Terms you need to know to read this article:
Twitter: Social media website where you get 140 characters to post a “tweet.” You use hashtags (#hashtags) to follow conversations and can quickly skim headlines, updates and news.
Twitter handle: Your name or user name on Twitter. (All twitter handles have a @ before them.)
Facebook: Social media website where you add friends and communicate with photos and statuses. You can also make pages for your business, farm or group for people to like and follow status updates.
RumChata: “RumChata is a blend of rum and Horchata with a good dash of 100% pure awesome,” Dairy Carrie writes. RumChata was created by Tom Maas who worked on a dairy farm in Shawano County for several years. After retiring from Jim Beam in 2005, he created RumChata putting all his years of experience to good use.
Blog: A place to store thoughts. An online journal.
Ryan Gosling: Actor, Hollywood heartthrob.
Carrie Mess grew up knowing very little about cows. Nowadays she is ironically known as Dairy Carrie.
“I liked milk and lived nearby to where the World Dairy Expo took place, but that was about it,” Carrie shrugged. After she married Pat, or “Hubs” as she calls him in her blog, she moved to rural Watertown, where they dairy farm with his parents on Mesa Farms. Like a fish out of water when she first got to the farm, she hit the gravel driveway running with her barn boots on.
“I am actually totally new to this world,” Carrie confessed.
Carrie is learning as she goes while she educates, informs and entertains readers with stories on her blog. She started her blog, dairycarrie.com, about two years ago as an addition to the “agvocating” she was doing on Twitter. Her blog was named after her Twitter handle @DairyCarrie.
“I started (the blog) thinking, well it is something to do and free. I also thought I could use it as an outlet since my grandma was going through cancer at the time,” Carrie said.
Shortly after the blog was created, the Dairy Carrie Facebook page was launched and in 18 months has grown to more than 4,000 likes.
Carrie, a self-proclaimed cow-lover, describes herself in her blog biography like this, “I am honest, frank and have the smallest brain to mouth filter known to mankind.” Which if you read some of her posts or meet her in person you will find true. You would never believe she didn’t grow up on a farm considering how her hands fit the gloves. While she is known for telling it like it is in her blog, she doesn’t consider herself a journalist.
“If you would have told me in high school I would be willingly writing, I would have thought you were nuts,” Carrie said.
Carrie gets her ideas for her blog and social media from questions she is asked or interactions she has. However, her whims and random thoughts are her most successful posts. Such was the cases when she wrote about RumChata before it was a Wisconsin bar favorite.
“When people Google RumChata, my page is one of the first results they get,” Carrie explained.
Since people are directed to her blog from a variety of search topics, she draws an array of audiences.
“As much as I love farmers and ranchers, I am trying to reach the people who grew up the same way I did and who didn’t somehow randomly end up on a dairy farm,” Carrie said.
Carrie has tackled topics like corn pollination (or what she calls ‘corn sex’ to grab attention), why some dairy cows look skinny, spraying pesticides, ‘ag gag’ laws and aspartame in milk. She has also called out actor Ryan Gosling for pretending to know about dehorning cattle and squashed rumors that chocolate milk was made from bloody milk.
“I didn’t know that chocolate milk being made from bloody milk was a thing until I sat next to a lady on a plane,” Carrie said. “She asked me straight out, ‘Is it?’ I couldn’t believe it.”
“I allow people with different viewpoints to voice their opinions,” Carrie said. “I am truly respectful as to what people want to purchase and eat. If we are angry about people’s food choices because they are misinformed we should be looking at ourselves. Who isn’t getting the truth out there?”
Even though her blog has more than 400,000 views, she stresses that it is not about the numbers but rather the conversations. She encourages everyone involved in ag to share stories face-to-face and online. Her three jobs (Udder Comfort, Dairy Business Communications and the farm), her recent speaking engagements, blogging and social media duties keep her quite busy.
However, she is never too busy to share what is going on at the farm with her followers.
“It doesn’t have to be all or nothing,” Carrie encouraged. “Snap a photo of what you are doing and post it from your phone. I guarantee that your Facebook friends do not know all the things you do on the farm.”
She stresses that farmers need to be online, commenting, posting, sharing, explaining and telling people their agriculture story.
“I hope in five years, people are like ‘Dairy Carrie who?’ because there will be so many agricultural bloggers. I want the farmers to take back their industry’s reputation. But most of all I want people to feel safe eating their food.”
Taking a Bite Out of Panera
Carrie drew national attention when she wrote a post about her disappointment with Panera Bread restaurants for their advertising. After snapping a photo of their menu that advertised antibiotic-free chicken, she shared it with her Facebook fans.
Another blogger shared with Carrie that Panera Bread had a new campaign: EZChicken, which said chicken raised with antibiotics was the easy way out. Carrie was offended. She did some research and spent time putting together a post, written as a letter to Panera Bread.
“I took a full weekend to write the post (compared to the 20 minutes it usually takes) because I wanted to make sure I had all my facts straight,” she said. “I am not a chicken farmer and didn’t want to bash the poultry industry because that wasn’t the point. I strung my thoughts together and hit post.”
After hitting “post,” Carrie’s phone soon blew up with online notifications. The phenomenal response had thousands of people commenting, sharing and tweeting about it. Panera Bread sent Carrie a tweet apologizing for offending her and indicated its chief marketing officer would be in touch. Carrie she said he seemed apologetic and said he offered to remove the EZChicken references.
“He did tell me our response was the loudest he had ever heard,” Carrie smiled.
More than 1,500 signatures were collected and attached to a letter that penned by Carrie and the Animal Agriculture Alliance.
“It’s been pretty eye-opening,” Carrie said. “It reaffirmed how awesome people in agriculture are. Even though we come from different backgrounds and production styles, we all have something in common: we grow food and we can come together when the time is right.”
Carrie was excited to share that a meeting between some national ag organizations and Panera Bread’s lead executives will be happening soon.
Story by Amy Manske. Original version appeared in the October/November 2013 issue of Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation’s Rural Route.