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HERd Management: Why I’m pursuing lifelong curiosity

Emily Zweber for Progressive Dairyman Published on 06 November 2018

The other day, my husband turns to me and asks, “What did you learn today?” and I didn’t have an immediate answer. I had to really think but, before I could answer, my husband started talking excitedly about what he had learned that day. It was a wake-up call for me.

I have always prided myself on being curious and being a lifelong learner, but I had been in a rut. We are in the process of hiring, the kids’ activities are taking me everywhere and, due to lack of employees, I am putting more hours in on the farm.

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The truth is: Those are all excuses. I have always been a busy person. I like being involved in a variety of things. As dairy farmers, it is easy to let a day go by only going through the motions. Feed calves, milk cows, haul manure, fix a fence.

You have a checklist, and you get things done. That is what my life had become – checklists and mundane. So that day, with my husband, I decided to get back my curiosity for learning.

Having a lifelong curiosity is important to us as humans and dairywomen. Learning not only makes our lives more interesting, it allows us to connect in new and different ways with others. Learning new things can make us more compassionate, more innovative and more productive. Lifelong curiosity can make us better dairywomen.

The first thing I did was restore the podcast app on my phone. I had removed it one day when I was trying to take a picture and needed more memory. I removed some of the 6,000 pictures and restored the podcasts. I love listening to TedTalk Radio Hour, Freakonomics, Planet Money or the BBC’s The World This Week while I work. In the same vein, I restored my audiobook apps. Now I can “read” books while I work or am driving in the car.

A habit I had a couple years ago, and unfortunately dropped, was learning a foreign language. Each day, I have five minutes between starting the milkline wash and waiting for it to flush before I can leave. I would use that time to practice Spanish or French on the Duolingo app.

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For a while, my husband and I were learning the same language at the same time. We would talk to each other in Spanish. It was like our own secret language around the kids. I am going to get back to that habit.

Another idea for continuous learning is to sign up for a free college course. Companies like Coursera, and colleges such as MIT, have free online courses. A couple of years ago, I took a dairy production course from Penn State on Coursera. It was a nice refresher. I just signed up for a health course from Yale.

A goal I have for myself in 2019 is to attend a conference that inspires me to learn new things. Meeting new people in new places always jump-starts my excitement for learning. I hope to find a conference I have never attended before to really stretch myself.

Of course, picking up your Progressive Dairyman magazine for a few minutes each day is a great way to learn something new or interesting. Also, subscribing to the Progressive Dairyman enewsletter will allow you to get more learning content emailed straight to you.

As the new year approaches, let’s all make it our goal to learn something new each day. For me that resolution is much more interesting and much more enjoyable than giving up sugary things I love.  end mark

Emily and her husband, Tim, co-own and operate an organic dairy farm with Tim’s parents in Elko, Minnesota.

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