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HERd management: Networking can make a world of difference to a dairywoman

Terri DiNitto Published on 10 April 2013

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Men who are dairy farmers have it pretty easy when it comes to networking.

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They may not even know that is what they are doing when they stand and talk with each other at the feed store or hang around after the pesticide re-certification meeting to chat amongst themselves. They have that support without even really knowing they have it.

Women involved in dairy farming, whether it is as an owner or as the support for husbands who are working the farm, may not have as easy a time networking with other female dairy friends.

The main reason for this, I think, is because we are very busy “doing it all.” We are trying to help on the farm, and we are trying to run a household. That doesn’t leave much time to network with other women in farming.

In my opinion, it is important that we network with other women involved in farming. It helps to know that there are other women going through the same things you are. It’s comforting, in a way, to know that you’re not alone, and it’s exciting to be able to share good news as well.

In my area, we have a group called Women in Farming. It is sponsored by Cornell Cooperative Extension of Oneida County. Currently, we are a group of dairywomen that meet once a month except during the summer.

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We have had speakers come in to talk to us about issues we find important, such as bookkeeping, insurance and human resources. We have gone on “field trips” to a bottling plant and a hydroponics farm. Some months we sit and talk.

We bounce ideas off of each other and talk about our goals and concerns. We all believe it is important to promote dairy farming, so we’ve done a couple of promotional events.

We have gone to our county board and advocated for dairy farming in our county. We are currently working on a Barn Quilt trail to highlight the wonderful farms in Oneida County.

The group members were actually women that I already knew in my county. What Women in Farming did was make us all closer since we were discussing our issues and problems (and triumphs, too). I have become best friends with one of the women from this group, Debbie Finn.

Our farms have about the same number of cows. We have a lot of the same issues. She is an inspiration to me because she is a partner in the farm, substitute teaches and is raising a great family. Our husbands have become close as well. My friendship with her is something that I cherish. And it started out with the Women in Farming group.

Just knowing that when I have a problem or issue, no matter how small it may seem, this is a group of women that I can bring the problem to and they will help me. They give me advice or just let me vent and offer me their support. I can’t imagine not having that in my life.

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Every farm woman should have that kind of support. It would seem very lonely without them. Sometimes you need people to pat you on the back and tell you you’re doing a good job as much as you need that hug and them telling you everything will be all right. These women do that for me!

Networking is even valuable for your children. We are one of the only farming families in our school district. Most of the kids don’t identify with my children and our farming life. My boys both belong to 4-H, which has been a way for them to network, too.

It’s great for them to be around other farming kids and families with the same interests and ideas as them. As they grow up, they will keep these friends and be able to count on them for support and help if needed. They have started “networking” at a very young age.

Networking is about building relationships and learning from other people in your networking group. It’s invaluable. Without my group, Women in Farming, I don’t think I would be able to navigate my way through the ups and downs of the dairy industry.

They are a phone call, email or text away when I am having a problem or want to share a victory. It’s an honor and a pleasure to count these women as my friends.

I recommend finding a group in your area that you can identify with. If there isn’t one, consider this your challenge to start one up. It’s invaluable to your emotional well-being. I treasure my fellow women dairy farmers. PD

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Terri DiNitto
DiNitto Farms LLC
Marcy, New York

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