Marilyn Hershey And A Member Farmer Talking Next To Cows

From farm to blog to fork

Food bloggers and farmers dig into the farm-to-fork story

I am pretty certain if my grandmother were alive in this era she would be a food blogger. She loved spending time in the kitchen, she loved sharing food with her church, friends and family and she loved butter. In her own way, food was her business.

Food is my business, too. I’m a dairy farmer. My husband, Duane, and I have been members of Land O’Lakes, Inc. for many years, and both of our parents were also members of the co-op. Our dairy in southeastern Pennsylvania is now 850 Holsteins strong, and we continue farming with the passion that was instilled in us from previous generations.

But the business of food blogging didn’t come alive to me until early August when I attended an event hosted by Land O’Lakes, Inc. in New York City.

New York is one of the most food centric cities in the nation and a stark contrast to our farm, but it was the perfect backdrop to merge a dozen food bloggers and a handful of dairy farmers from around the country. I went into the event with a narrow, short opinion of food blogging, not because I am a narrow minded person but rather from ignorance.

I had no clue that food blogging is a business, brands like LAND O LAKES® are a compelling force behind these blogs, and that foodies influence people’s perception of my business with each recipe they share on social media.

Business of blogging

I was joined at the event by fellow dairy women, Katie Dotterer-Pyle from Maryland, Deb Reinhart from Wisconsin and Sadie Frericks from Minnesota. Our main goal for two and half days was to eat great food and learn from each other. Getting a “behind the scenes” tour of Food Network’s kitchen, recipe invention and media development was a bonus.

Each blogger I met took their profession seriously; they put in long days, they respect their job and family is a big deal. One blogger told me that her most productive hours in the kitchen were from 10:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m. She used that uninterrupted time of day to work so she could spend quality time with her kids during their waking hours.

I found out that photographing food is a routine practice for them, much like the day-to-day chores on our farm. They snapped pics during the preparation and presentation of every meal. It is fodder for their next blog or post.

Influence and inspire

There is a reason brands seek out foodies. As in the expression “hold the world in your hands,” the food bloggers come as close to that as I have ever seen. They have millions of followers on social media and they use every arm of influence to reach each generation. I am now one of them and every day I find myself scouring my Instagram feed to see what new recipe of deliciousness they are posting. I am even making a list of the new foods I want to make over the holidays.

I believe one of the most powerful food bloggers is Ree Drummond, and spending a few days with her was certainly a highlight. The volume of her social media influence is amazing, she has millions of people watching her every move and it was refreshing to see that she is as genuine and kind in person as she is on her show, The Pioneer Woman.

It certainly challenged me to spend more time sharing our dairy story. I can and must do a better job communicating the farm story on social media. If I do not tell my story, someone else will hold the power of my farm in their hands.

Sharing our story

The last day, we (the farm women) had the opportunity to share our farm story with the bloggers. It was interesting to see that each of us has a different style of farming and a unique way to care for our animals—but our passions are the same. Cows are milked, fed and kept comfortable every day and through our presentations we showed the passions we have for our animals, the challenges and joys we face each day and the care that goes into creating a quality product for the bloggers’ kitchens.

One of my farm responsibilities is raising the calves and I could see that this portion of my presentation really struck home when the bloggers realized how much time and care goes into each calf, especially when she is first born. They saw a different side of the dairy products that they use every day.

When we finished our presentation and opened up the floor for questions, the room was quiet. They were in awe of the energy, vigilance and time that goes into making dairy foods. The bloggers eventually asked some tough questions about lifestyle, quality food production and animal care. One of the bloggers said that she had struggled with the information she receives about GMOs, antibiotic use in animals and animal care. After the Q&A, she said she was very glad to get her questions answered from a direct source rather than a third-party website where she is unfamiliar with the source.

As we parted ways, I left with such a deep respect in my heart for what they do and I came to realize that there is a commonality between us, the roads we travel each day are not nearly as far apart as I once thought.

The power, length and depth of social media takes our farm story way past the farm lane that my grandmother lived on. The relationship we as dairy farmers have with the food bloggers gives us a boost in sharing our farm story. We put a lot of care, passion and faith into our animals that give us that great product the bloggers reach for in their kitchens. They trust us to give them that quality so they can create recipes with an unmeasurable amount of LAND O LAKES® goodness.

Next time you see a delicious cookie recipe on your favorite food blog, I hope you’ll think of the farmers proudly making those cookies possible.