By Krista Stauffer
(EDITOR’S NOTE: You’ve probably heard others say: “We all need to advocate for agriculture.” But are you doing your part? Washington State dairy producer Krista Stauffer has been advocating for three years, and here, she underscores the need for others to do the same. March 21 is National Ag Day – a great opportunity to start agvocating.)
Last September marked three years of agvocating for our farm. Since I started, I have met many amazing people across the country, traveled to states I have never visited and gained some great friends along the way. I have, however, had my fair share of vegan extremists, Internet trolls and social media drama.
I will be completely honest, I am over it. Completely burned out. I have tried to quit along the way, but lately it just seems like agvocating online just isn’t worth all the negative that comes with it. When I get to that point, the point where I feel like posting online is a complete waste of time, I get a little reminder that what I do matters, and it sucks me right back in.
Why do I do it? Every time I turn around, there is a new opportunity to advocate – a new way to share our farm story, a way to stand up for our industry and a way to try and make a difference. There are, however, never enough farmers. We need more farmers to be willing to tell their story.
I am constantly being told by farmers, “Someone has to do it, I’m glad it is you;” “I don’t have time for that;” and “People will always have to eat.” I cannot tell you how much these three phrases frustrate me.
It’s correct – someone has to do this. Someone has to speak up. But can we honestly expect a handful of people to reach the majority? Only 2% of the U.S. population are farmers. Less than that are dairy farmers. We need every single farmer standing up and making their voice heard. We simply cannot rely on a few to tell the story of our entire industry. We need every farmer telling their unique story just as I tell my unique story. I do not speak for the entire industry, I speak for my farm, how we care for our cows and the things that matter most to our family.
We started our dairy farm in 2009. We have had our fair share of highs and lows. We went from two part-time employees the spring of 2015 to one. My husband is no stranger to a 100-hour work week. Our children spend plenty of time in the milking parlor with us. I know what it’s like to “not have time.”
Most days there are not enough hours in the day to take care of everything that needs to be done. I do not have time to participate and serve on the local farm bureau board, the county FSA committee, the Voluntary Stewardship voting committee or the AgChat Foundation board.
I most certainly do not have time to write for multiple publications about our way of life. In fact, adding all these things to my already full plate completely exhausts me physically. But I make time. I see what activist groups, environmental groups and elected officials are trying to do on a daily basis.
And I make time to fight them, to engage with the public who has the power to vote on things that could hurt us, and ultimately are our customers; the reason we can do what we do. I make time to fight for the future of our dairy farm.
And regarding that quip: “People will always have to eat.” Yes, there will always be a need for beef and dairy. But people do not have to consume these things to survive. They should, but they do not have to. Fluid milk sales tend to not go up, while the percent of vegans and vegetarians continues to rise.
We just finished a year where our industry had more supply than demand. I have seen countless dairy farms send their cows down the road. Yes, people will always have to eat. Maybe the optimists in our industry are right and this will all correct itself (which I do not agree with whatsoever), but in the meantime, how many more dairy farms will ship their last tank of milk and watch that last load of cows leave their farm?
Folks, we need every single one of you agvocating. Get involved in your community, post online, send out a community newsletter, host a breakfast on the farm – just please do something.
Krista Stauffer is a dairy producer from Colville, Washington. Her article originally appeared in the October issue of Progressive Dairyman.