When you come from a fifth generation dairy farm, it is sometimes hard to put a single label on exactly what you do. That’s especially true if you live off the farm as is the case for Mary Mackinson Faber. Raised on the family farm located north of Pontiac, Illinois, Mary is well aware of the 24/7 commitment it takes to manage 165 milking cows and over 150 heifers and calves. In addition, there are roughly 2,000 acres of cropland where the Mackinson’s grow corn, soybeans, wheat and alfalfa.
“The Family Connection Always Comes First”
Mary takes pride in the work done by father Donald, her Uncle Roy, her brother Matt and Dan, the hired man. “They begin their days long before sunrise and only call it a day after the stars come out. Each is committed to providing the consumer with a safe, high-quality product. This commitment to quality means investing in how to best care for the cows and the land.” Great teamwork. So where does Mary fit in? While she freely admits that she has always loved the cows and agriculture, she qualifies that attraction by saying “I knew I was not cut out to be on the farm every day.”
“Bridging the Disconnect”
She was cut out for other facets of the industry. Incredibly active in 4-H, Mary was crowned the National Ayrshire Princess in 2000. Experiences in off farm roles such as this helped Mary to develop her personal perspective on agriculture.” I started to realize the disconnect between consumer and farmer and soon discovered my passion for advocacy.” This was the beginning of Mary’s move from hands on farm projects to hands on a keyboard. Throughout university she continued to hone her enthusiasm for agriculture and the need for advocacy. On the family side, she married and became a Mom. Today she works as the Controller for a local agriculture cooperative and her husband Jesse is an agriculture teacher and FFA advisor.” There is no question that agriculture remains a truly important part of Mary’s daily life.
“On-Line Keeps her Supporting On-Farm”
Not everyone who loves dairy farming sets up a blog. Mary outlines the steps that led her to her place online. “In early 2013, my parents were planning a trip to Brazil with my brother, David. Of course, my Dad wanted to see a dairy farm while he was there. David had some difficulty arranging a tour and he asked me, ‘Why don’t we have a presence online?’. The question was no sooner asked then it was answered. On March 1, 2013; the Mackinson Dairy Facebook page was born.
“Blogging is A Different Way to Do What You Love”
Although it sounds simple, Mary‘s motivation was a little more complicated then the apparently spontaneous beginnings would suggest. “I started the blog for two reasons. I found myself wanting to explain certain topics but they were too long for a Facebook post. My second reason was, if someone asked google, what is ultra-filtered milk? I wanted to provide them with a correct answer. For these reasons, I launched our blog on March 1, 2014 (1 year after the Facebook page).
“Going Mobile Makes a Big Difference”
“This fall, we redesigned our website (mackinsondairy.com) and logo with Becca at Jumping Jax Designs.” In the same way that dairy farmers work hard to realize the full potential of their dairy operation, Mary explains how the changes impact both the delivery and reception of information. “The self-hosted website is home to the blog and allows us to merchandise our Ayrshire genetics. After the makeover, our site is mobile friendly, with 75% of our visitors viewing our site on their phone or tablet.” What a fine example this is of the importance of changing with the times. Whether it’s on the farm or on line! In today’s agricultural market, if you have a product or service to sell, you must be optimized for mobile or you’re ultimately losing sales.
“Making a Difference On Behalf of Agriculture”
There are many ways to make a positive contribution on behalf of agriculture. Mary explains. “I encourage everyone in agriculture to speak honestly about what you do, why you do it and what you love about your way of life. As a Mom, I understand how important it is for other moms and parents to not only know where their food comes from but whom is taking care of the land. Therefore, my blog topics tend to focus on questions a consumer might have while grocery shopping, like the differences between skim, 2% and whole milk to why certain containers of cow’s milk have a longer expiration date. In addition to our blog, I am a contributor to Ask the Farmers and Illinois Farm Families websites. Last November, I decided to participate in a 30 Days series where I featured 34 millennial dairy farmers from across the United States and Canada. Most bloggers (myself included) are excited to feature guest blog posts. This is a great opportunity to write a post without fully committing to a blog yourself. This year, for the 30 Days Series; I decided to focus on women in the dairy industry. I had such an amazing response!” Indeed, the response was outstanding and no wonder! The series concluded with a total of 61 features over 59 days!”
“Dairy Women Make a Difference ‘In their own words!’”
Mary agrees with many bloggers, including myself here at The Bullvine, that connecting with other dairy women in a place away from your business and office can be very uplifting! She shares her enthusiasm. “While blogging is not for everyone, I encourage everyone to share their story in a way they are comfortable with. She feels very strongly that the story of agriculture is an important one to promote. She declares, “I am very much committed to sharing our way of life and my love of dairy farming as well as standing up for all agriculture not only on social media but in our real lives.” She takes her own advice and, once again, sets a fine example of ways she connects with those who are becoming further removed from the farm and current farming practices, “I have been involved with our Farm Bureau Breakfast on the Farm, Cheesecake and Calves promotion and the Illinois Harvest Dinner. Each event successfully connected consumers to agriculture. We must realize we do not always have to have a “big” event to have an impact.”
“It is Important That We All Try to Make a Difference”
For Mary, people are the key reason she reaches out through “The Mackinson Dairy” blog. “I love meeting consumers and should they have questions, answering them. As a Mother to two toddlers, I have enough to worry about. One thing I will never worry about is the dairy products, meat, fruits or vegetables I feed my family. I want to share my confidence in our safe food supply with those who have doubt or questions. I do not want others to fall victim to marketing gimmicks which breed fear to drive the dollar.”
“One-on-One Builds Sharing and Caring”
There are many role models in modern social media and Mary describes one of hers, Laura Daniels. “I drew on inspiration from the Dairy Girl Network and decided to focus on an often overlooked part of the dairy industry, the women. If you are a woman involved in any segment of dairy please check this organization out! I wanted to share these stories of hard working women who all care so much about the dairy industry and their families.
Each individual I featured has her own unique story. Through the series, you will find those involved on the farm, in the industry or both but everyone is a dairy believer. As Laura explained in her Women in Dairy Feature: You will find women who have been farming for decades to those young women who are just starting out. The drive these women possess to be successful is inspiring. Not only do these women raise calves into cows, they are helping raise the next generation of farm kids. Most of all, you will find passion, lots and lots of it.”
“Mary Provides an On-Line Meet and Greet”
Dairy farmers are known for two things. They love working with cattle and they love a good get together. Mary’s brings those two loves front and center with her blog. It isn’t surprising to learn that many ladies expressed an interest in being part of her series.
Mary is both humble and grateful to report on the uptake. “The reaction has been awesome and I am very proud of the series. I truly appreciate everyone who has allowed me to share their story because without their help, this series would not have been possible. The messages I have received about the series makes me so proud to be involved in this great industry! “
The Bullvine Bottom Line
Mary didn’t just hope for a better way to get the dairy story out to consumers, she set the example herself by making sure the message she delivers is informative, relevant and personal. “My social media goal is to post, tweet and share because I want to share agriculture with consumers. I do not know what the future holds but I do want to continue to expand our social media presence by focusing on content and relationships, not the analytics.” The Bullvine and our readers congratulate Mary Mackinson Faber for making a difference with her Blog. “Write on Mary!”