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HERd Management: The gift of volunteering

Christine Bender for Progressive Dairy Published on 18 October 2019

As dairy farmers, I know we wear many hats, not just on the farm but off the farm as well. So why is it every time someone asks us to do something, we immediately volunteer?

Maybe it’s just the nature of our business; we always need to help fill in here or do this. Or maybe we’re all just crazy … whatever it is, I truly believe it is a gift.

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I must admit: It’s been a busy summer, but it’s also been a super-productive, great summer. The spring and summer ran together as I volunteered our family to host our local dairy breakfast. I must also confess I had no idea how much time and effort would go into this. Things I never imagined doing were done and much, much more. Despite the extra-long summer days spent cleaning this or power washing that, I have to say it was a great excuse to clean up the farm, and our dairy has never looked so good.

Also, I consider it a blessing in disguise because it kept us busy during the cold, wet spring when we couldn’t get in the fields anyway. It wasn’t until early June, just a couple of weeks before the dairy breakfast, that we were able to plant our corn and harvest first-cutting alfalfa.

All our work paid off on Father’s Day weekend, June 15 and 16, as we welcomed over 5,100 visitors to our farm for the dairy breakfast. Despite the sacrifices and hard work, this event truly was remarkable. We were able to create a promotional video that showcases our farm. We visited local businesses and invited them to our farm, and hung our promotional posters. It was a great excuse to clean up the farm and, ultimately, we were able to show over 5,100 people how we care for our animals. I can’t tell you how often I get the “Oh, you were the ones that hosted the dairy breakfast” comment when running errands in town. It almost makes you forget about the countless hours spent preparing.

Long before we committed to having the dairy breakfast, I agreed to help with Jefferson County Farm Technology Days held just 5 miles from our farm in late July. As many of you probably know firsthand, or can imagine, the amount of time and number of people that go into planning this event is astronomical. I still remember being at the host family’s home for one of our committee meetings. Our executive board member asked for a chairperson and, with great joy, I volunteered.

Being a chairwoman came with great responsibility but great opportunities as well. It gave me a busier schedule, allowing me to be more efficient at the farm to attend all the meetings. It helped me build my network, as I had the opportunity to meet new people and build relationships with other farmers and industry professionals in my area.

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It may have been a busy summer volunteering, but it was a very successful summer as well. My husband and I finally found our dream home and moved just two weeks before the breakfast. Also, it’s official; as of Aug. 1, I’m a partner in our family farm. The new people I’ve met and the friendships I’ve made through Farm Technology Days will be cherished for the rest of my life.

Volunteering is the gift that keeps on giving and, although there will be moments of regret, when it’s all over you will be happy you did it. Although we may not always have the time or energy to volunteer, somehow these experiences help fill our cup as well and give us just what we need to push our limits and become better. Know your limits, but have fun volunteering in the meantime, and raise a glass of milk to the fall season.  end mark

Christine Bender
  • Christine Bender

  • Dairy Farm Owner
  • McFarlandale Dairy LLC
  • Watertown, Wisconsin
  • Email Christine Bender

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