Frustrated by the narrative that paints dairy farmers as cruel and uncaring, the three sisters—Evelyn (23), Claudia (21) and Jojo Leubner (17)—are using their social media savvy to showcase their day-to-day lives on their Marrietta, New York dairy farm.
The sisters, part of the Gen Z generation that has lived their entire lives online, started accounts on prominent platforms such as in Instagram, TikTok, Facebook and YouTube. Their goal is to share their farm experiences in hopes of mitigating misconceptions about the dairy industry—or “AGvocating” for their farming practices, as the NY Farm Girls accounts put it.
“We were scrolling through social media and we realized there are so many bad things out there about farming, especially dairy farming,” says Evelyn, the oldest sister. The trio didn’t see content that reflected how, as farmers, they care for their cows and crops or the level of work they put in to make sure both thrive.
“We were like, ‘Wait, we farm every day. All this bad stuff about farming, especially dairy farming, is not what’s happening,’” says Evelyn. So the sisters decided to put all their cow and crop pictures to use and started posting on Instagram regularly in 2015, aiming to crush the “all dairy farmers are evil” stereotype they kept encountering online.
Their following grew slowly at first. It wasn’t until a few years and a TikTok account later, in 2019, that the sisters started noticing higher engagement. Viewers can follow along as the young farmers care for cattle, plant and harvest crops, as well as operate machinery. But they also get a look at the sisters’ lives and thoughts outside of agriculture. The girls don’t shy away from personal posts, such as videos that offer a glimpse into Evelyn’s recent wedding, as well as honest reactions to the negativity they sometimes encounter on social platforms.
As with most viral content online, the sisters put their twist on social media trends, but they also showcase daily duties around the farm. With heartfelt, often vulnerable captions concerning the inner thoughts and feelings of three women working a farm, the sisters have cultivated a core group of followers. Now, the NY Farm Girls have nearly 150,000 followers on Instagram and more than 650,000 followers on TikTok, along with a popular YouTube channel and even their own line of merchandise.
Each sister has her own niche on the fourth-generation farm their family has been running for around 100 years, as well as online.
While all three started farming young by helping out in the calf barn, their roles on the farm have evolved. Evelyn, who studied animal science at SUNY Cobleskill, has a way with cows and words. She works as one of the herd managers, covering pretty much all things health related for the 500 cows on the farm. Virtually, she is responsible for much of the writing that goes into each post.
Claudia is on camera and on crops. Comfortable talking on screen, you’ll see her often in YouTube and TikTok videos. She’s focused on working the fields—including 1,800 acres of wheat, soybeans, hay and corn—doing plantings and harvests, as well as growing pumpkins for the family’s agritourism business, a 70-acre pumpkin patch down the road from the main farm.
The youngest, Jojo, is a junior in high school. But that doesn’t stop her from being an active member of the farm, where she works as a calf manager monitoring feedings, as well as assisting with posts for the sisters’ social media accounts.
Just like farming, running NY Farm Girls has its rewards and challenges.
A huge part of the sisters’ mission is to pull back the curtain and show people what is behind the products they consume. “Showing people the reality of dairy farming is huge,” says Evelyn. “Changing people’s minds and getting comments that say ‘Oh, that’s how milk is made’ or ‘Oh, those cows are treated well’ and just having an impact on people that aren’t sure about farming is my favorite part.”
The NY Farm Girls are also grateful for the community they’ve found online. “When you’re in the farming world and you’re always on the farm, you feel a little bit isolated,” she says. “But online you realize how many more farmers are just like us and you feel a lot less alone.”
As far as the future for the farmers and their accounts goes, they hope their following continues to grow as they do. “I know a lot of younger people follow us because they relate to us,” says Evelyn. “So, as we grow, we just want to keep creating our little community we have on social media and sharing more and continue teaching people about ag.”