Meeting with State Legislators, Temple Grandin and more

March 2, 2010

Dear me! Has it been a month since my last post? Well, let me give an update on our latest activities.

On Thursday, February 11, we sat in a packed classroom with UConn dairy students and members from the Young Farmer Committee of Connecticut Farm Bureau and listened to Reps. Pam Sawyer and Bryan Hurlburt as they talked about how best to lobby state legislators.

In front of the mixed crowd, and the two representatives got started by sharing the basics about working with them and others in the state legislature and by the end of the night, they were asked some pretty detailed and pertinent questions about what is happening right now in the state of Connecticut.

To wrap up the evening, we presented Rep. Sawyer with her “Legislator of the Year” award from Connecticut Farm Bureau, recognizing her for her efforts this past year especially with dairy policy.

Skip ahead two and a half weeks and last night, March 1, I went to see Temple Grandin. Having led a fascinating life, there is now a movie produced by HBO out on Grandin and how she has pioneered her way not only through her work with animal agriculture production but also living with autism.

Her message resonates with many: overcoming obstacles, living with autism, working in a compassionate way with livestock, understanding why a pet animal will act a certain way, etc. One message in particular resonated with me last night and I thought I’d share it. 

Temple started her work with farm workers. She trained them in a proper way to work with animals. She then moved on to managers, thinking she would have a bigger impact on food animals’ lives but found she could have even more impact still if she went to consumers. Consumers, through McDonalds and Wendy’s, have the most power to drive lasting change through the production system. And in her next breath she said, “Agriculture has not done a good job of telling its story.”

Well, I believe it’s not too late. It’s never too late. We need to take advantage of opportunities to improve and get better at answering questions and making sure that the message we want to convey is indeed what gets out there.

We have our Telling Your Story media training event this Saturday, March 6. I do hope you will join us for at least part of the day.

Letter to Editor of Norwich Bulletin

February 2, 2010

Ran on Sunday, February 7, 2010…

Dear Editor:

I am writing to share with you a young dairy farmer network that we have recently formed here in Connecticut. We call ourselves the “New Generation Dairy Producers” and we have been active in educating ourselves, learning how to better educate our neighbors about what we do and the nutritious product we provide, and keeping in touch with our fellow producers.

We are very concerned with what we feel has been unbalanced reporting in the national news media. Recently your paper picked up an article that quite frankly did not contain complete facts. We would like to serve as an information source for you and your readers with respect to questions that may arise due to articles of this nature. Our email address is: newgendairy@gmail.com.

In Connecticut, we have approximately 150 dairy farms left. We are the next generation to take over these farms. We provide our neighbors and our own families with a fresh, local supply of nutrient-rich milk. We are challenged by adapting to a volatile pricing market in order to be economically sustainable. We are also challenged by the daily operations of managing a farm business. We strive to live by a simple truth, “Take care of the cows, and they’ll take care of you.”

If you indeed have any questions, I beg you, send us your questions. We live and breathe dairy farming everyday; not just when we watch it on television or read about it in a newspaper or the internet.

Thank you,

We Met with Congressman Joe Courtney

January 25, 2010

On a beautiful and unseasonably warm January Saturday, our young dairy producer group met with Congressman Joe Courtney at the Kellogg Dairy Center, UConn, in Storrs. The room seemed quite full as we invited UConn dairy students to join us for this event. The congressman spoke about the Congressional Dairy Coalition, what is happening on the policy front, and other various dairy-related topics.

Young Dairy Producers with U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney at the Kellogg Dairy Center, University of Connecticut, Storrs

Courtney, a second term Democrat serving the second district of Connecticut,  fielded good questions from the audience, and left us with good information and take-home messages. A few key areas:

  • Milk is an important part of nutrition legislation. We need to make sure we keep it this way.
  • We need to find consensus among our industry- within our own state, from state to state, AND among production methods.
  • Opening up the Farm Bill is probably not a direction to go, but with the next one coming in 2012, it’s not too early to start building that consensus.
  • Washington needs to hear from us. WE are the dairy experts; they rely on us for straight facts about OUR industry, OUR production methods, OUR product.

Courtney’s Dairy Coalition may be meeting with Ambassador Ron Kirk,  United States Trade Representative in the next few weeks to talk about a trade agreement that would include New Zealand. I wonder if you’d take a few minutes to answer the follow questions in a reply to this post: What sorts of questions would you have for Ambassador Kirk with respect to dairy imports and exports? Where do you see New Zealand in the global dairy market and how should/could the U.S. dairy industry work with NZ? Or should they not? I have my own opinions that I will share. I’d like to first hear from you.

Welcome to Our Blog

December 18, 2009

That’s right, I said “our.” It seems like eons ago that we last met at the CFBA office in Windsor to pick Bob Wellington’s brain, and even longer since that fateful summer meeting at UConn. We promised this blog, to help keep us up to date, share information and provide an opportunity to comment/discuss whatever topic is on the table.

Perhaps after the evening with Bob Wellington, Agri-mark chief economist, you were wondering: “What exactly is this?” “What is the point of  this meeting, this group?” and “What now?” All very good questions.

After the summer meeting for concerned dairy producers in southern New England – presently and for the future, a group of younger producers, say the new generation of producers, left scratching their heads. It seemed that every idea they suggested was poo-poo’d by the so-called old roosters in the room. So, a few of us got together and said, how can we keep this ball rolling? How can we educate ourselves to know not only why these tried ideas failed but also what we can do to improve our businesses and ultimately our industry?

Thus, our group was born. We have yet to settle on a name – waffling between Next Generation Dairy and New Generation Dairy, but names aside the importance is our mission. Our mission is to help improve the stature and strategy of dairy farming for ourselves and those around us so that we may be a more viable industry, providing our neighbors and families with a fresh, nutrient-rich product. 

The point of the meeting with Bob Wellington was to pick his brain. So often we may be able to hear him speak at a meeting or read a letter that he writes, but when do we really get to ask him questions – as many questions as we may have? Now, while many questions were asked, I know that there are more out there that weren’t. That’s where this blog comes in. That’s where the meeting’s feedback comes in for future speakers.

So, what now? Check this blog. Sign up to receive alerts. Keep your ears peeled for more events to come. Attend them. Get your business partners to go with you. Ask questions. We will try to get answers to pertinent questions. Share the knowledge you gain. Let’s keep the discussion going that has been started in this dip on the milk price roller coaster.

The future of our industry is in our own hands.


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