Program garners attention, excitement at World Dairy Expo
By CAROL RYAN DUMAS
The National Dairy Council is encouraging dairymen to tell their story and be advocates for dairy farming and safe, nutritious dairy products.
Dairymen were at the World Dairy Expo in Madison, Wis., last week being trained to do just that.
From giving presentations and tours to talking with reporters and taking advantage of social media, producers were engaged in learning how to get their stories out, said David Pelzer, Dairy Management Inc. senior vice president of industry image and relations.
"It's one-on-one communications training ... to work with producers on their needs, opportunity and obligation to tell their story," he said.
The program, Telling Your Story, is operated by the National Dairy Council through dairy checkoff dollars.
"A lot (of producers) are very receptive. They see the value in it because the Dairy Council is very successful in increasing dairy demand and sales," Pelzer said.
That's due to good relations with the media, schools and public in general, he said.
Brad Scott, a fourth-generation dairyman from San Jacinto, Calif., is a strong proponent of "Telling Your Story," talking with media and hosting tours at his dairy. He was at the expo working the dairy checkoff booth and spreading the word.
"It's a unique opportunity to engage with dairy producers from all over the country," he said. "Dairymen themselves are in good spirits. They're excited about what we're telling them. Most producers don't realize they can be an advocate.
"It very important that all producers talk about the positive things about dairy," he said. "It's very important to get producers to engage more at the local level."
Liz Anderson, a, Onalaska, Wash., producer was also at the expo, telling producers how they can help themselves and their industry.
"We show cows so people can stop and talk and ask questions," she said. "I've converted some people from drinking organic milk, telling them what milk contains and that it doesn't contain pesticides."
Washington dairymen are big supporters of high school athletics, and Anderson and other dairy producers are at those games to hand out trophies, man dairy booths and talk with people.
"A lot of city kids are there and want to know more about dairy," she said.
It's all about good exposure, communication, community involvement and being a good neighbor, Pelzer said.
And the explosion of social media -- Twitter, Facebook, blogs and YouTube -- gives producers more ways to accomplish that, he said.
"We really feel that for some of our dairy producers, it's worthwhile to put it in that framework, instant messaging to get the story out," he said. "We had presentations to get more producers interested in the discussion on social media in telling the dairy story."
Scott said dairymen need to connect with consumers. Consumers want to know where dairy products are coming from and they want a relationship with those producers.
"Dairymen help themselves by telling their story," he said.
They become advocates by talking about what they do and how they do it, how they care for their animals and protect the environment, through good times and bad, he said. Dairymen can also be point people for their local media outlets and schools, speaking to issues and delivering a positive message.
Pelzer said public opinion shapes issues that impact dairy farms, and with only 2 percent of the population involved with ag production, it's important that dairy producers take an active role in educating the public and promoting a positive image.
Staff writer Carol Ryan Dumas is based in Twin Falls. E-mail: email@example.com.
Dairy Management Inc.: www.dairyinfo.com
National Dairy Council: www.nationaldairycouncil.org
World Dairy Expo: www.worlddairyexpo.com