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HERd management: You are not alone: Networking with other women in ag

Christina Winch for Progressive Dairyman Published on 18 April 2016

It was just another day in the barn. My company included the calves, my husband and my three boys. We went about chores, enjoyed some quality time together and got some extra jobs done. The nutritionist and A.I. technician stopped in. The day was full – yet something felt like it was missing.

It was just another day in the classroom. This is my off-farm job. My co-workers are good role models, and I enjoy being on their team. Depending on the year, my students are about 75 percent male and 25 percent female.

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We complete lessons on figuring income over feed costs, how to read a pesticide label and how to increase photosynthesis in corn to increase yield. Throw in an agriculture department meeting, and I barely had time for lunch. The day was full – yet something felt like it was missing.

These scenarios were all too common for the last few years for me. Feeling complete, yet feeling like something was missing. So what was missing? The connection with women is what was missing.

I yearned to visit with other women who could relate to a rough day on the farm, women who understood the daily juggling I face between farm work, off-farm work and kids’ extracurricular activities, and women who could make me laugh. If you are reading this and thinking, “Yes, I yearn for those same things,” then let me tell you there is hope.

I discovered that by getting involved with a handful of organizations and opportunities that came my way, that empty feeling I had doesn’t occur as often anymore.

Attending Farm Bureau and Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin events, I have met many women who, when we see each other at these events, we lift each other up, laugh at kids’ crazy antics and share ideas about what works or doesn’t work on the farm.

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I have made some great friends through these organizations, and I look forward to catching up with them throughout the year. It was just this past year, though, I took advantage of some opportunities to network with just women in agriculture. These networking opportunities have helped to fill that void I had in my life.

I discovered a Facebook group called Women in Agriculture. It is managed by Successful Farming magazine. It’s great to share photos, stories and support with other women involved in all aspects of agriculture from across the country.

We also learn from each other. Agriculture is the same yet different depending on where you live. We might grow different crops or raise different animals, but the joys and struggles we share are the same.

The final group I am excited to be involved with is the Dairy Girl Network. One of my fellow Farm Bureau friends, Laura Daniels, spearheaded the idea of a group of women involved in dairy farming networking with each other.

At World Dairy Expo 2015, I attended my first Dairy Girl networking event. I met other women who I later found out lived near me but I had never met before. They too have a Facebook page where photos and stories are shared, but, more importantly, questions are asked from ladies looking for advice from other ladies – questions ranging from pros of robotic milking to what baby carrier to use around the farm.

Answers come from other women with firsthand experience and knowledge regarding these situations. The Dairy Girl Network is also in the early stages of getting regional peer groups going. The first peer group meeting just happened to be in my area in February.

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We met for lunch, shared something that worked or didn’t work on our farm, laughed, held babies and are looking forward to more of these gatherings throughout the year.

I am here to tell you ladies: You are not alone. There are a large number of women in agriculture going through the exact same thing you are or have gone through it before. There are many different options to connect with us.

Many states have a Women In Agriculture conference; maybe start there. Join the Women In Agriculture or Dairy Girl Network Facebook groups. By networking and supporting each other, we can help make sure those full yet lonely days on the farm are few and far between.  PD

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