A Union Bridge dairy farmer has switched to a digital format to teach others and answer questions about the dairy farming industry during the widespread closures and cancellations forced by the coronavirus known as COVID-19.
Katie Dotterer-Pyle, owner of Cow Comfort Inn Dairy in Union Bridge, held a public virtual tour March 20. On the virtual tour, Dotterer-Pyle discussed topics such as how cows are milked, why calves are housed in a calf barn, there not being a food shortage, and even the importance of poop, according to a post on her Facebook page.
Dotterer-Pyle decided to do a virtual tour to provide educational information while students are stuck at home with schools closed as the coronavirus spreads in Maryland.
“Everybody is stuck at home and, if they’re an extrovert like me, going completely insane,” Dotterer-Pyle said in an interview March 19. “So I love to interact with people, I love to connect with people, especially people that want to learn, like actually want to understand where their food comes from. So I’m just like, ‘You know what? Let’s offer this to the public.’ A lot of kids are home from school, they can ask me live questions as we go through the farm tour.”
Educating people on the dairy farming industry is important to Dotterer-Pyle because of the amount of farmers in the United States and what she described as misinformation that propagates on social media.
“Farmers are less than 2% of the population, so, that being said, we have a lot of people that are removed from agriculture, and they don’t necessarily understand what goes on on a farm every day. Because we’re such a small percentage ... with social media and us farmers are out there on social media, but because they’re such a small portion of us, we don’t have the platform, the money or the big voice, like anti-animal or anti-agricultural people do,” Dotterer-Pyle said. “I get attacked by activists all the time, I have received death threats in the past by these people that have this alternate story of what we do, but yet they’ve never stepped foot on a dairy farm. So I want people to see the reason I do this, and the reason it’s important is for people to see an actual dairy farm, actual people doing the work every day.”
Dotterer-Pyle finds it important to give people reliable, first-hand information from a dairy farmer.
“My hashtag is pretty popular, I actually do sell shirts with it on too, but it’s ‘#AskFarmersNotGoogle.’ Google has never milked a cow, right? We’re the ones that rise and shine every single day to do this,” Dotterer-Pyle said. “So ask us your questions. We get it, consumers have questions, and I would too if I didn’t grow up on a farm, but please make sure that you’re asking a credible source and not Google and not your mommy blogger friend who, again, might buy milk but she’s never taught a dairy farm. You need to ask the actual source.”
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Due to the coronavirus, Dotterer-Pyle had to change her plans for teaching two McDaniel College environmental studies classes. Those classes will be taught remotely only to McDaniel students next week, on March 26 at 11:30 a.m. and on March 27 and 2 p.m.
The college announced March 17 that all instruction for the remainder of the spring 2020 semester will move online after spring break.
Dotterer-Pyle said those classes will cover the environmental impacts and the sustainability story of the dairy farm.
“With the McDaniel tours, I will focus more and specifically on environmental practices. So, one of those is going to be recycling, dairy farmers recycle so many things,” she said. “Just for example, we recycle manure here. We recycle our cow poop, so we actually take our cow poo, we separate it so it goes through what we call separator so it separates all the water. So we’re left with what we call the fiber or solids of the manure and we dry that out for a dry, fluffy consistency.”