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Building connections: farmers go #social

Whether you love it or hate it, there’s no denying that social media can pack a punch. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and countless other platforms have quickly become powerful communications tools for both individuals and companies.

“Social media is a great way to connect with people not just in Australia but all over the world,” said avid Twitter user and Margaret River, WA dairy farmer Stephanie Tarlinton. “Being part of that sharing, communicating and connecting with both our consumers and other farmers is so important for us.”

Stephanie is one of a growing number of dairy farmers of all ages who have embraced social media to spread positive messages about the industry and help run the farm business.

“As a farmer you can often feel quite isolated on your farm but social media gives us an outlet to strategically connect with people and let them know what happens on our farm every day,” she said.

Sporting the Twitter handle @ProudlyDairy, Stephanie tweets on topics ranging from photos of what’s happening on her own farm to bigger questions about how the industry can more positively promote its future, including her opportunity to meet federal Minister for Agriculture Barnaby Joyce at the ADF Summit held in Melbourne in March.

She also joined in the recent buzz around a Facebook competition organised by the dairy industry’s Legendairy page, which saw over 60 farmers jump on the global ‘selfie’ craze by snapping pictures of themselves with their cows and posting them online.

“People drive the dairy industry,” said Stephanie, who’s a vocal supporter of Legendairy messages. 

“Dairy farming is not just on the farm, it’s also in our local community, right across our state, and nationally and internationally. Legendairy is a great way to create a connection between the farmers and the people in our community that we support.”

Embracing the dynamic nature of social media is just one element of making the dairy industry more accessible to both the public and a new generation of potential dairy farmers.

“I think there’s a challenge in people really understanding the opportunities that are in the dairy industry,” she said. “A lot of people have perceptions about our industry but haven’t had the exposure to it growing up. I’ve been fortunate to milk cows in seven different countries and gained some great perspective.” Bryn Jenkins, Stephanie’s partner, agreed.

“We’re both fortunate to have done a bit of travelling and you soon realise the quality of the dairy products that we have in Australia,” he said. “We’re producing some of the best milk in the world. I don’t think we’re being false to stand up and say that.”

With dairying in their blood, it’s safe to say they’re firm believers in the many benefits dairy farming can offer young people.

Stephanie’s family has farmed in Cobargo near Bega, NSW since 1829. The sixth-generation dairy farmer headed west last year to join Bryn, a Margaret River native whose family moved from England to join the local dairy industry over 30 years ago. The couple milk 300 Holsteins with Bryn’s parent on their property.

“It’s important to have young people for the regeneration of the industry, for new ideas and enthusiasm, and to challenge the status quo,” he said. “Dairying has to constantly evolve and move forward.”

“We’re so fortunate to be able to work with each other and at a young age be our own bosses and really drive the business, plan our future and see the results from the effort we put in,” Stephanie said. 

Part of that effort is also focused on the broader industry. Stephanie works two days a week as Dairy Executive Officer for the Western Australian Farmers’ Federation looking after policy work, and the couple has come to appreciate what building a strong reputation can do.

“It’s really important to promote the industry to the broader community,” Bryn said. “But we also have to support the understanding within the industry of what we do and how great it is.”

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