Agriculture, Education February 01, 2023
Agent of Change: Dairy Carrie
Pioneer of Farm Connection
Paving a digital pathway for modern farm advocacy.
Carrie Mess is an "OG" (original guru) in the world of online agricultural advocacy.
Due in part to her pioneering on-line content, she's now one in a chorus of voices sharing the ag story.
Dairy Carrie started in 2011 with a simple blog about daily life on a Wisconsin dairy. Mess integrated social media platforms as they became available, expanding her audience. She struck a chord with many providing a gritty, unapologetic, and informative look inside production agriculture.
"I was writing for my city family and friends. I never had any intention of becoming an influencer," she says. Yet she is.
Dairy Carrie has thousands of followers on several platforms. She's an in-demand agricultural keynote speaker. In 2022, she was among 300 invited to the White House Conference on Food, Nutrition and Health.
Her success as an advocate has everything to do with who she is as a person, says fellow early online advocate Brandi Buzzard.
"She's authentic," says Buzzard, creator of Buzzard's Beat.
When Buzzard first found Mess online, she was struck by her straightforward, honest representation of agriculture.
"She has a way of telling it like it is. The grocery shopper gets the information they're looking for, but she doesn't sugarcoat the business or skirt any issue," Buzzard says.
Her work helped create an agricultural community that embraces the power of social media.
"People thought social media was a joke, something for kids to waste time with. Now there are 65-year-old farmers sitting in the combine scrolling through TikTok videos," Mess says.
Agriculturists understand the power social media has to amplify their voice and their truth.
Assimilating information. Being fluid in technology and thinking has been necessary for Mess to maintain her presence.
She's chased algorithms and adopted new social media platforms. She's seen what resonates with audiences and what doesn't. Most importantly, she's listened.
"As we've matured in this world of social media, we have a greater opportunity to connect with and learn from others," Mess says.
She's blocked plenty raging extremists, but always opts to enter a good back and forth dialog.
"With all the information available to us now there's amazing opportunity to keep learning," she says. "I greatly respect those able to take in new information and change their mind based on what they've learned."
Mess and Buzzard have listened and changed how they communicate and how they advise others to impact public perception.
"We know better, so we can and should do better," Buzzard says. For instance, they've found boycotting companies isn't effective.
"Carrie has been a leading voice in recognizing when we're falling short and when we can do better as an online agricultural community," says Buzzard.
Mess found she had to be bold with her home audience as well when she embarked on her passion project, Humans of Agriculture.
The project features stories focused on the non-ag lives of agriculturists. The stories show at the end of the day farmers are just people, too, Mess says.
Featured farmers were parents, athletes, hobbyists and people fighting illnesses. Some were also immigrants, minorities and part of the LBGTQ community.
"Unfortunately after those pieces I found some farmers can be meaner than the most extreme vegan," Mess recalls. But there was also great good in the feedback.
She received private messages from farmers in those communities thanking her. They shared that they'd lived their entire life hoping to feel they have a place in the farming world they were born into and love. Her work gave them hope.
Mess now has two small children and is ready to scale back to the platforms and content she prefers.
"There used to be a small handful of us sharing our stories. Now I couldn't begin to know all the influencers. That's awesome. More power to them," Mess says. ‡
The Human Element
What's it take to make a change?
Agent of Change: Greg Page
Lessons from Page
Insights too good to keep in a pile of notes.