Women in Dairy: Jenna Jongenotter from Foxboro, Ontario, Canada

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Sharing her story with us today is Jenna Jongenotter from Foxboro, Ontario, Canada.  Jenna is proud to say she was born and raised on their family dairy farm in a small town of Foxboro.  It was here she experienced her first love, my first loss, my first kiss, my first unconditional love- all to Holsteins! Following high school, Jenna pursued Business Administration at the local college.  In 2013, her family decided to switch from a tie-in facility to robots.  Since then, Jenna has been a full-time relief milker for neighboring (and some not-so-close) farms while coming home between chores to tend to her girls.  She jokes, that she wasn’t ready to give up milking!!

Jenna’s Story in her own words:

Describe a typical/average day for you.

A day in the life of Jenna begins at 3am. Yes- 3 am! I love my food, so, breakfast sometimes takes a while to eat, on the road at 4am to be in the barn at 4:30. Chores typically wrap up around 7:30, and then home for COFFEE and of course, some food! Calves, late cows, herd management, feeding etc. take up the morning while spending the afternoon tending to chores in the other barns or field work. My clock says its 5 so I start my evening chores before heading off to the next farm for evening milking! My day may never entail sitting on the couch, having my nails done, or going to town- but I couldn’t be happier with my life, and my lifestyle!

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When did you start farming?

From the time I could hold my own, I was outside taking it all in- the noise, tractors, cows, people, and the hustle and bustle of everything! Being the youngest, my chores began with calf feeding. I couldn’t be more proud of having such a big chore at such a young age- this is the start of my first love. Fast forward a few years, I was able to sweet talk my way into getting two jerseys! They were mine to feed and milk (to say the lease, no one wanted to milk the Jerseys, so that job waited every morning and night for me). Fast forward many years, here I am working for numerous farmers providing them with the same passion and commitment I’ve dedicated to my own family farm.

Who is your favorite cow?

Born and raised into the Holstein world! Although, a few farms are converting me to Brown Swiss and Milking Shorthorn- Shhhhhh, my family doesn’t know this yet!

What are 3 things you want consumers to know about the dairy industry and/or the products you produce?

  1. We, as dairy producers buy the same products off the same shelves as the public!
  2. We spend many sleepless nights in the barn raising and caring for the animals, therefore, under no circumstance do we not feel the loss of an animal! We care for the well-being of the cattle born and raised on our farm
  3. Farmers feed cities!

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As a millennial what do you want to share with others about the dairy industry?

Please don’t assume we are bad people! We love to answer the publics question regarding the agriculture industry, if you have a concern- talk to a farmer. We would love to educate you on the industry and walk around our farm with you. I have my work attire- where I look like a farmer. Then my dress up attire and make up where I look like I’m 100% straight from the city! Surprisingly, it helps engage with the public because people see me as “one of them”. I can connect, and share insightful information without then even knowing what I do for a living!

What is your favorite dairy product?

Dairy- yum! But choose just one favorite product? I enjoy it all- from butter to cheese to ice cream to just a nice cold glass of milk! I take pride in the quality of product I put in the tank and savor each and every product!

What is the most rewarding part of production agriculture?

So many rewarding parts within the dairy industry like seeing a calf grow up to become this beautiful heifer. Animals teach us so much about ourselves; they show us things that we never thought we could do (even when it comes to our own strength). When I get up, it’s up to me to choose my attitude for the day. But when I get up and go to the barn, I see the fruit of my labor and couldn’t be more proud of my work, and aspire to achieve more every day. I’ll always have things to improve, but I’ll never let myself to stop learning!

What do you envision the future of the dairy industry looking like?

How I envision the dairy future is a hard one to answer as the world’s largest trade agreement was just signed! Coming from Canada where we have the Quota system, I would love to say that the small family ran farm communities would continue for generations to come.

Jenna, thank you for sharing your story with us!

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Women in Dairy: Holly Smith from Watertown, Wisconsin.

