November 4, 2019 | by Tafline Laylin

How hiking helps this dairy farmer process social media attacks

Farmer Girl talks to The Daily Churn about receiving death threats via social media

We recently chased Erica DeWaard up the side of Sumas Mountain to learn more about how she handles the pressures of being on social media. A dairy farmer who works specifically with calves, she has amassed a significant following as “Farmer Girl” — with over 19,000 followers on Instagram and nearly 10,000 on Facebook.

There she posts a lot of photographs of cute calves and other photos depicting daily life on the farm, along with educational posts that are heavy on science.

For example, she recently shared a post about pulmonary surfactant, a substance harvested from cows to help premature babies.

When cows save premature babies

“When a baby is born early, they are not fully developed, and the lungs are really not ready for life outside the womb,” she writes. “One major issue is that their lungs do not have an adequate amount of pulmonary surfactant, the thing responsible for keeping the alveoli in proper working order.”

She says pulmonary surfactant can be harvested from cows within minutes of being butchered (though the cow is never butchered for this reason alone). Once processed, the surfactant is ready for shipping to hospitals around the world.

“The bovine surfactant is then given to premature babies that need it to help them breath,” writes DeWaard, “saving their lives!”

Woman in red jacket sits in a forest

Hiking clears her head

While her experience with social media has been positive overall, 27-year-old DeWaard says she has also confronted a lot of negativity, including death threats. That hasn’t stopped her from continuing to express herself openly, but she has had to develop new coping mechanisms. Which is where hiking comes in.

DeWaard says hiking gives her a chance to break away from her digital duties and clear her head. Last year she and her father Joel committed to doing 52 hikes. Not only did they meet that goal, but they actually exceeded it — hitting 60 trails throughout Oregon and Washington.

As for her future? DeWaard would love to be able to have her own calf-raising facility one day, but says land where she lives is expensive — so for now, she’ll continue to raise calves for other farms.

“Dairy farming is my life,” she says — at least when she’s not out hiking.

Hit the link above to learn more about Farmer Girl. We’ve included the transcript below.

Women wearing glasses poses in front of a red barn

Transcript:

My name is Erica DeWaard.

I am a 27-year-old dairy farmer who specializes in raising calves.

I grew up in Lynden, Wash., which is just south of the Canadian border.

A lot of people know me as Farmer Girl, which is my username on Instagram and Facebook.

I use social media to try teach people about dairy farming and show them how much passion goes into raising calves and dairy farming in general.

After about a year, my account became popular enough that it gained negative attention.

And I started to receive messages and comments that incuded death threats.

As a way to help myself be able to deal with the negative attention, I started doing a lot of hiking.

Hiking helps me a lot mentally, as it is a way to get away from everything, and put everything in perspective.

I especially enjoy hiking on Sumas Mountain.

Sumas Mountain looks out over the farmland of Whatcom County.

I love seeing all the farms down below and knowing how much farmers care about their land.

Being up here helps me gain perspective and remember why I am on social media in the first place.

While I get a lot of negative responses, most of the interactions I have are actually positive.

Just yesterday, I got a message from someone who hadn’t bought any dairy products in several years because of the negative things they have heard about farming.

But after hearing about dairy farming from me, they actually went out and bought a gallon of milk for the first time.

That makes what I do worth it.

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