June is national dairy month and it’s a great time to promote dairy products and raise awareness for dairy farming among the greater community. With less and less of the general public directly connected to agriculture, it’s imperative for farmers and the corresponding national promotion programs to actively spread the word.
The American Dairy Association North East is the local affiliate of the National Dairy Council and a regional consolidation of three promotion organizations including the American Dairy Association and Dairy Council, Inc., Mid-Atlantic Dairy Association and Pennsylvania Dairy Promotion Program. The organization is funded by dairy checkoff dollars from more than 12,000 dairy farms in New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania and northern Virginia.
“For every 100 pounds of milk sold, 15 cents is deducted for promotion,” explained Katie Dotterer-Pyle, the former producer relations coordinator for the Mid-Atlantic Dairy Association and owner of Cow Comfort Inn Dairy in Maryland. “Of that 10 cents goes towards local dairy promotion and 5 cents goes to the Dairy Management Inc., the national dairy promotion organization to promote the industry as a whole.”
The organization fosters relationships with consumers, the media, health professionals, educators and more to promote the health benefits associated with dairy products. Through social media, blogs and in-person training events, the promotion efforts benefit all participating farmers.
In addition to benefitting from the consolidated efforts of the American Dairy Association North East, there are five marketing strategies you can implement on your own farm. These are tools that Dotterer-Pyle has used with success on her own farm.
- Participate in Checkoff Trainings– The trainings can be held for as few as 10 farmers within a given area. The day-long training helps you better prepare for educating and interacting with the general public in regards to farm life. “The training helps farmers write an ‘elevator speech,’ teaches dairy farmers how to drive dairy discussions and learn what consumers think of you as a farmer,” she explained.
- Farm tours– Invite the community in to experience in person how a dairy operation works. Showing people in person allows for conversation and an opportunity to answer questions.
“We’ve had people visit that think we still milk by hand,” she said. “People don’t know what a teat is or what a milking machine looks like.”
Farm tours can be given one at a time, to small groups or an open house can be planned. “Even if your schedule is super busy, make time for farm tours,” she urged.
- Social media– Dotterer-Pyle admits that she has received a lot of eye rolls when she encourages other dairy farmers to participate in social media. But it’s not a fad, it’s here to stay. The key to success is picking the right platform.
“Facebook is an older crowd. Younger people are on Snapchat and Instagram,” she said. “You have to go to where the customer base is.”
Posting is the easiest part of the process. In October 2016, she shot a four minute video about the milking process. It garnered 250,000 views. “Answering questions to the post takes the most time, but it’s the most important part,” she said.
- Avoid jargon– Today’s consumers aren’t familiar with farming lingo. Think of ways to relate technical terms to something the general public can grasp. “I’ll compare a hoof trimming to a manicure,” she said.
- Break out of your silo– “It’s important to go to other groups and interact with people who aren’t dairy farmers, those are the people we’re trying to reach and convince to buy dairy products over other plant-based products on the market,” she said.