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Holly grew up on a mostly Holstein and Jersey dairy farm until she was 8, when her parents Ray and Cindy Schowalter decided to sell the cows.  Holly and her 3 sisters (Ashley, Monique and Tiffany) always had steers, pigs, chickens and most importantly Belgian draft horses.  All three were in 4-H with various projects and enjoyed volunteering for various youth programs.  Holly and her husband, Travis met 9 years ago and has been married since 2010.  The Smiths have 2 daughters Leah (3) and Hattie (4 months).   Travis works with his family on their 3rd generation family farm where they milk 100 cows. Travis’ and his brother’s use the prefix Smith-Crest and have had much success with their Black & White and Red & White Holsteins.  Holly works for Dodge County Dairy Testing Association Cooperative in Juneau, WI and has been there since 2008.  She started out as a lab manager and now works as a General Manager. Dodge County DTA COOP is a field service division that services not only Dodge County, Wisconsin but also surrounding counties.  The laboratory in Juneau on average analyzes 55,000 DHI samples for components (like fat, protein, SCC, MUN and BHB).

Holly’s Story in her own words:

What is your role in the dairy industry?

My role in the dairy industry is to bring a variety of information to the table to be used in management decisions. DHI (Dairy Herd Improvement) no longer just provides Fat, Protein, SCC information on individual cows. Most farms operate on a herd, group, or pen mentality as far as feed consumption goes so our goal is to provide information that you or your consultants can use to produce the amount and quality of milk you desire. DHI also uses breeding, genetic, transition, and udder health data from regular testing intervals to give information on performance in comparison to peers or within a herd. I guess I was always in the dairy industry and since my husband and I enjoy it, it was natural. I tried working away from the industry and it was hard to relate in the workplace when my husband needed help on the farm or late-night fresh checks etc. I wouldn’t change it for anything and hope I can be in DHI a long time!!

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What are 3 things you want consumers to know about the dairy products you produce?

  1. Dairy products are the most strictly regulated and safe food in the food system. Every product is tested multiple times during the production process to ensure that a safe product is available for your family to purchase.
  2. Dairy farming is something people do because they are passionate about farming. There are very few people who get rich farming and even if they do-they worked for it! It is a hard lifestyle and should be respected.
  3. Ask a DAIRY FARMER questions before you make an assumption about a product. Buying local is always a great way to know where your food comes from if possible. Even though in reality all of it is good for you!

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As a Mom what do you want to share with others about the dairy industry?

As a mother and wife of a dairy farmer, I want to share that being a “modern” woman who juggles kids, career and farming is something that although difficult reaps many rewards. My kids get to experience the ultimate childhood as there are endless “forts” to play in, adventures with dad driving tractor, and running up and down the aisles in our barn offer lessons and a ton of FUN!!! My kids probably won’t get the opportunity to be in 4 different sporting events at one time because it will be impossible for me to cart them around since dad is “doing chores” but they will learn work ethic that I was taught by my parents. To the “general public,” I want them to know and wish they could understand just how much farming takes away from family time. Although we spend plenty of time together we also spend most of the time working in the barn. Most of our peers often get very few vacations or weekends or heck even weeknights to spend with just the family over a family dinner (before 7 that is).

What is your favorite dairy product?

My favorite dairy product would have to be cheese. Anything with cheese just tastes better plus Wisconsin has several amazing cheese plants that offer fresh cheese curds and other delicious cheese products! Click here to see a Wisconsin traveler’s guide to cheese locations!

What is the most rewarding part of being in the dairy industry? Challenging?

The most rewarding part of working in the dairy industry would have to be all the people you get to meet. Most farmers don’t get off the farm very often so they enjoy having a conversation with you about what is new in their family and love to hear how other farms “do things”. In my line of work I closely monitor each dairy for management opportunities to make their dollar go further. Using the information we have such as a Fresh Cow Summary that monitors the transition from dry period to early lactation can show an individual how to make more money on the end of each lactation curve! Most challenging would have to be trying to help those that don’t want it. Farmers are independent people that work for themselves. Often you have to find a way to connect the dots for them but it can be a long process if someone is resistant!

Who is your favorite cow?

My favorite cow would have to be a Holstein, Rotesown Gibson Ideal Ex 94 3E GMD. She was a cow that Smith-Crest bought as a two-year old. She was the ultimate Holstein. Not only did she look good but she made 281,922 pounds of milk in her lifetime. She was a gentle cow that often followed us to the fair much after her “prime” show days were over and my sister’s class would take pictures with her. My daughter Leah and her cousin loved crawling all around her and called her “Grandma Cow”. She is definitely missed by all!

