In this week’s Women in Ag segment, That’s Farming, speaks to Evelyn Leubner of NY Farm Girls about their 550-cow herd on 2,100-acres and social media fame.
TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube stars, NY Farm Girls, quite frankly, describe themselves as “three sisters agvocating and changing the future of agriculture”.
22-year-old, Evelyn Leubner and her sisters, Claudia and Jojo, hail from a fourth-generation dairy and crop farm in Marietta, New York.
The farm, spanning 2,100-acres, is the home of their 550-cow Holstein and Jersey herd and crop, pumpkin and agri-tourism enterprises.
The operation is a partnership between their father, uncle, aunt, and two cousins, whilst there is a team of approximately ten other employees – including the sister trio – that keep the wheels turning.
Each of the three sisters have various roles and responsibilities on the large-scale enterprise.
Evelyn told That’s Farming: “I work on the cow side of the operation, completing health checks, milking cows, drying off cows, vaccinating and odd jobs around the parlour and barn.”
“On the other hand, Claudia works on the crop side of the operation and assists during the planting and harvest season. She works in the shop during the offseason and also prepares tractors and machinery for the seasons to come.”
“Furthermore, Jojo is the calf manager. She feeds, beds, and looks after the calves every day. We have about 100 calves in total, so this is a pretty big job for a 16-year-old. She also treats any sick calves and feeds newborns with our newborn calf protocol,” she added.
The social media agvocates are on a mission to “show consumers the truth about agriculture, share our lives on the farm, and to bust myths about the dairy industry”.
They created their NY Farm Girls (NYFG) account in 2015 and have racked up followers across the globe in this space of time.
As a result, they boast over 106,000 Instagram followers, more than 27,000 Facebook likes, in excess of 73,000 YouTube subscribers and over 380,000 followers on TikTok, with just shy of 8 million views on the video-sharing social networking service.
They post Instagram stories on their day-to-day life, vlogs on YouTube, short clips on TikTok daily and have launched a popular merchandise range.
Evelyn continued: “Any posts debunking the myths of dairy farming, such as why we separate the calves from their mother and the fact that there are no antibiotics in milk, usually go viral.”
“We receive negative feedback all of the time! However, we choose to ignore it. We know what we are talking about; we live it every day!”
“All of us are part-time farmers because our social media page and our 70-acre pumpkin farm take up the other half of our time. Also, we have a large agri-tourism business in the fall. It keeps us very busy.”
“I say part-time, but we go where we are needed. Sometimes, the dairy and crop farm becomes a full-time job, and other weeks, it is part-time.”
They base some of their written and video posts around their dairy enterprise, which Evelyn provided an insight into during her interview with That’s Farming.
“We operate a year-round calving system, with about seven calves born each week. We use AI (artificial insemination). However, I am not as involved in this part of our farm. My cousin, Adam, does all of the breeding on the farm.”
“My ideal cow is docile, with high milk yields, good body condition, breeds back easily and is easy calved. We keep the female calves and raise them as replacement heifers and sell the bull calves as beef or veal.”
“Holsteins are known for their high milk yields, and Jerseys are known for being very efficient and having a high-fat content in their milk. That is why we have selected these breeds.”
“We do not put our cows on pasture; we have a free-stall barn. Our parlour is a double 16 parallel milking parlour. We milk cows three times a day, and it takes us about 7 minutes to milk each cow. The entire milking shift takes about 5 hours.”
“I love getting up early and already having 10,000 steps before half of the world is awake. I also love caring for animals. Cows are my favourite animals, even after all of these years of working with them.”
“I spent four years in college learning about them, and they will forever hold a special place in my heart. I have a Bachelors in Animal Science with a focus on dairy. Claudia decided not to pursue college and grow our business instead. Jojo is still deciding what she wants to do,” she added.
Since embarking on her farming venture, the biggest challenge she has faced is understanding the circle of life. “I am a very emotional person, and I get attached to animals easily.”
“It is hard watching animals die after helping them fight for their life. I put my heart into these animals every day, so it can be hard to see them go.”
“The public hating on farmers constantly is challenging. We are working hard to break the barrier that is between producers and consumers because it makes us so sad that some people truly think that farmers are evil.”
Commenting on women in agriculture, she said: “Our dad always had us doing all of the jobs on the farm, despite our gender.”
“We are treated the same as a man on our farm. If we are ever questioned about our ability, it is not that hard to prove them wrong just by showing them how well we do our job.”
“The women that choose to show their involvement in agriculture on social media are getting acknowledged.”
“I think other women just seeing what we are doing and how we work on a farm and love it is enough to encourage other women to do the same thing,” she added.
Feeding the world and connecting with consumers
As agricultural ambassadors and educators, the sister’s have one common goal, that is: “to regain trust in consumers again”.
“We want people to come to us for any of their questions about agriculture instead of going to a search engine and finding some misinformation about agriculture.”
“Being a young person in agriculture is empowering. We get to do our part in feeding the world while also sharing our life through social media, which enables us to connect with consumers positively,” Evelyn concluded.
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