After College:The Real Challenge Begins

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After graduating from a Big Ten University, I thought I’d hit the ground of the real world running. I mean, I thought I could find the perfect job doing what I love and still live where I wanted. It was supposed to be a piece of cake. At least, that’s how I had pictured it. And I’m almost as sure as the sky is blue, that I’m not the only 22-year-old that thought this.

Here’s my biggest problem, I have a past. I have 22 years of living on this perfect little dairy and grain farm in the middle of nowhere, Illinois. I’ve spent hours upon hours working show calves, hauling straw bales, and doing anything else that needed done while surrounded by family. Maybe it wasn’t supposed to happen, but it did. I fell in love with this simple way of life. There’s so much blood, sweat, and tears that go into it. But that’s part of the reason I love it. You can’t replace the feeling of getting an offer on your home raised show heifer. Or jumping in the pool after a long day of riding the wagon while putting up straw. There’s such a reward to be reaped after tackling these massive tasks.

So, I’ve done the best to compromise. I took a job just 30 minutes from my home, not my dream job by any means.  But hey, I’m not against working my way up the totem pole. The best part? I’m home every night to do what I so deeply love. I get home right in time to do chores. Which sounds crazy to 4 out of every 5 people that have heard this. “You mean, you go right home after work so you can work even more?” Why yes, yes I do. Here’s a little secret, this “extra work” that they are referring to doesn’t feel like work at all. It’s more like family bonding to me. I get to work alongside my Mom and Dad and uphold a family legacy.

Where I’m from, it’s not that uncommon. Yes, some go off and take the “big league” jobs, yet every planting, harvesting, and calving season you know where they spend all their extra time? They make the long drives back home to do what they know the best, what they lay in bed and long for every night. Deep down, they too want to find the way to come back home. Because you grow up wanting to carry on the family profession.

As Paul Harvey said, “Somebody who’d bale a family together with the soft strong bonds of sharing, who would laugh and then sigh, and then reply, with smiling eyes, when his son says he wants to spend his life ‘doing what dad does. So God made a farmer.”

It’s 200 times harder than I ever imagined to juggle a job and still keep tabs on the farm, but it is well worth it. I couldn’t imagine what my life would be if I couldn’t look out the window every morning to see the bluest sky, cows meandering around, and corn fields as far as my eyes can see. And I know that I’ll never have to call any other life mine.

3 Girls and a Dairy Farm

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HolsteinWorld Blog

It just finally hit me. All these years I’ve wished I had a brother; someone that could be of more help to Dad. That could throw those top bales without having to try, or back the trailer up on the first try, not the second. Heck, he would probably have enough sense to wear pants while baling instead of shorts and ending up with cut-up legs the next day. Someone that would be the legacy of our family farm.

Then I had an epiphany of sorts. It all makes sense! I’m glad we don’t have a brother. I wouldn’t be the girl I am today if I had been given a brother. I’ve had to fill those shoes. I’ve been the one to work alongside my Dad and feel pride every day, every hour, every minute of it. Would I feel the passion, pain, or puzzlement that comes with farming and dairying? I’ve learned so many things that a lot of girls don’t. I’ve never once heard that I couldn’t do a task on the farm because I was a girl. They simply told me how to do it, and it was known I would get it done. I’m so lucky to have a father and grandfather that didn’t hire extra outside help to do the chores because there were only daughters or granddaughters. They simply believed that I was as good as any boy could be, and the fact is now I am.

The great drought of 2012 was photographed July 26-27, 2012.

Photo Credit: Crain’s Chicago Business

Yes, it takes me a little longer to back the trailer up, and three tries to throw the bale on the top row of the rack wagon, but you can bet I’ll try until I get it done. I’ll never be told that I can’t do that; it’s a man’s job. It makes my heart burst with joy from being this farmer’s daughter. For me, my parents are living the dream. To be your own boss and bring your family together through your job; well, to me that’s worth more than any amount of zeros on a paycheck. For me, farming is the ultimate profession, it’s not about easy work or making millions, but about growing families, feeding the world, and making each child understand responsibility and planting the seed of agricultural passion inside them.

Why go to World Dairy Expo?

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Why go to World Dairy Expo?

If you aren’t from the dairying community, you may have never heard of World Dairy Expo (WDE), but you’re truly missing out. WDE is like Christmas for those in the dairy industry; heck, planning for the next year’s expo starts the day after it’s over, if not even before. WDE is the joining and intertwining of over 77,000 dairy producers, enthusiasts, and businesses from around the globe. It’s a weeklong event in Madison, Wisconsin that promises plenty of ice cream, cheese, and fun. Everyone has a favorite reason to go to Expo, but when it comes down to it, the main reason is to form an alliance of dairy farmers. A common group that will support each other and the interest of the dairy industry as well as promote the product of their toil to consumers throughout the world.