What do you envision the future of the dairy industry looking like?

I envision the dairy industry doing exactly what is has done over the last 100 years-change. Farmers in general have always found better ways of producing quality food to feed not only America but the world. Now, we are experiencing more exposure to the public perception of the agriculture industry. Although society wants to know where their food comes from, they also average 3 generations removed from the farm. We need to get the story across that food is safe and nutritious.

Holly, thank you for sharing your story with us!

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Women in Dairy: Joseta Halbur from Eden, Wisconsin

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Nightly routine of checking on, calving, and feeding dry cows.

Today, it is my honor to introduce Joseta Halbur from Eden, Wisconsin.  Joseta grew up on her family’s 300 acre dairy farm in Eastern Fond du Lac County, Wisconsin. She graduated with a B.S. in Marketing Communications with an emphasis in Agriculture and Dairy Science and a M.S. in Agricultural Education from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. Joseta works for United Cooperative in Beaver Dam as a certified energy specialist.   Her responsibilities have her talking about fuel, propane, lubricants while working with farmers and business owners on their energy risk management needs.

Growing up, Joseta was involved in 4-H for ten years and is currently in her 15th year as a dairy and photography leader with the Taft 23 4-H Club.  While Joseta works off the farm, she has the unique opportunity of going home to her family’s farm.  Joseta loves cheese and her favorite dairy recipe would have to be Chicken Dorito bake.

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Joseta’s Story in her own words:

When did you start farming?

My parents started farming with my dad’s parents in 1977 when they got married. My brother and I are third generation on that farm. I always had barn chores growing up. In 1997, we made the transition to a freestall barn and in 1998, the parlor followed. Currently we are at the crossroads of what to do next. With land values skyrocketing, it’s hard to get good affordable land to be self-sustaining. We are also battling a pending road construction project which could affect our current set-up.

About 4 years ago, when I started my new job, I saw the need for extra help on the farm. I LOVE LOVE LOVE being around cows. They are my sanctuary and there is no better feeling than knowing you are helping these animals survive and produce for a growing population. We brought home our heifers which were previously at a custom grower. We built a new calf barn and that has become my home when I am at the farm. I also take time to keep up with the cows, their reproductive state, and overall cow health situations. I enjoy learning all there is to know about dairy cattle.   I also work with our show animals during that time of year and am able to assist in other areas of the farm with light tractor driving, general moving of animals and cleaning of buildings.

What is your role in the dairy industry?

I was born into the dairy industry. After grad school, I took a job with an AI company, had a short stint in dairy farm sanitation practices, and found myself working with the largest cooperative in the state of Wisconsin.

As a millennial what do you want to share with others about the dairy industry?

I take every opportunity I can to talk with consumers about what we do with our cows. At the Wisconsin State Fair, there are THOUSANDS of people and the majority of them have no connection to the dairy industry other than what they see at the fair….PERFECT AUDIENCE!  Here is a video I made for National Ag Day with my cow Giorgio. 

While some might find their questions annoying, I use this opportunity to talk to inquiring minds as they ask what we are doing with the cows and how much they produce, weigh, babies they’ve had….etc. etc. Nine times out of ten, they walk away saying “”WOW that’s interesting, Thank you.”” This makes me feel good because then I know they learned something. I think it’s important to stress to consumers that if they have questions, to seek out answers from a credible source. Taking a tour of a dairy farm can put them right in the action to learn about the dairy industry.

Who is your favorite cow?

My preferred breed of cow is Holstein. I am a third generation registered Holstein breeder. My grandpa even had red and white Holsteins in his herd in the 70’s. They are a part of family tradition. A cow that stands out in my mind is Linden Dictator Wimble Wimpy…..why??? She’s the first perfect cow of course! The first cow in history to be classified EX-97; the highest score a cow in the Holstein breed can be scored. But when I’m at home with my cows, Burledge Atwood Giorgio is a personal fav. =)

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Showing on the local, state, and national levels is something my family has been doing for 60 years. This is me showing Bebow Champion Gloria. Gloria was purchased in 2006 from other family members and is the matriarch of my favorite cow, Burledge Atwood Giorgio, and many more.

What are 3 things you want consumers to know about the dairy products your family produces?

