by Debra J. Groom
Farmers are the best in teaching consumers about where food comes from. That’s true even if the farmer is eight years old.
Today, more and more children – even as young as kindergartners – are taking to the airwaves, speaking at special events and visiting with everyday folks to talk about what happens on the farm.
Take Brynley and Raegan Bossard, for example. Brynley, 8, and Raegan, 5, have their own show called “Fun Farm Facts Friday” on their farm’s Facebook page. If consumers go to the Barbland Dairy Facebook page on Fridays, they can find the sisters explaining all sorts of activities on the farm, from cutting and chopping corn to getting rid of old blemished pumpkins to making chocolate pumpkin pancakes to using farm equipment and taking care of calves.
“If they can learn and know about farming, how farmers work very hard, they will understand,” Brynley said.
Johanna Fox-Bossard, the girls’ mother and an ag teacher at Hamilton Central School, said one day Brynley talked to visitors during a farm tour at Barbland Dairy in Fabius, Onondaga County. She talked about what a cow eats. Brynley did such as great job that “Fun Farm Facts Friday” was born. “I created a monster,” her mom laughed.
Barbland and White Eagle Dairy are owned and operated by the Bossard, Huysman, Engst and Carhart families. The farm provides 75 local jobs for people who work with 3,800 cows, 2,900 heifers and 9,000 acres of corn sileage, grain corn, grass and alfalfa.
Fox-Bossard said she and the girls come up with ideas for “Fun Farm Facts Friday” and then try to figure out how to put the information out in a fun way on Facebook.
“We try to interview people around the farm,” she said, noting Brynley recently interviewed Brandon Schwarting about chopping corn. “The farm workers are all very skilled and we ask if we can interview them – they always say yes.”
Fox-Bossard said the girls have never been forced into doing anything, but they are curious and ask a lot of questions. From there, ideas for Facebook shows are born.
“Bret [the girls’ father] and I expose them to things on the farm. We try to slow down and educate them,” she said.
Brynley said she’ll write what she wants to say on the show and “then I practice in the car. Some are a little hard,” she said.
“It’s life lessons for the kids,” Fox-Bossard said. “And it gives us more time to spend together.”
Emma Andrew-Swarthout, director of dairy industry image for the American Dairy Association North East, said children being involved in speaking to consumers is a win-win for everyone. She said dairy groups are trying to do more engagement with Gen Z (those ages 10 to 21) and youngsters could be just the ticket.
“Data are showing they are our next big consumer group,” Andrew-Swarthout said. “They have greater concern about the environment, greater concern about social responsibility. With peer-to-peer discussion, they could learn more from people their own age.”
Sometimes it can be as simple as being seen eating or drinking a particular product. Andrew-Swarthout said Gabby Taylor, a senior in high school, has her own Instagram page, @DairyDilemmaTruths, that discusses dairy. Taylor is also an athlete and often brings bottles of chocolate milk to practice to refuel after a tough workout.
“She is saying ‘I work on a farm and I know this is a great product,’” Andrew-Swarthout said. “It’s a great avenue to talk to peers.”
She added that kids also do a much better job talking to people without farm jargon, using simple words to explain what’s happening on the farm. “They are very consumer-minded,” she said.
Brynley said she sometimes gets nervous doing “Fun Farm Facts Friday,” but in the end “it’s fun.” She expanded her dairy marketing this summer when she answered visitors’ questions at the Dairy Cow Birthing Center at the Great New York State Fair. With microphone in hand, she helped her dad with questions like “What is a heifer?” and “What happens after the calf is born?” and “How long is a cow pregnant?”
She and Raegan also welcomed and talked to nearly 1,000 people at Barbland Dairy for OnFarmFest, an annual Onondaga County event in which different types of farms in the county open their doors to visitors so they can see their operations and learn about where their food comes from.
“I like to teach people about agriculture and farming,” Brynley said. “We’re a team in getting the word out,” her mom added.
To see Brynley and Raegan in action, search for Barbland Dairy of Facebook. The “Fun Farm Facts Friday” segments run at about 8 a.m. or from 5 – 10 p.m. each Friday.