It’s this time of year that always brings out more joy and happiness in people.
Somehow, these cold, dark days of December become filled with laughter and holiday cheer against a backdrop of glowing festive lights, evergreen trees and table spreads filled with special treats. We visit with family and friends while attending more parties and gatherings than what should be allowed in a few weeks’ time span.
FarmFirst gatherings may have been on your calendar recently too, as we have wrapped up our District Appreciation Dinners that began in mid-November. These 15 dinners have been ideal in having conversations with members about issues from the past year that are top of mind as we look towards 2023.
It is from these appreciation dinners that we gather feedback directly from members, which reflects our grassroots values and is important to our board members who represent you, our members. When I leave a member dinner, I am always grateful for the members that have not only taken the time to attend, but to also ask questions and to speak with board members and staff. These conversations help us understand what is on your mind, what concerns are keeping you up at night, and what topics you’re eager to learn more about.
Attendance at several of our dinners increased dramatically, which we’d like to believe was in part of our additional promotion of the dinners as well as the time of year when fieldwork is wrapped up. Greater attendance means greater engagement among members, and more conversations. Challenging questions were asked during and after the presentation, which will be shared and discussed during the board meeting.
These conversations were more than just small talk, but questions about the viability of our dairy communities and industry. Questions were raised about what is coming next, and how we can stand up to the demands being asked of us. Discussions were also had about opportunities available for dairy on the horizon, and how important it is that dairy have a seat at the table of these national discussions to ensure farmers are the decision-makers on policy and programs impacting them and their ability to manage their farm.
It’s not lost on our farmers how important it is to show up, listen, speak up and be present. Attending these meetings is just that – being present during the conversation. There will always be a long to-do list waiting for each of us at the farm but making it a priority to attend a cooperative event can be pretty impactful, even if it’s not realized in the moment.
This same mentality is true for FarmFirst and our representation. We know that if we want a seat at the table nationally, we have to physically be in the chair. If you want something to change, you have to start asking the question. Some things cannot be changed, but most often, those instances are issues that we need to learn more about. For everything else, it begins with asking questions and learning what can be done.
Progress is a direction, not a speed. While progress may be slow, its important that you know your concerns have been heard and are not falling on deaf ears. There are challenges we as farmers are dealt with, but there have been a lot of good things as well, like innovations across the industry and dairy consumption in the U.S., which was featured in last month’s MilkLine. Dairy consumption is reaching levels like that of 1959, but we all know we’re not consuming dairy like we were then.
While we face these challenges head on, its important to also recognize those helping keep things running smoothly for our operations, day in and day out. The milk hauler, milk marketers, nutritionists, veterinarians, even the cheesemakers waiting to receive a truckload of milk. They all play an important role in getting our milk from our farm into the hands of consumers.
Remember, when all seems dark and bleak like a cold December day, that your cooperative is working on your behalf to improve the opportunities within dairy farming for tomorrow, which is more than just holiday lights and festive cheese platters. That’s something truly to celebrate.
Wishing a happy holiday season to you and your families.