  1. All dairy products sold on the market are tested free from antibiotics.
  2. Farmers take better care of their cows than they do their own families sometimes.
  3. Consuming three servings of dairy products a day can assist you with a nutritional diet for weight loss and maintenance.

What is the most rewarding part of being in the dairy industry? Challenging?

I have the unique opportunity of being active in both production and as allied industry. I truly believe that staying sharp on one end helps me be better on the other and vice versa. The most challenging part is that sometimes it’s hard to focus on just one job.

What is the most rewarding part of production agriculture? Challenging?

The most rewarding part of being involved in the dairy is having my family there with me. I don’t get to go home to a house full of kiddos so having my brother and his kids and my other niece and nephew, in the barn with me learning and carrying on the family tradition is pretty awesome. The most challenging is dealing with rising land value. In order to grow and remain a family farm, we have to be able to have land and be more self-sufficient. I fear that this will always be a battle…..

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Nightly chores feeding and caring for young stock.

Describe a typical/average day for you.

I am up every day at 4 am. I start with a workout, I usually can be found reading a dairy related publication and then I head to work. After work, I head straight to the farm. Usually there is a discussion with mom or dad about daily happenings. I take to the calf barn, check in on the dry cows, check the breeding charts, watch heifers and cows for heats, and am usually home by 8 pm….sometimes a little later if help is needed moving fresh or dry cows.

What advice would you give someone interested in production agriculture?

Every day, I have the opportunity to talk with farmers who have the next generation coming up the ranks. So many of those kids, however, don’t see a value in going to school to learn or see some new tricks of the trade. Going to college is so much more than just sitting in a classroom. Taking in opportunities to learn how to trim hooves, IV cows, breed cows, learn the technologies behind nutrient management plans and planning for your crop inputs can all be brought back to the farm and be used successfully. Even if there is already a system on place on the farm, there’s always room for change. Maybe your dad doesn’t like breeding cows and you are better fit for it…..take the opportunity to learn.  Maybe you have had trouble finding a hoof trimmer that can cater to your needs…..learn how to do it yourself so that you can assist with cow health on the farm. Bottom line, there is always something new to learn. Just because Grandpa or Dad didn’t do it or don’t know about it, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

What advice would you give someone interested in the dairy industry?

My advice is to take every learning opportunity available. Most college students studying in an agricultural related program are required to do an internship, Do MORE THAN ONE! Pick a couple that is completely different. Also, take the time to learn about commodities. Whether you are in production agriculture or allied industry it’s good to know market trends and understand how far the milk check might or might not go depending on your risk management strategies.

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My family has racked MILLIONS of volunteer hours with 4-H, FFA, and the Holstein Association, among other organizations. This year I joined the Showmanship contest committee at World Dairy Expo. Pictured here with Kaydence Hodorff, one of my Jr. Holstein members, another organization I also serve as an adviser for.

What are other roles and/or opportunities available to those in the dairy industry?

The dairy industry is more than just breeding and milking cattle. There are countless opportunities from animal health/veterinary work, to serving as an agronomist trying to breed a better corn stalk for corn silage, serving as a DHIA technician running milk samples to assist farmers in milk quality, to working with market trends and providing risk management solutions for better financial stability on the farm….seriously the list goes on. If you can dream it, you can achieve it….especially in the dairy industry!

What do you envision the future of the dairy industry looking like?

I would like to see the family farms remain strong. Whether they have 250, 1000, or 5000 cows, I want families working together to produce quality products. With more kids graduating from college, if they come back to the farm, this provides opportunities for additional family members to expand the dairy. Perhaps with custom businesses or taking what once was a hobby and making it an attraction for others to come to your farm and see such as a corn maze or day on the farm activities?  Sometimes we adopt new “family members” along the way, and if that’s what it take to get the job done, then so be it.

Joseta, thank you for sharing your story with us!


Women in Dairy: Jamie Van De Walle from Peshtigo, WI

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Today, I have the opportunity to introduce Jamie Van De Walle from Peshtigo, Wisconsin (which is 45 minutes north of Green Bay)!  Jamie is an independent dairy nutritionist / consultant for five counties in Northeast Wisconsin.  Jamie, her husband, Eric and their daughter farm in partnership with Eric’s parents.   They milk 100 cows and are slowly growing to 120 cows and raise all of their young stock including the bull calves that are fed out and sold as finished steers.

