We are constantly told to “tell our story”. The customers of today want to know the back story on where their food came from. Now they don’t need to know when the calf was born, what it ate, how much milk it produced or when it was slaughtered. They are looking for the story about the farm, and really they are looking for the story about YOU. When you get the chance to tell your story you need to make sure you are selling yourself to the person. It is almost like a job interview; instead of getting a job in the end you will be getting a person who trusts you and is willing to buy a product you recommend.
Ryan and I have had several chances to tell our story in the past few months. First it started with a trip to Disney World. I had some t-shirts made for all of us; it was a tractor pulling a wagon with a Mickey Mouse head in the wagon. The kid’s shirts said “Farm Kid”, Ryan’s said “Farmer”, and mine since I was the only girl had a Minnie Mouse head and said “Farmers Wife”. Believe me when I say that they were a conversation starter. No matter where we went people would say “those are the cutest shirts, where did you get them”. Or “Are you really a farmer?” I thought the shirts were a great idea; we wore them every other day while a Disney. We had cast members that would tell us we should be at the front of the line because we feed them every day. We even got a round of applause from Mickey and Minnie themselves while we were in to get a photo with them. It was a good conversation starter, so when on vacation wear a shirt that has to do with farming.
We were also very blessed to find farm help so that we were able to attend Ag Day at the Capitol. If you have never attended, I encourage you to attend. It is a great opportunity to inform our legislators on how current bills affect our opportunity to farm in a safe and sustainable way. I made sure to talk about how wolves being put back on the endangered species list affected our farm. I expressed how much stress we had with not only the wolves but the public and law enforcement when our cattle were out. It took a confirmed wolf kill on the farm to get anyone to listen. Ryan and I both expressed our hope that other farmers wouldn’t have to go through the sleepless nights and stress that a pack of wolves caused both of us, our neighbors and community. It is those stories that stick with our legislators when they go to vote on a bill that could drastically affect our lives. If no one shares their experiences with them they have no emotional attachment to the bill and their vote could go either way. So I again encourage you to call, email or visit with your current assembly person and senator to make sure they know where you stand on the issues in front of Wisconsin or national agriculture.
Most recently Ryan and I gave a guest lecture at UW-Madison’s Farm and Industry Short Course for beginning dairy and livestock farmers. We do this every year around the third week in March, we travel six hours to stand in front of a class of students who really want to learn the ups and downs of farming. We go through how we started farming, what mistakes we made and how we overcame our challenges in hopes that they learn from our mistakes. We encourage them to start a business plan. Have goals in their personal life, business life, start thinking about retirement and make sure they have a disaster plan. We are very humbled to be asked to tell our story every year to another group of students that have farming running through their blood. If we were able to help one of those students to become a farmer it was worth it in our mind.
I want to encourage you all to go into the next story-telling opportunity like a job interview. First be dressed to impress, (no one likes a farmer covered in manure), sell yourself, be confident, truthful and help the person to trust the American farmer. Hopefully in the next few months I will get to see you all. Maybe you will see me in my Proud to Farm shirt, or my work clothes, but be sure to know that I am ag proud no matter what I wear, and I’m ready for the interview.