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How audiobooks make me a better dairy manager

Derek Orth for Progressive Dairy Published on 26 June 2020
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What are you listening to right now? What do you listen to while you're in the barn, or in the skid loader or in a tractor doing field work?

I have often heard the quote, “Leaders are readers.” When I tried to climb the Farm Bureau ladder with more leadership roles, I joined a reading leadership program. The “readership” program would mail me two books on leadership topics, and I was part of an online community that had daily book discussions based on the books we were sent. I quickly found out that I was better at sleeping than I am at reading. In the fall of 2017, I downloaded my first book on Audible. I fell in love. I loved being able to multitask and absorb information and ideas while working on the farm. Spending hours hauling manure or raking stalls no longer bored me.



A few studies have shown that listening to something while doing routine tasks can make us, or employees, more productive and efficient. Time passes quickly while listening and makes monotonous jobs more enjoyable. I quickly subscribed to an Audible membership and eventually bumped my membership to two books a month. There are plenty of other book-listening apps like Scribd, OverDrive and more. I just happen to use Audible; it works well for me, and I especially appreciate that I can speed up books to listen to more in less time.

Initially, I only focused on leadership books to aid in an upcoming election I was running for. As my love for audiobooks continued, I started expanding my genres. Business books, management books, self-development books, food and nutrition books, marketing books, relationship and marriage books, parenting books, team-building books, public-speaking books, and books on soil health and agriculture. There really is an audiobook for anything. Whatever your interests may be, I am sure there is a great audiobook for you.

When I attend conferences – whether FFA, Farm Bureau, Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin or others – I always take notes. Notes help me stay focused and apply my learning to ways I can make a change when I get home. I take the same approach with audiobooks. If I can find just one thing that I can start doing "right now," it was a successful listen. Depending on the book topic, I am looking for action items that take my skills to new levels and improve specific areas on the farm, at home and life, or in leadership roles. A really good book is when I start reaching out to friends with “Did you know?” questions and sharing something I just learned!

I've also quickly realized how much listening to audiobooks improves my mental health. We all know we're in tough times in agriculture. Instead of focusing on bills I can't pay, weather events I can't control or anti-agriculture activists who are trying to misinform others about what farmers are doing on our farms, I'm able to step outside my reality. I'm able to listen to ideas of influential people, some of whom have passed decades or centuries before. I can take their knowledge and think of ways to improve my life, right here, right now. I hear stories of other’s hardships, and how they pushed through tough times, and know that we can do the same. There are even books to help with mental health. Books about gratitude, hope and finding a new, positive mindset. Times are tough; sometimes we need little reminders to find the rose petal in the thorn bush.

If you're looking for ways to improve your farm, your business or your relationships, try listening to an audiobook. It just may be the thing you need to focus and concentrate on a better future and clear your mind to a healthy and happier place. Charlie “Tremendous” Jones once said, “You will be the same person in five years as you are today, except for the people you meet and the books you read.” You never know what door or opportunity may open for you!


Here are a few of my favorite audiobooks that offer ready-to-use advice for any business. The Culture Code by Daniel Coyle. This is a great book on building the culture within your farm or any organization you may be part of. Act Like a Leader, Think Like a Leader by Herminia Ibarra is perfect for transitioning into leadership roles or developing yourself into a manager. Rework by David Heinemeier Hansson and Jason Fried is my go-to business book. It has over 100 short chapters, each with one piece of wisdom. Do Business Better by Damian Mason is another great business book with plenty of laughs and ideas that may work for your farm.

Lastly, if you are looking for something on parenting, check out anything by Meg Meeker, MD. She has some very specific books that can really make you think about how you raise your kids. With two little girls, I really appreciated the wisdom in Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters.  end mark

Derek Orth