While Jamie did not have the opportunity to be involved in 4-H or FFA, her daughter is actively involved in 4-H as a Clover Bud and showed a Spring Calf this summer!  Jamie has a very unique hobby; she has been a Musher for 20 years!  She maintains a kennel of 8 Siberian Huskies that she trains and races in sprinting events throughout the state of Wisconsin.  The year, her daughter will be able to join her.  In addition, Jamie is involved in the Marinette County Holstein Association, is a delegate for AgSource Cooperative and is working on starting a county 4-H judging team!

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Jamie’s Story in her own words:

I am one of the millions who were removed by two generations from the “”family farm””. My grandfather’s brother was a dairy farmer and while he passed away while I was young I have wonderful memories of visiting his farm and the cattle.  I was always interested in livestock and when I found an opportunity to go to school for dairy, I jumped on it.

I attended Michigan State University’s Agriculture Technology program for Dairy Production and Management, completing that certification and my Bachelor of Science in Animal Science, focusing on Dairy Management from MSU. While at MSU, I had the opportunity to be on the 2 and 4 year Dairy Judging Teams. I also participated in the National Dairy Challenge and Midwest Dairy Challenge, Animal Welfare Judging at MSU and worked on several research trials on the University’s dairy farm. I along with a few friends also had the rare opportunity to show cattle from the MSU Dairy Farm.

What is your role in the dairy industry?

I work as an independent nutritionist in northeast Wisconsin. While I am from Michigan I came to Wisconsin for a great job opportunity. My love of the dairy industry started as a youngster and continued to develop through my school days. When I found a program at MSU to get me into dairy I jumped in. It has brought me through two companies and the development of my own business and put me in the right place at the right time to join my husband on his family’s farm. I continue my work as a consultant because I want to see all farms do well and continually strive to be more and do better.

When did you start farming?

I started farming shortly after I started dating my husband in 2011. I had dreamt of having my own dairy and spent hours upon hours on other people’s farms. As he and I became more serious I became more involved. In 2013, I came to the farm “full time” in several capacities. I milk at least once a day, am the primary calf feeder, focus on cow records both health and production and have a pretty good input on the management of the cows. My hubby and I work together to get things done as his parents are starting to enjoy some more free time. He does a lot of the animal husbandry labor and we work together on the hands on cow management procedures.

As a Mom what do you want to share with others about the dairy industry?

Coming from a non-farming family and marrying into a family deeply rooted in their farming heritage, there is so much I wish I could tell people! Perhaps the biggest is the passion, the unbelievable love and desire that goes into what we do. We miss out on family events, don’t have unlimited time to travel and are limited in some of the things we can do with our daughter but none of us would change it for the world! There are so many people who have busy lives, always running, spending money and accumulating more. Because of the farm, we are forced to slow down a bit, really enjoy our time together (which we get a lot of!) and actually see things like going out to dinner or going to the movies as a real treat. Yes, our daughter comes home from school and goes right to the barn where she helps with chores but we get time together. We work together, play together and laugh together in the barn. Our daughter gets to learn not only what work hard looks like but to also take pride in your work. She gets to see that hard work pays off when we calve in a new 2 year old. She sees how Daddy’s time in the field yields beautiful hay fields and rows of green corn. She also learns about the down side of life, the disappointment when we cannot help an animal or a crop fails to yield- out of that disappointment she learns to persevere and push through. Being involved in the dairy industry is a career but it is also a lifetime commitment for the family and that passion for what we do flows through our homes and turns out some of the most wonderful and influential people you will ever meet.

What do you want consumers to know about the dairy products you produce?

To me the main things that people need to know is that we truly love our animals and what we do. Because of that we focus on cow comfort, high quality milk and maintaining exceptional cow health. They need to know that they can have full confidence in what they buy in terms of dairy products because we care they are getting a great product.

What is your favorite dairy product?

I have too many favorite dairy products! I have a hard time deciding between cheese and ice cream as my absolute favorite. I enjoy all sorts of cheeses and will usually try any I am not familiar with. In terms of ice cream- if it has chocolate and/or peanut butter in it, then I am game!

My favorite dairy recipe isn’t really one that I see on the internet. I love to make Macaroni and Cheese, both stove top and in the crock pot. I use different types of cheese like cheddar, Gouda, marble jack, farmer’s cheese along with sour cream, milk and butter. Yum!

