By: Carla Wardin, Michigan Dairy Farmer
I’ve immensely enjoyed my role as a Face of Farming & Ranching for U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance (USFRA). As these two years come to an end, and after countless interviews, speaking engagements, conventions, and tours, I’d like to share a little of my experience.
When I started farming ten years ago, USFRA didn’t yet exist. The industry was encouraging us to share our stories, but as we all know, our voices are better heard when we speak as one. I’m so glad that this Alliance exists, because it represents more than 100 ag organizations that share a goal – to connect farmers and consumers.
So as a representative, I loved going around the country to communicate with people who want to know more about farming.
Listening to Consumers
First, I learned about listening. When people talk to you about farming, they’re often talking about what matters most to them – whether it’s food safety or the environment – but it often boils down to fear. Fear frequently comes up because the people consuming the food don’t have control over the food supply. When people feel they’re not in control, it makes them scared, which is a common and understandable reaction. As a result, addressing this from the onset in a conversation really helps form a connection.
Diversity in Farming
Second, while I knew that most people don’t have a connection to farming, I realized how little consumers, media, and even farmers like me know about other industries. While I know a lot about dairies, I certainly don’t know everything. I know even less about poultry and pig farms. We have been able to specialize in this country. As a result, we run very efficient operations (far more efficient than having one of every animal). However, in this role people ask you questions about every kind of farm. Thankfully, through many farm organizations, you always have someone else to ask!
Everyone Has a Role
Last, I’d like to address that everyone has a role on the farm. While I’m out talking about farming, my husband and our team on the farm are doing the hard, physical labor. While I’m writing articles, the vets and the mechanics and the nutritionists are all working on our team. I’m a dairy farmer, but I’m also a communicator. Thankfully, we all have different interests and roles and can work in the areas we enjoy most. It takes all kinds to do this!
While people can be harsh when they’re writing anonymously on the internet, in person the people I met were almost always willing to have a constructive conversation. From the Smithsonian to SXSW Eco and everywhere in between, consumers do have a distinct desire to connect with their food sources. USFRA is dedicated to the same goal … so let’s sit down at the table together.
I’ll miss being a representative for USFRA, but I’ll never stop communicating about farming. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me (on my blog Truth or Dairy
), USFRA, or any local farmer you meet.
Congrats to the new Faces of Farming & Ranching! You’ll do a great job!
Carla and her husband Kris are the sole owners of Evergreen Dairy in St. Johns, Michigan. She is the sixth generation to be farming on her family's farm where they milk 400 cows, and grow crops to feed their cattle on 850 acres of corn, alfalfa and pasture.
To learn more about Carla's farm, go to:
All opinions expressed are the writer's own. Funded by one or more checkoff programs.