A dairy farmer and rancher are on a mission to change the way the world views agriculture, one podcast episode at a time.
Discover Ag is a podcast where hosts, Natalie Kovarik and Tara Vander Dussen share relevant and captivating conversations about Agriculture so you can better understand the food system, and connect with the hands that feed us. Every Thursday they highlight Agriculture in a modern and fun way, giving their professional farming opinions on a mix of entertainment, facts, and trending news articles. Discover Ag has been described as a mix between Mike Rowe’s “The Way I Heard It” podcast and the OShry sister’s “The Toast” podcast.
I was so excited to sit down with both of them to hear their story and learn more about their mission of discovering and elevating agriculture.
Krysta: Before we get into the really good stuff, I’m dying to know, how did this partnership come about?
Tara: Natalie and I were both sharing online individually for years and when we started, there weren’t a ton of women in ag sharing online. We connected about five years ago in a DM where we would just talk and support each other pretty regularly. Then in March of 2021, we met in person for the first time when I ended up attending Natalie’s Rural Rooted Retreat. At the time, I was working on some things for my New Mexico Milkmaid platform that ended up falling through and in that struggle was the birth of Elevate Ag when we realized that we could come together and accomplish so much more than individually. Together, we shared some really cool goals of being able to give farmers, ranchers, and producers the tools to help them with their own online sharing journey. November 2021 is when we founded Elevate Ag and shortly after that, we started writing out the content for our first online course. Then by January 2022, we were filming the course, and we launched the podcast in April 2022.
Natalie: From my standpoint, I had been doing my Rural Rooted Retreats, and while I love them, and I’m a huge proponent for in-person learning, I also recognize that there was a large part of my audience that still had questions and needed help but couldn’t afford or attend those in-person events. So when Tara asked me what I thought about an online course, I was very drawn to the idea of creating something that was more accessible for everyone in our industry.
Krysta: Looking back, did either of you ever expect that you’d be producing a podcast, sharing about agriculture?
Tara: We founded Elevate Ag in November of 2021 but we actually signed up for a six-month mastermind individually in January and went as completely separate entities. Very early on, we realized we should probably just do our calls and everything together because a lot of our goals aligned, and even in the midst of that we still had our own individual things going on but that changed pretty quickly when we realized just how aligned our goals were.
Natalie: As far as the podcast goes, Tara and I both found that surprising when it came up. It was not something we had built into our quarterly goals or even yearly goals. I had actually been asked to start a podcast before and even though I love the podcast platform, I just didn’t see what I would talk about or how that fit into what I was doing. But the further Tara and I got into developing Elevate Ag, the more it became apparent that the podcast made sense for us. It wasn’t too long after the idea was planted, that we were boots on the ground running, so it was pretty quick from start to finish.
Krysta: Elevate Ag came first, but where did the idea for Discover Ag stem from?
Tara: Originally the podcast started as Elevate Ag to accompany the E-Course we had just launched. So season one of the podcast really focused on the education aspect to support the course. Then when we started to plan season two, we knew there were changes that we wanted to make. We both found ourselves in a place on our personal sharing journeys where we really wanted to dive into some of these topics that we were only touching on in nine-second reels but weren’t able to go into all the details. At first, we kind of were trying to straddle both the educational content and sharing about news in agriculture but halfway through season two, it was just obvious that we wanted to go feet first into sharing news articles that were all about discovering ag. So we went through a full rebrand in November and are now fully sharing trending news stories and topics on agriculture for the podcast.
The reason we got online originally was to share about agriculture so I think switching the podcast to Discover Ag was like going back to our roots and really opening up agriculture to people who might not otherwise know about it.
Natalie: It really got me excited to share about agriculture again on a new platform and in a new way. Everything right now online is so short, it’s like how much can you fit into your 8-9 second reel or your 15-second story. So the idea of having those deeper level conversations on a longer platform where we could really dive into topics and interview other people is just really really exciting.
Krysta: Beyond the podcast, you both are part of the less than 2% of America that is feeding the rest of the country, how would you describe the importance of what you’re doing on your podcast from a ranching and farming perspective?
Tara: I don’t think we’ll be dairy farming or we won’t be dairy farming in the same way if we don’t get out and share ag with people and connect people back to where their food comes from. Does my sharing online change our milk check? No, but I do think that ultimately, people have to understand Ag in order to continue believing in these products, buying these products, and just being a part of where their food comes from.
Krysta Paffrath: If you could have any guest on the show, who would it be and why?
Tara: I don’t think it’s a single person, it’s more of an idea of a person. I think it would be so fascinating to be connected to an Oprah of the world that has a TV show that reaches millions of people that are not connected to ag, people that are just everyday Americans. I just feel like being able really to open up our farms to the everyday American mom that’s looking for a recipe or something for their home would be so powerful. I just like the idea of being able to bring ag to people in a new way would be so impactful.
Natalie: I would have Mike Rowe on. I have always been the biggest fan of his, his mission, his belief system, and the way he supports and admires the western and ag industries. I think it would be such an honor to have him on the show.
Krysta: If someone is interested in learning more about where their food comes from or about agriculture in general, what is the first thing that person should do?
Tara: I always recommend finding a rancher or farmer to connect with, whether online or in real life. My husband has done tons of farm tours, so if you have a chance to do a farm tour, you should definitely go do it. If you don’t, the Internet has obviously connected us in ways we can’t even imagine so go find some farmers to follow and connect with them there. I just think when you get your information directly from the source of the people growing your food, it just leaves so much less room for misinformation and it can just be a conversation of being able to ask them the questions you have about your food.
Natalie: I second what Tara said, with the power behind social media, you could connect with someone across the nation or the world, any time of the day. So if you’re wanting to get in touch with the hands that feed us, then a really quick and affordable way is to do that online.
Krysta: How would you describe the connection between agriculture and the western lifestyle?
Natalie: To me, they’re very interlaced. One of my original missions for sharing online was to be able to share the beauty of the western lifestyle and every aspect of our ranching operation. I think it even ties back to the passion that both industries really have as well. There may be people in the Western industry who aren’t as connected to raising beef or dairy but they still have that passion for the lifestyle we all live. They’re advocates of rural America and still support the agriculture industry. I think it comes down to those similar morals, passions, and belief systems that we all share, whether we’re raising the food or not.
Tara: I think my answer would probably be a little different because I don’t necessarily consider our lifestyle, western but I’ve always appreciated the fact that there is a lot of overlap between the two industries. I have always been of the mindset that Ag united is so much stronger together than apart and when we loop in our western counterparts, whether that’s rodeo or something else, we’re such a stronger voice.
Krysta: What does the future look like for Discover Ag?
Tara: We are excited to be launching a docuseries that pairs with our podcast. We filmed the pilot episode last fall and are currently finishing up the edits on that now. Then hopefully we can start reaching out to production companies and networks to show them what we’ve put together.
Natalie: For the first series, we actually toured a cotton farm in California and the first episode is going to be about connecting people with the hands that feed them and how cotton plays a role in that.
Natalie and Tara come from different sides of the agriculture industry but have come together in Discover Ag to make agriculture fun and relatable to those who are curious about learning where their food comes from. You can catch the latest episode of the show by tuning into any of your favorite podcast players and searching for “Discover Ag”.
Cowboy Lifestyle Magazine
This article with Natalie Kovarik & Tara Vander Dussen was created for the Spring Issue of the Cowboy Lifestyle Magazine which was released in April 2023. You can catch this article and many more by checking out the full issue. For more information on Cowboy Lifestyle Magazine, visit the website here.
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