by Courtney Llewellyn

Many people are familiar with the concept of a dairy princess – the poised young woman in the sash strolling around the county fair or visiting local schools to talk up the benefits of the dairy industry. Emily Shaw was never a dairy princess, but she is a different kind of royalty: an Instagram influencer, with nearly 7,000 followers. As @DairyGirlFitness, she inspires others to keep in shape and support the dairy industry.

Shaw said both her parents grew up on dairy farms and that led to her and her siblings growing up with a passion for the industry. “We raised show heifers at home, and were heavily involved in showing and judging through 4-H and FFA,” she said. “Through high school and college I continued to join groups and organizations that were related to dairy like the Junior Holstein Association and the Penn State Dairy Science Club.”

She attended Penn State and earned a bachelor’s in agribusiness management and specialization in dairy science, graduating in May 2017. While in college she made it a priority to always have a job or internship related to agriculture, including working on two dairy farms, at Northeast AgriSolutions Force, at AgChoice Farm Credit and with Phibro Animal Health.

“I grew up in the dairy industry and hate to see so much negativity being spread about it,” Shaw said. “I know that consumers want to choose the products that are best for their health and the environment, but there is so much confusing information out there for them to see and understand. I knew that I could reach more people outside of our industry and tell dairy’s story, and have important conversations about how our industry is constantly improving.” That’s what inspired her to become an “agvocate” – but she uses her reach for more than just that.

Shaw noted she played multiple sports her entire life, so when she started college and stopped playing competitive sports, she turned to the gym. During her senior year she became more serious about weight lifting and strength training. “Motivation comes and goes with anyone, but I exercise because I know how great it makes me feel and I remember the goals I have set. Working out makes me feel strong, happy and confident,” she explained.

Recently certified as a personal trainer, she continued that a healthy lifestyle should include some daily exercise and eating a balanced diet where you’re eating enough protein, fat and carbohydrates. Dairy products are full of high quality protein, vitamins and minerals that your body needs and can also help replenish your muscles after a tough workout.

She decided to combine her passions with her Instagram account because she wanted to reach a large audience and show them they don’t need to cut dairy or animal products out of your diet to be healthy, along with sharing facts about agriculture and explaining common misconceptions.

“I also want to encourage people that taking care of your mind and body is so important for your health and in helping live a happier life. I think people still have this old school image in their head of what farming and farmers look like, so I want to show the modern story. My goal is to continue to reach a bigger audience, and to keep growing my account, because the accounts with a larger following typically (and sometimes unfortunately) are seen the most,” she said.

Like any popular social media presence, Shaw sees her fair share of negativity. If a person who doesn’t care about the facts and will not change their mind no matter what she says, she usually responds with a quick, positive remark like “Thank you for taking the time to interact with my account!” She feels that being polite (or a little sarcastic) usually works better to make them go away. “If the person asks a legitimate question or shares incorrect facts, I will respond with the correct answer or tell them different farm accounts to follow,” she explained.

Going forward, Shaw aims to keep growing her follower count and continue to reach more accounts outside of the agriculture industry and in the fitness industry.

Shaw has been extra busy this month, taking advantage of Dairy Month to boost her platform. “It’s important that we agvocate for our industry and all of animal agriculture because there are so many people that are constantly trying to paint a negative picture of it, and those people will go to the extremes to do so,” she said. “Celebrating National Dairy Month is important because it brings more attention to dairy and also allows us to showcase our farms, animals and products in a fun and creative way.

“Whether we like it or not, social media has the biggest influence on the middle and younger generation, and if we don’t share our stories and facts about agriculture, the truth will get lost. We have to show consumers why dairy farming is great, and why they should continue to consume dairy products.”