Matt Nuckols wants you to know a thing or two about dairy farm life.
This is Cinderella. But she's not a princess — she's a cow.
And not just any cow; Cinderella happens to be one of the most popular cows in all of Virginia.
Matt and Cinderella on the farm. Photo courtesy of Matt Nuckols/Eastview Farm.
Cinderella and her owner, dairy farmer Matt Nuckols, make regular appearances around the state. They’ve been to schools, agriculture clubs, competitions, state fairs, and more. Cinderella has even met the past five Miss Virginias and the governor's wife.
Matt and his cows are on a mission to show people, firsthand, what it's like to live and work on a dairy farm.
Eastview Farm has been in Matt's family for decades. It started as a more traditional operation in the mid-1940s — "kind of the Old MacDonald-type farm," Matt says — before his grandparents started the dairy portion of the business in 1955. The farm was passed to Matt's dad, F.C., and uncle, Wayne, who then passed it on to Matt and his cousin Taylor.
From left to right: Matt, Taylor, Elsie, Wayne, and F.C. Nuckols standing on their family farm in Beaverdam, Virginia. Photo courtesy of Eastview Farm.
The cousins have been working on the farm for as long as they can remember. "I started feeding calves as the first job I worked," Matt says. "I was about 5 or 6 years old."
Technically, F.C. and Wayne are retired now, but that doesn't really mean much. "My dad only works about 13 hours a day," Matt laughs. "They're cutting back."
This connection between family and farming is actually pretty common across the country. According to the 2012 census of agriculture, 98% of farms in America are family-owned and -operated.
Eastview Farm is a beautiful place to live, both for the Nuckols and for their cows. Photo courtesy of Matt Nuckols/Eastview Farm.
Matt also attends events so he can show people what a living, breathing farmer is like.
He aims to combat some of the stereotypical ideas about farming he hears from people, many of whom have never met a dairy farmer or been on a farm themselves.
Some of the places he and Cinderella go are full of other farmers, like fairs, competitions, and cow shows. But they also go to schools and colleges to talk about dairy farming.
Matt often takes cows out into the community to teach adults and kids alike about farming. Photo courtesy of Matt Nuckols/Eastview Farm.
"A lot of it is just getting to meet a farmer," says Matt. "People see we actually come in different sizes and shapes and accents and musical preferences."
Matt also lets the people he meets know his strong opinions on the way he runs his farm with respect to how milk is made, how it's shipped, and how the cows are treated.
One of the ways that Eastview Farm holds itself accountable for the animals' well-being is through the National Dairy FARM Program — a third-party reviewer that makes sure participating dairies handle their cows with care. And Matt isn't alone in that — 98% of the milk supply in the United States comes from dairies enrolled in FARM.
He hopes to be able to get those messages across whenever he can — but of course, it depends on the audience. "Young kids mostly just want to know how much the cows weigh and how old they are and stuff," Matt says.
The Nuckols often participate in events and interact with people who are curious about dairying. Photo courtesy of Matt Nuckols/Eastview Farm.
But with the parents and teachers who accompany them, Matt can open a direct dialogue about dairy practices, from antibiotics and organics to the size of the farm and beyond.
As long as people are willing to listen, Matt's going to keep talking about what he does.
"People want to know so much more about their food — where it comes from, how it got to the store, and how the cows are treated," Matt says. "And I know they're gonna get information from somebody. So we really want to get out there and give them the information ourselves."