B.C. dairy farmer assures consumers of animal care with real stories of farm life
Julaine Treur is a mother of four young children, employer to two part-time farm workers and a dairy farmer on a 90-cow, 72-acre organic dairy farm in British Columbia’s lush and fertile Fraser Valley. She answered the call to speak out for agriculture when she realized the extent of consumer misinformation about her industry.
While the part-time employees help out with afternoon milking and feeding, Julaine and her husband Johannes do the balance of the 24-7 farm work. And still she finds time to write, blog and agvocate for the industry.
Why do you agvocate?
I watched a video about a family on a nearby dairy farm. It was a beautiful video, and showed how farmers are stewards of the land and of their animals. But then I was horrified to see many very negative comments appear under this video; comments accusing dairy farmers of rape, abuse, murder and more. I had no idea there were people who actually believed that sort of thing, much less were actively trying to spread these myths and lies about the dairy industry.
I started our Facebook page and began to share photos and stories of life on our dairy farm. I was so surprised at the response! Consumers were excited to learn more about dairy farming, and I received many messages of thanks and appreciation.
My biggest motivation comes from reading comments or messages from followers who had misgivings about the dairy industry but after coming across my page and interacting with me, they feel comfortable and confident that dairy products are produced humanely and ethically.
How do you agvocate?
I do the bulk of my agvocating from my Creekside Dairy Facebook page. I share stories and photos of life on our farm or information about industry issues (supply management, for example) on a regular basis. I also write blog posts about topics I feel passionate about that require more space to explain. I use Instagram, but I’m not as comfortable with it yet. I find Twitter great for interacting with other farmers and for keeping my finger on the pulse of what’s new and interesting in the agriculture world.
I also contribute articles to various agriculture magazines and organizations, and I’m excited to have been recently elected to the B.C. Milk Marketing Board’s Specialty Products Advisory Committee for a three-year term.
Tell me about something you have tried that works well.
Videos have been incredibly popular on my Facebook page. Case in point: on Wednesday, March 30, our cows went out to pasture for the first time this spring. I recorded the event and within 24 hours, the video had been viewed 12,000 times, reached more than 30,000 people, had been shared 130+ times and had racked up a much larger than normal number of comments, including many from consumers not involved in agriculture!
One month later, the video has become my most popular post ever, at 33,000 views, over 400 shares, all reaching more than 90,000 people!
I also make it a point to respond to any comments, positive or negative. I find that this establishes a rapport and a trusting relationship with my readers.
For a while, I tried to hold myself to a schedule to post new content three times a week. It just didn’t work for me. My writing was stilted and cold. I write best when I am passionate about something, but that often means posting can be a bit sporadic. That being said, I do make it a point to post at least once a week, even if it’s just to share another agvocate’s content. I don’t want my followers to forget about me! (And there’s the pesky Facebook algorithm that seems to penalize users by not showing their posts if they’re not regular enough.)
What advice would you give other agvocates?
Be polite. Our first reactions may be anger and resentment when presented with false and misleading facts about farming, but we need to swallow this anger and respond in a respectful and civil manner. Outrage and annoyance will not win any support, but polite, well thought out responses will engender respect and lend credence to your statements.
Be accepting. Realize that not all farms and farmers are alike. Belittling or demeaning other types of farms or farmers will not help consumers feel confident about our industry.
We need to stand together regardless of whether our farms are organic or conventional, tie-stall or free-stall, with pasture- or barn-based herds; none of these characteristics make one farm better than another, they simply make us different. Describe how you farm and let other farmers share their own stories.
What have you learned?
I’ve learned that consumers are very interested in what goes on behind our figurative barn doors. Even the simplest chore is exciting for those who have never set foot on a real farm. I’ve learned to embrace and share the natural and exuberant enthusiasm I feel for our way of life. Consumers respond well when a farmer shows genuine love for farming and animals.
What does being an agvocate mean to you?
Being an agvocate is about being passionate. Passionate about agriculture, but also passionate about teaching others, especially consumers, about what happens on our family farms. Agvocacy is a blend of two of my favourite things: farming and interacting with people.
Despite being very busy with her family and dairy farm, Julaine has made reaching out to consumers and sharing her story a priority. The work she does on her blog and social media channels demonstrates her respect for those who want to understand more about agriculture, her passion for the industry and her commitment to bridging the gap between them.