As I rode the metro into D.C. this morning for my first day as an intern with the Animal Agriculture Alliance, I wondered how many people had spent their weekend trekking through mud and cow manure to bring up the cows for milking and feeding. I’m more than the sure that the answer was no one but me (and to my dad’s dismay, I did it in flip flops, flinging the manure up on my legs as well). Even though the people sitting around me might have found this story disgusting had I told it, to me it was just another weekend on the farm. My sisters and I mark five generations of dairy farmers in the Moore family over on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. For us, walking around in manure and doing all the other farm work is second nature; it runs in our blood. Being a Moore means working with those lovely ladies in the barn constantly to make sure our cows are happy cows.
Growing up with cows also meant growing up in 4-H. Since I could walk, I began showing cows in our local fairs and worked my way up to both state and national shows. It was there I began to learn about the disconnect between farmers and consumers. I had been under the impression that “chocolate milk cows” was just a joke. Boy, was I wrong. I lost count of the amount of times people would ask if my Red and White Holsteins produced chocolate milk. Then people would tell me how shocked they were at the size of cows, that they expected them to be not much larger than a large dog. Fairs and livestock shows were educational opportunities for consumers and for me. They were curious and hungry to learn more about industry that feeds them and I was happy to give those answers. In return, they taught me just how far we as an industry still need to go to bridge the gap between us and consumers.
I feel like I’ve spoken to hundreds of people over the years about the dairy industry and agriculture, but for each person that comes to the fairs looking for answers, many more are oblivious to the intricacies of food production. Hoping to remedy this, I went off to Cornell University in 2010 to study animal science with the hope of pursuing a career in agricultural communications, working with consumers, answering their questions, calming their fears, and educating them about the industry that I am so passionate about.