What is the most rewarding part of production agriculture? Challenging?

The most rewarding part of being active in production is seeing the results of all of our hard work. Because of my involvement with the young stock and the cow records I really enjoy seeing a calf come into the parlor for the first time and really take off as a milk cow. I take a lot of pride in that and am always looking to improve that part of our operation.

There are a lot of challenges when being involved in production. One area that I find to be the hardest is doing what is best for our animals. I get really attached (probably more than I should) to our girls and I really struggle when all my efforts fail and we have to make a difficult decision to sell or euthanize an animal. Every choice in that arena hits me hard because I always want to do more and do better for them and sometimes that isn’t possible.

I have the distinct pleasure of being on both sides of the dairy industry as a producer and a consultant. As an industry person I get the most excitement out of seeing my clients reach their goals. We spend a lot of time setting them and once we meet one it is the greatest feeling when I see that smile, get a high five or a sigh of relief that we accomplished what we were trying to do. Much like watching a calf grow into a productive milk cow I get a lot of pleasure out of seeing my clients become better at what they do.

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Who is your favorite cow?

I am a big fan of all breeds of dairy cows. I really appreciate a well built, milky cow and will drool over them no matter what color their coat is! With that in mind we milk Holsteins on our farm. I have several favorites within our own herd and while they aren’t going to win WDE, they milk well and don’t let us down. We do have one Brown Swiss in our herd who will be calve this summer. She is my daughter’s project for the future.

What advice would you give someone interested in production agriculture?

If someone wants to get involved in production agriculture I really encourage them to follow that desire. My advice is to find a farm and work on it. Learn the ins and outs, know how much of a commitment you are going to be making. Production agriculture isn’t just a job; it’s a tremendous financial and emotional investment. Your life will revolve around your operation; you can’t walk in the house and leave your work in the barn. If you can handle always thinking about your animals, fields, finances, equipment, the market and balancing a home life in all those hours you’ll spend producing your product then dive in!

Describe a typical/average day for you.

A typical day around here starts at 4am when the alarm goes off. We are usually in the barn and getting things going for the morning milking by 4:15ish. I will milk cows by myself while my husband cleans the free stall barn and gets the feed ready to mix. His dad comes to the farm an hour or so after we get out there to mix the feed for the animals which is when my husband joins me in the parlor. We will work together for about 20 minutes then I feed the calves which means mixing milk replacer, filling water buckets and offering grain to them. I spend extra time looking them all over and if someone needs some one on one time I make sure they get it. After that, I run into the house to get our daughter ready for school and myself ready for work. She’s on the bus by 7am and I am on the road by 7:30 most days. I then visit other dairy farms working with them on their feed management, cow management, efficiencies etc. I am usually home by 2:30-3pm, change back into my barn clothes and head out to do it again! I start afternoon milking while my husband cleans and then he joins me and we will milk most of the afternoon shift together- our daughter joins us when she gets off of the bus. While we are milking we talk about our days, practice spelling and math, play a lot and just enjoy our time together. After milking or toward the end of it I feed the calves, and then feed my sled dogs. Once in the house I make dinner, spend time with our daughter and once she is off to bed I go back to working on rations and spreadsheets for my clients. Weekends, I don’t work off of the farm and will help my husband catch up on the two person work if he is behind. We’ll do cleaning, bedding etc. as needed and I get most of my housework done on the weekends.

What advice would you give someone interested in the dairy industry?

Don’t be afraid to follow your passion and don’t be afraid to ask a lot of questions. I really recommend trying to find an internship if you are in college- get a good handle on what it is you want to do. You can become incredibly vital to the people in the industry, especially producers so knowing how you want to participate and what the expectations are makes it easier to get where you want to go. I would also say don’t be afraid to take the “right” position no matter what the pay is. We’d all love to make a lot of money in our lifetime but sometimes the best place to start can’t or won’t pay you what you think you need. They will however set you up for all your future endeavors. I had several job offers out of college and I did not take the highest paying one. I chose to join a company that was going to not only put the time and money into training me. I got the experience I needed to move forward in my career and become more successful. While I am limited in my contact with the original company that brought me to WI, I will always remember how they gave me the basis to do what it is I do now.

