The concept of “telling agriculture’s story” is easy to say but hard to do.
Two recent examples from the dairy industry demonstrate that it can be done, and with a style — advertising experts call it “sizzle” — that promises to leave a lasting impression.
Our favorite example involved the decidedly non-sizzle-producing act of delivering pizzas. The folks at the Dairy Farmers of Idaho and Dairy West teamed up with Smoky Mountain Pizza to deliver their pizzas to customers in Eagle, Idaho, a suburb of Boise.
Here’s where the sizzle comes in: They also brought along a dairy farmer, Clint Jackson, and one of his cows, Josie.
Anyone who has ever been around Jersey cows knows how irresistible they are. When Josie and Jackson showed up at the door delivering pizzas they made a huge hit, not only with the customers but with the entire neighborhood, many of whom received free pizzas.
Suddenly, dairy became a topic of conversation around the neighborhood and at work.
When you can get people to talk about dairy — especially if it’s good — you’ve won the game.
Add that to another effort in Washington state, in which dairy farmers invite members of the public to ask them questions during a live Facebook video chat.
The Dairy Farmers of Washington are sponsoring a series of four such chats, during which farmers do what they do best: explain in plain talk what they do and why.
The Sept. 19 conversation was with Jason VanderKooy of Skagit County, the Oct. 12 conversation was with Jason Sheehan of J&K Dairy in Sunnyside. Other episodes featured Bill Wavrin of Sunny Dene Ranch near Mabton, Wash., and Rich Appel of Ferndale, Wash.
The questions ranged from water use to how many times a day cows are milked to why calves are separated from their mothers. Seattle food writer Ashley Rodriguez was the host and read questions that came in from viewers.
An interesting thing happened, too. Many of the questioners and commenters were not from Washington. They were from Los Angeles, Florida, Canada and as far away as the United Kingdom. They appeared to be part of an effort to push an animal rights agenda, but their leading questions were met with logical and conciliatory answers.
It’s probably not what the animal rights folks wanted, but it was interesting to see actual farmers take on more than powder puff questions.
They did well, and showed thoughtfulness in their answers that would lead a fair-minded person to conclude they know their science and the logic behind how dairy farmers operate.
It might not have been as much fun as handing out pizzas, but it was an equally effective way of bringing the farm to the public.