By Kelsea Forward
Tara Vander Dussen and Natalie Kovarik are partners in Elevate Ag, an online resource that helps farmers use social media tools to share their stories. They also co-host the Discover Ag podcast which tackles many agriculture issues. Vander Dussen and Kovarik recently sat down with American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall to discuss some of those issues, and how farmers can join the conversation by sharing their own stories online.
Vander Dussen and her husband are both fifth-generation dairy farmers in Eastern New Mexico. She also works with dairies across the state as an environmental consultant, helping farmers navigate environmental regulations and permitting.
Kovarik operates a cattle ranch with her husband in Nebraska. She began sharing her story and day-to-day life on the ranch on social media about two years ago. She and Vander Dussen found each other online and eventually decided to partner in their efforts to teach farmers how to share on social media and monetize content.
One subject Kovarik and Vander Dussen focus on in their advocacy is sustainability. Caring for the environment is important to farmers and ranchers though there are some who say that farming and ranching hurts the environment.
“The forefront of what we care about is sustainability as an industry and in our own operations,” Kovarik said.
Vander Dussen echoed the sentiment, stating that agriculture helps the environment and reduces the effects of climate change in many ways. One example - she explained how dairy cows eat byproducts such as cottonseed that otherwise end up in a landfill.
She also shares her perspective in discussions about which foods are “better” than others, especially when it comes to milk. There are many different options for milk at the grocery store and consumers often feel pressure to buy a certain product because of the labels on the package. This can be frustrating especially when people are already experiencing financial stress.
“I want people who pick the cheapest milk on the shelf to know that it’s just as nutritious and just as safe,” Vander Dussen said.
She and Kovarik understand that social media sharing is not for everyone, and some farmers may avoid it because they are worried about negative reactions. However, they encourage folks to give it a try.
“Overwhelmingly, sharing online has been a positive experience for me,” Vander Dussen said. She believes it’s important to share simply to start a conversation or tell a story, not to teach or attack.
Elevate Ag is a collection of courses and an online community where farmers, ranchers and other producers can come together to access the tools and information they need to craft, share and monetize their own personal ag story.
Learn more about Elevate Ag and check out the Discover Ag Podcast.
Kelsea Forward is the Communications assistant at AFBF.