The Competitions

Obviously, one of the biggest parts of World Dairy Expo is the cattle shows, but did you know that a plethora of other competitions exist at Expo? WDE offers a variety of competitions for visitors of all ages. There are three dairy judging competitions: 4-H, Post-Secondary, and Intercollegiate early in the week, where students get to show off their ability to place cattle and talk reasons to the judges. Reasons are the contestant’s opportunity to talk about why they placed the animals as they did. Contestants memorize a set of reasons and go into a room to present their points to a judge who gives them a score based off of the accuracy of their explanation. A forage competition is held for both corn silage and hay, allowing producers to show off their ability to make delicious and nutritious feed for their cows. A fitting contest is held to allow youth to showcase their ability to clip and style their animal’s hair. One of the contests I’d love to judge is the dairy products contest. Companies bring their dairy products to be scored, and the winning products are auctioned off.

New Technology & Innovations

Expo is home to a trade show of over 850 dairy related companies; if this doesn’t thrill you, I don’t know what will! The companies come with their products and staff to communicate with the producers. Buildings are set up with aisle upon aisle of booths that have pens, candy, and other promotional materials for you to take and look into further. The amount of cutting edge technology and new products showcased at Expo is top notch. Dairy producers can talk to sales representatives about how they could implement these products on their farms to become more efficient and allow the cows to be more comfortable. Seminars are also hosted so producers can learn more about specific topics that they can take home to become more profitable.

New Genetics

World Dairy Expo hosts six premiere cattle sales for visitors to take home new additions to their herds. With Expo being one of the top shows in the world, the cattle that sell are from some of the best bloodlines available and their pedigrees would bring excitement and marketability to any herd. Being able to find such a good looking and great pedigreed group of dairy females anywhere else would be hard to do.

Friends & Family

To me, this is one of the best parts of WDE. Getting to see friends from other states all in one place around the animals we love most is priceless. I’ve heard countless stories about friendships blossoming at Expo, which then serves as their one-week reunion each year. I know a couple who has a special place for Expo in their heart, as they got engaged their last year. Expo isn’t just about the cows and ribbons, it’s about the memories made and the time spent with friends and family.

Watch the Beauties Dance

There is nothing more exhilarating than watching the Grand Champions walk in the ring for Supreme Champion selection on Saturday. The lights are down low, and each cow is introduced and spotlighted as she is escorted into the ring like a woman going to the dance. Most people couldn’t care less about the other things to do at WDE; they would be happy enough with plopping down in the Coliseum and watching those silky cows and heifers prance on the colored shavings for hours upon end.

All in all, World Dairy Expo is much more than just a cow show. It’s where dairy farmers from around the globe come to meet and discuss the pressing issues of our industry. They get to form an alliance with others just like them. It’s their little home away from home that understands that sometimes cows just understand your problems better than people. Some people may not understand the importance of it, but to those who do it means everything.

The list of advocacy

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Advocacy, what does this word really mean?

For years I have been telling friends, family, and acquaintances that when I grow up and have a “real job” I want to be an advocate for agriculture (this is how I ended up with ag comm as my major). About how I want to share the story of what my mom and dad do everyday on our farm. How hardworking, determined, and kind-hearted they both are. Of all the farmers in our county who would help each other out at the drop of a hat.

I want to give farmers, like my parents, a voice with the consumers, to show that they use the products and practices on their fields because they feel they are the most effective and productive ways to feed their families and other’s families, especially within the dairy industry.

In ag comm class we went over a list of what it truly means to be an advocate. This list put it all into perspective for me, I hope it does the same for you.

1.Offers a collective voice

Advocates need to find a collective voice for the cause that they are passionate for. If multiple advocacy groups for the same cause push different facts for an issue, there is no consistency and publics will find material scattered and unbelievable.

Members of the Illinois Farm Bureau exemplify this aspect. Each county in Illinois has a Farm Bureau office and their own county board. The board is elected from local farmers and represents what that area wants at the state level. This allows that county and state to have a uniform voice for their Farm Bureau members.

2.Supports those who can’t be their own advocate

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To be an advocate means to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves. To me this means speaking for my dairy cows. Although I can’t talk to my cows, I believe I can tell when they are satisfied.

Cows are unable to speak up to PETA activists in California, who want to restrict water resources to dairy farms due to the drought. Theses activists insist on a ban of all meat and dairy consumption in California. What would happen to all of the cattle residing in the state?

3.Creates accountability for people and organizations in power

Advocacy groups are building blocks for higher organizations and officials. They lay the ground work for others to

Groups such as Illinois Corn Growers Association and Illinois Soybean Association are pathways for Illinois politicians to find information about the agriculture industry in our state. These advocacy groups compile information and help farmers to have a collective voice. Credibility of the two groups aids politicians in making decisions for the state, such as supporting the 2014 Farm Bill. 

4.Protects vulnerable populations

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American farmer is 57 years old. A 57 year old male doesn’t sound like a vulnerable population.

To me they very well can be.

I see my father being trampled on by others who aren’t farmers. They perceive him as a farmer with little education, when in fact he is quite intelligent and talented in his field.

Allowing those who aren’t fond of public speaking to ask for assistance in sharing their story is advocacy. Most farmers don’t have a scientist on the farm to compute data so they can dispute claims from the public about GMO usage or other common complaints. Having a combined group to support the farmers allows for services that will make a larger impact in righting these false claims and sharing informational data.

Advocacy is NO small task. Bringing a voice to vulnerable populations is a challenge. Backlash from opposing groups is almost always present. I’m ready for the fight for agriculture, how about you?