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HERd Management: Story time is a blessing

Janet Bremer for Progressive Dairy Published on 30 June 2020

“Sometimes blessings come in ugly wrapping paper.”
—Robbie Norton

This quote pretty much sums up how I feel right now. COVID-19 is some of the ugliest wrapping paper I have ever laid my eyes on.

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It has turned everyone’s life into turmoil – physically, mentally, emotionally or perhaps financially. I like to think of myself as an optimist, but I was finding it difficult to search for the blessings wrapped in that ugly paper. But I refused to let it take over my life, my livelihood, my spirit.

Early in the month of March, just before the ugly wrapping paper first surfaced in our area, I was attending a dairy farmers’ workshop in Kansas City. This workshop concentrated on how we as dairy farmers can connect with consumers. We learned about starting conversations and making connections with those outside our farmer friends. We explored the conflicted health seeker and how we need to adapt our online presence. We discussed our farm communication strategy and the value of video editing to share our story. Finally, we observed a panel discussion by food professionals on how the dairy community is perceived.

As each of us left the workshop, we were asked to complete a list of goals, what our tactics would be and what tools we need to achieve success. My goal list consisted of: Reach out to non-ag groups, improve my blog/website, and play around with video stories. I came home from the Kansas City workshop motivated and ready to hit the ground running. Dare I say, this run has gone from a sprint to a marathon, and I’m not going to stop.

What could we, as a dairy farm family, do to possibly help others during this tumultuous time? How could we make a little tear in the ugly wrapping paper to show the blessings underneath? We knew it had to be doable, enjoyable for everyone involved and also repeatable. Our daughter Sara came up with a perfect suggestion for our family: “Let’s do story time videos,” she said. Sara is an eighth-grade language arts teacher and, after 19 years, I recently resigned as a Title One reading teacher, so reading is a passion of ours. With most schools turning to online learning, and many parents spending additional hours with their preschoolers, our idea felt like a concept that would be meaningful and appreciated. Is it doable, enjoyable and repeatable for our family too? Absolutely.

I have always been a collector of children’s farm books, so I had an arsenal on hand. Each day, Monday through Friday, a video is posted. The daily video begins with a very brief introduction, followed by reading a story and lastly an activity. Some activities take the reader to a link for a craft, or colouring or activity sheet, while other days bring the reader to a physical activity idea.

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We often include a tour of our farm, a tour of our calf barn and even a tour of how we make cow salad. We even toured our family’s refrigerator to talk about dairy foods. Our videos appear on our Facebook page, “My Barnyard View”. They also appear on my blog (My Barnyard View) and YouTube channel (“My Barnyard View” or “Janet Bremer”).

The reaction has been amazing. We have gained many followers on social media. Many of our stories have been viewed thousands of times. Our story time videos have also been promoted as family resources on the Midwest Dairy website as well as Discover Dairy. Our local county Farm Bureau took notice of our story time videos and offered to provide farm books to give away to our little readers. We are building relationships with our readers, answering questions and providing a bit of fun during this gloomy time.

I encourage each of you to think about a way to share your dairy story. We are going through unusual times, so perhaps the farm tours or on-farm breakfasts or lunches you had planned are not able to happen. What can you do instead? It’s time to brainstorm. Is it doable, enjoyable and possibly repeatable? If you can’t answer yes, then keep brainstorming. You can’t promote dairy if you are not enjoying it or if it is too difficult to accomplish your project.

Am I glad this ugly wrapping paper has enveloped us? Absolutely not, but sometimes that’s when we do our most creative thinking. I don’t know who should take credit for this quote, but I am reminded of it: “In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.” Please take this difficult time to discover your opportunity. Hopefully you will find that blessing under all that ugly wrapping paper.  end mark

Janet Bremer
  • Janet Bremer

  • Dairy Producer
  • Hastings, Minnesota
  • Email Janet Bremer

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