saying that I am a dairy farmer, I should claim some sort of title along the lines of “Dairy Farmer’s Apprentice” or “Dairy Farmer in Training." You can blame it on growing up in the city, the proverbial three generations removed from the farm. But even typing “I am a dairy farmer” feels weird to me. I am fairly certain that six years on the dairy farm doesn’t make me a dairy farmer, but six years on the dairy farm does make me an expert.
I am an expert on my story.
My name is Carrie Mess. I am a former city kid turned dairy farmer, and I am an advocate for agriculture. Almost six years ago, shortly after getting married, I left my office job to become the herdswoman on the dairy farm my husband grew up on.
Unsure if my love for cute and fuzzy animals would translate into the needed skills to keep a herd of dairy cows alive and milking, I stepped into the world of cows, crops, tractors and family business and found my passion. Today, my husband and I farm in partnership with his parents on our 100-cow, 300-acre dairy farm near Lake Mills, Wis.
Along that path going from city kid to dairy farmer, I noticed there was a great need for people like me; a person on an actual farm to connect with the same types of people that I grew up with in the city. I could see a widening chasm between the people who grow our food and the people who do not.
Online, I would often find city friends posting attention-grabbing news stories about farms or food that I knew were, at best, very misleading about the life I was now living. At the same time, I also found farmers calling people “dumb” for not knowing what happens on farms. What I didn’t find was very much actual communication between the two groups.
In 2011, I started to share my story – and our farm’s story – on my blog; The Adventures of Dairy Carrie (dairycarrie.com). Since 2011, I have used my blog and social media to help facilitate these much-needed conversations.
So what does this have to do with being an expert? A few years ago, if you would had told me I would consider myself an expert on anything, I would have laughed! However, since starting my blog and engaging in the conversations about our food, I learned that people want to hear from farmers. When our customers want to know more information on how their food is grown, they want to hear from the people who know.
We are as close to the start of their food as it gets. You don’t need a Ph.D. to talk to your customers, and you don’t have to have all of the answers. You can tell people your story, talk about how you do things on your farm, share your knowledge and join the conversation.
To our customers, we are the experts, and they want to hear from us.
This is my first column for Dairy Herd Management. Each month my column will focus on using social media and advocating for agriculture. I hope you will join the conversation.
Carrie Mess farms in partnership with her husband Patrick and his parents on their 100-cow, 300-acre dairy farm near Lake Mills, Wis. She also speaks to agricultural organizations, empowering farmers to tell their own stories through social media. “Dairy Carrie” can be reached via email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @DairyCarrie Facebook: facebook.com/dairycarrie Follow her blog, The Adventures of Dairy Carrie, at dairycarrie.com.