I have been blogging and sharing stories from my farm life for a little over a year now. I am a proud 5th generation dairy farmer and my goal is to share the truth about modern agriculture with dairy consumers. With so many misconceptions about the dairy industry, I find it extremely important to show consumers exactly what goes on at a dairy farm. Every decision a farmer makes is for the better of the farm and/or animals. Raising food and fiber ethically and sustainably is not only our duty as farmers, but also ensures a better life for all. Farming is our way of life, our livelihood and is absolutely a business. Those of us in the agriculture industry understand this, but there are many who do not. Most of my followers are perceptive and genuinely interested in what I have to share, but there are always a few who disagree or don’t fully understand each practice. Then, of course there are the activists. (sigh) Go ahead, just pour yourself a glass of alcohol now.
I had my first run-in with a few animal rights activists just last week. I couldn’t believe how rude and disrespectful some people could be! I was being called every nasty name in the book and told to “get a real job” (Is there any job more “real” than farming?). Many of these commenters were immediately banned from my page. Cyber bullying…ain’t nobody got time for that. However, I didn’t want to ban everyone just because they had a difference in opinion. So, if the person was polite I would engage in a conversation with them.
Getting your message across on such an emotional and passionate topic can be tricky, but here are a few tips that work for me. I am no expert, but I hope you find these tips useful the next time you find yourself in a conversation with a disagreeing party.
1. Stay calm.
Getting fired up and chewing their head off is not going to solve anything. If you want respect, you have to give it. While it may be tempting to fire back after being accused of untruths, don’t. Having passion and pride in what you do is great, but leave it out of the conversation. Arguing (especially on the internet) never ends well for anyone.
This person is entitled to his/her opinions and concerns. It is up to you to understand and address the concerns. Find common ground and ensure them that you aren’t so different from one another. Maybe you are a mother or father, just like they are? Perhaps a school board member of a soccer coach? Find commonality.
3. Keep it simple.
You could go on and on about why your farm adopts certain practices, but too much detail can be confusing and stir up more questions and emotions. An outsider who does not see what happens on a farm everyday may find your specific details difficult to understand.
4. Know when to end it.
If things get out of hand, if name-calling begins, just stop. Be open to those who have genuine questions and concerns, but know when to draw the line. If you are having the conversation online, you have the ability to moderate the conversation. It is your choice to ban and delete anyone or any comment that you deem inappropriate. Many activists don’t care what you have to share and are just using your page as a platform to spread their views.
If your conversation is face-to-face, agree to disagree and politely excuse yourself. It is a waste of your time to try to change the view of someone who is anti-whatever. Remember who your audience is and who you are trying to convey your message to. It is the folks who consume your product that you want to share with; put your time and energy in with them.
5. Don’t give up.
Agvocating and sharing your story can be frustrating and there WILL be people who will make you want to pull your hair out. Don’t give up. I guarantee that for every negative response you get, there are ten more positive responses. It can be easy to focus on the negative comments, but don’t forget about all the folks who appreciate what you do. Most importantly, FARM ON!