As a third-generation dairy farmer, Sutton Rucks of Milking R Dairy, Inc., in Okeechobee, Fla., is always looking for ways to grow the business he’s been part of since his pre-teen years. A pivotal moment several years ago prompted his family to focus more time and investment in advocacy for dairy farming and outreach to the public—and they haven’t looked back.
“In our area, we had several activist videos pop up, and we were going to take the approach of we’re going to take our farm sign down and stick our head in the sand and keep doing what we do, milking cows,” explains Rucks in a November 2022 video interview with Trust In Food, the sustainable agriculture division of Farm Journal.
“One day, the family and I … [said], ‘This is our passion, this is what we love to do. We’re going to open our doors. We’re going to bring these people out here. I tell people when they come here, ‘If there’s a calf on our farm for one day or a cow on our farm for 20 years, our goal is to give her the best life we possibly can.”
Over the past three years, the Rucks family has expanded into giving farm tours, serving up its own proprietary ice cream flavors and diversifying into other products such as meat and, in 2023, a fresh produce partnership with another farmer.
He encourages his fellow dairy farmers to consider ways small and big they can reach out to their community. His first event didn’t have any dedicated space. Instead, they invited students from the city, provided bales for seating and made a small corn pit and a few cornhole games. The guests loved it. Every relationship built with people matters, Rucks says.
“I know it’s grassroots, but just that one positive impression you can leave on one person at a time, it’s eventually going to multiply into hundreds if not thousands and tens of thousands,” he says.
Click the play button to watch the full video interview on dairy farm advocacy with Florida dairy farmer Rucks.