Meet Dairy Farmer Ryan Bright
The Dirt on the Farm
Crops & Livestock Corn, wheat and hay for feed, and they milk around 100 Holstein cows twice a day.
Legacy: Ryan is a fifth-generation farmer.
Farm Location: Philadelphia in Loudon County
Farm Bureau Membership: 23 years
People are curious about what goes on in everyday farm life. How do you share your story?
The Internet is full of information on everything, including farming. A common theme at several Farm Bureau events was the need for farmers to share their stories, so they wouldn’t be left out of the conversation, or worse, have it told for them by someone without good intentions.
While still an unbeliever on jumping into social media, I attended a milk conference on blogging. The lead presenter mentioned you could even have a blog by your cows. One of the undercover farm videos was making rounds at the time, and the two events clicked together. Who better to tell about life on the farm and the inherent good qualities of milk than the cows themselves?
So I created the Udder Side, udderside.blogspot.com, a secret organization of cows reporting on what happens on a dairy farm. Along the way, they poke fun at the farmer and share their passion for milk. It can be anything from deadly serious to silly and sarcastic, depending on which cow is writing the report. (Editor’s Note: Ryan now has a new blog, Farmer Bright: Lost in Thoughts. You can find it here.)
What are your most memorable results from social media?
Connecting with new people tops the list. I’ve talked to people from all over the world. Funny how things turn out; I set out to tell my farm story, and through that I’ve learned so much by listening and reading from others, even when we might not agree.
Second would be people and places I’ve never heard of sharing what I’ve made or written. I’ve seen memes I’ve created and blog posts on Facebook feeds from very unexpected places, and my posts have even been dissected on Reddit. A picture book of farm animals I put together, Counting Cows, has been downloaded beyond any expectations I had. Knowing people are reading, sharing, even disagreeing, means I am making an impact.
Is it important to share what you do?
Definitely. Groups who have no respect for conventional agricultural practices, or agriculture in general, may be a minority, but they are very outspoken. Quick sound bites and sensational headlines drive parts of the media, so we can’t expect them to always portray farming in a positive or even honest light.
[Get] a like, share or retweet, and the number of people who see a post is multiplied. Some of those stories should originate from farmers. Sharing what happens on farms is important whether you do it online or in person.
What are your biggest challenges and blessings on the farm?
The biggest challenge is the to-do list. Some days it arbitrarily grows due to weather, machinery breakdowns or other unforeseen problems, and you feel like you are making no progress at all. On the other side of the coin are the blessings. Watching a newborn calf nurse for the first time. Pumping fresh milk through the pipelines on its way to someone’s breakfast cereal. Continuing a tradition on the same land that several generations worked before me.
Are you Farm Bureau Proud?
Most definitely! My father, uncle and grandmother, Ann R. Bright, were active in our county groups, and she was a leader with Farm Bureau Women. I often tagged along and was exposed to how Farm Bureau could be a powerful force in educating members and as a voice for agriculture in the legislature.
Farm Bureau stays strong because of active members. I was proud to be elected to the Loudon County Board. We’ve had forward-thinking board members and I’ve tried to listen and learn from their experiences. As a member of the board and the dairy commodities committee, I hope I can make a positive impact on agriculture issues.
Tell me about the farm.
Today, we milk approximately 95 Holstein cows twice a day. Rise and shine for us is no later than 4 a.m., and the cows are already waiting for us. The time between milking is when we feed, make repairs and tend to our crops. We raise corn and wheat for silage, as well as hay for our cows. Every day I get to work alongside my father, uncle and our dairyman to get our jobs done.
Dairies in Tennessee are disappearing at an alarming rate. What is the key to remaining profitable?
Living within your means, hard work, helpful weather patterns and luck are all key. As we’re preparing for another downturn in milk prices, we can only hope the choices we made while prices were up will help carry us through until things get good again.