What are other roles and/or opportunities available to those in the dairy industry?

It seems like the opportunities are endless! If you enjoy marketing and like dairy cows you can get position marketing for milk processors, AI companies, nutrition companies…anyone in the dairy industry needs marketing assistance. If you are into genetics you can go to work for AI companies, get involved in research and development. Feed is a huge category, you can work directly on farm with producers, sell and support products going to feed mills, work in product development, source ingredients, manage mills…the list goes on and on! I believe that there is an option for everyone. If you have a passion, an interest and some drive you can carve a path into the dairy industry.

What do you envision the future of the dairy industry looking like?

I think that the dairy industry is going to continue to stream line, become more efficient and utilize more technology. I do hope to see producers become more vocal about what we do and how we do it so that we can continue to instill confidence in food production. I really enjoy seeing all the young people coming back to the farm and it really warms my heart to see more and more of them. We are very fortunate to live in an area where there is a large population of friends our age taking over their family farms.

Jamie, thank you for sharing your story with us!


Women in Dairy: Abby Swan from Kemridge Farm in Westfield, Wisconsin.

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I would like to introduce Abby Swan from Kemridge Farm in Westfield, Wisconsin.  Abby is proud to admit that she is 40 years old and is a Registered Nurse and dairy farmer!  Growing up on her family’s dairy farm, she was involved in 4-H and her children are following in her footsteps.  Abby has a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from University of Wisconsin- Oshkosh and was an Emergency Department RN for 17 years and was the Emergency Department Director for almost 4 years. This past January, Abby left the nursing world and joined her two brothers, Aric and Adam on the farm full-time as the Herdswoman and calf caretaker.  Abby and her husband, Tyson, an IT expert are the proud parents of Troy (11) and Holly (9).  Kemridge Farm just expanded their free stall barn and converted an old stanchion barn into a milking parlor. Abby admits that she is in love with the parlor and has noticed a big difference in their milking times and cow comfort.   While Abby does not have a lot of free time off the farm, but when she does, she enjoys motorcycle rides with her husband, hanging out with friends, relaxing.

Abby’s Story in her own words:

When did you start farming?

I have been farming since I was old enough to talk and walk.  I rode in tractors when I was little and I loved helping my grandpa feed calves.  I was his “Sugar Plum” and loved it.  I started washing cows when I was around 9 years old.  We milked around 60 cows in a stanchion barn and have slowly expanded over the years and we are currently milking 220 with plans to expand to around 300-350.  I am the herdsman and calf feeder.  I also take care of feeding the weaned calves up to 6 months old.  I also sometimes have to drive tractor, but would rather not.

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What is your favorite dairy product?

I am not sure if I have a favorite dairy product.  I love butter, chocolate milk and cheese. I love cream cheese on bagels and sour cream on my tacos!    I really do not like to cook.  I love sandwiches loaded with lunch meat (any kind), cheese, pickles, mayo, and butter.   Pizza is also another favorite of mine with extra shredded mozzarella and cheddar cheese loaded on it.

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Who is your favorite cow?

My favorite cow is my red Holstein, Rusty.  Her mother was our first ever red Holstein and Rusty just became my pet.  She just blessed me with a sweet red heifer calf, Ruby, 2 days before my birthday.  My favorite breed is Holstein probably because that is what I grew up with.  We bought some Jersey/Holstein cross heifers last year and I bred them all to Jersey semen.  Now we are getting some little Jersey calves too.  They are pretty energetic calves I am finding out.

Describe a “typical/average” day for you.

I am at the farm daily by 6am.  I feed calves first, and then help finish milking to check on the “hospital” cows.  Then I walk through the cows in the barn and check or breed cows.  Then I go for “breakfast” around 10:30am.  Then I have lots of variation to my day.  It depends on what needs to be done that day.  Then I feed calves again in the evening.  I try to sit down and eat with my family every night and relax for at least one hour.  Then bed by 9pm.  If I put everything I do daily, you would need a book!

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What is the most rewarding part of production agriculture? Challenging?

I love watching “my” calves grow into cows and then working on improving the genetics in the future calves.  I love working with my family every day.  The most challenging is the long hours, trying to balance work with family, and watching the fluctuation of prices for the goods that we produce knowing that we have bills to pay.

What do you envision the future of the dairy industry looking like?

