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Want to connect with consumers? It's as simple as showing up

The kids and I have been spending some Friday afternoons handing out dairy samples at one of our local grocery stores. This goes to the top of my list of favorite ways to connect with consumers. This is a time when I am able to put a real face to a dairy farmer in my community.

This is a time where I am able to hear and see what people are putting in their grocery cart. This is a time for me to connect with people about food. This is a way to show my kids how showing up, even for a little bit makes a difference. This is a time where I can ask the grocery store director and dairy case managers questions about products and the whys of a grocery store.

This past winter, words I heard continue to come to the forefront of my mind, "How do we make agriculture accessible to urban? How do we make them care, and they should care." The small amount of time I spend at the grocery store brings agriculture to the store just by me saying, "I'm a dairy farmer."

For the past year, I have been hearing farmers being really frustrated about markets and checkoff dollars. I used to be one of the them. I was listening to the noise of the blanket answers. Answers that are given but don't really fit how I look at myself or our farm. I was listening to the noise of "we need to be innovative," "we need to market this way," "milk needs different packaging," "we need more technology," the list is endless of the noise.

The last six months, I stopped listening to the noise. I stopped being frustrated of feeling like "no one was understanding what the actual needs are." I started doing. I started being more focused on my own community. I stopped listening to the noise and started doing what I know works on my own by just showing up.

People want to feel connected to people more now than they ever have. Social media is a wonderful thing, but it has also separated us from each other and relationship building. To bring agriculture to urban areas, we need to show up. Showing up builds relationships. Showing up gives the connection people want with their food. People want to talk about food. People want to share why they like one food choice over the other. People need the connection with food they can't find on social media. I talk about food all the time, why wouldn't anybody else?

When the kids and I show up for sample day, we listen to the consumer. We listen to their food choices and what they like best. We listen. When a customer asks where they can find the product we are handing out, Everett and Vivian show the customer exactly where it is in the store freezer. What better way to connect agriculture and urban. What better way to connect farmers and food. What better way to connect with people. I understand not everyone can show up at a grocery store but there are ways you can show up. For example, if you are asked to bring something to share at church for fellowship, offer to bring whole milk to share. These small things do matter.

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