I am not sure, but I do believe that the 100 cow and fewer farms will be a thing of the past; it makes me sad to say.

Abby, thank you for sharing your story with us!

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Women in Dairy: Cynthia Martel a Dairy Extension Agent from Wirtz, Virginia.

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I would like to introduce Cynthia Martel from Wirtz, Virginia.  Like many other women we have featured thus far, family is Cynthia’s most important part of her life.  Cynthia and her husband of 10 years, Chris have two children, Trent (5) and Mavis (21 months), along with 4 dogs, 2 horses, and 1 sheep.  The Martel family loves spending time together and with friends and cooking out on the grill no matter the time of the year!  They are a 2 gallon every other day whole milk family with their kids loving cottage cheese, ice cream, cheese and yogurt!!

Cynthia’s Story in her own words:

Hi, I am originally from a small town in New Hampshire and I grew up with horses, dogs, and cats.  I am the youngest of 12 siblings, and it was one of my older sisters who married a dairy farmer.  I have always had a passion for all animals, which is way my original plan was to become a Vet.  I went to the University of New Hampshire as a Pre-Vet student but when my father died 2 months into my freshman year, my life’s path changed.  It was when I started working at the Fairchild Dairy and Research farm, that I changed my plan and received a B.S. in Dairy Management.  While at UNH, I had a summer internship at a dairy in Vermont, and after finishing college I went to work for a small dairy in NH.  Working for the Conklin Family gave me so many opportunities which are what sent my new husband and I out to Kansas.  Together we moved halfway across the county.  Neither of us had ever lived in another state, and yet we choose to up and move 1300 miles away.  While in Kansas, I went to Kansas State University worked under the direction of the amazing Dr. Stevenson in Reproductive Physiology and Dr. Bradford in Ruminant Nutrition.  Our plan was always to try to get back to NH, but when the opportunity opened up to take a position in Virginia as a dairy extension agent with Virginia Cooperative Extension, we packed up everything and moved our toddler son and 3 dogs to VA.  As of February 6, 2015, we have been in VA for 3 years and absolutely love the state and most importantly the job.  I am one of just two Dairy Extension Agents with Virginia Cooperative Extension covering the entire state.  We work directly with faculty at Virginia Tech Dairy Science department.  I am the third female to have this position in Franklin County, VA.  I truly love my job and working with all the producers in the county and surrounding counties. When I was young, I was involved in the 4H horse program, now as an adult, I am a leader for the Franklin County 4H Adventure Farm Livestock club and agent contact for the Franklin County 4H Trailblazers Horse and Pony Club.  I work to put on educational programs for the farmers and help educated the next generation about the importance of agriculture and livestock.  I put on livestock shows for our county.

What is your role in the dairy industry?

I am a Dairy Extension Agent.  I work for the farmers as an unbiased partner to help educated them in their business.  I am not out there to sell them products, but to see them succeed.  I provide educational programs throughout the year, bringing in guest speakers.  I can provide advice in nutrition, reproduction, milking procedures, management, etc.

What is your favorite breed of dairy cattle?

I am a Jersey and Brown Swiss lover!  I just fell in love with Jersey from the beginning, maybe because this is the breed of cow my sister owns. Who doesn’t love a cow that always looks dolled up!

What are 3 things you want consumers to know about the dairy industry?

  1. The dairy industry is SAFE! Farmers producer safe products, because they are also feeding their own families their products.
  2. Know where your food comes from – Milk does not come from the store – it is bought at the store – but produced on the farm, by a cow and a hard working farmer.
  3. Before jumping to conclusions talk with a farmer, visit a farm.

What is the most rewarding part of being in the dairy industry? Challenging?

The most rewarding part of being in the Dairy Industry is witnessing change on a farm for the better, seeing a farm transition to the next generation, seeing new farms start up.  Educating both old and young!

The most challenging is seeing farms struggle when milk prices are so low.  We provide farmers with suggestions on ways to improve a problem area on the farm and it goes in one ear and out the other.  Seeing the general public so disconnected from Agriculture, not knowing where their food comes from and how important farming is.  Also, when people who have lived in the city their entire life decided to move right next to a dairy farm that has been there for several decades and they complain about everything that goes on at the farm and try to drive the farmer out of business.

What advice would you give someone interested in the dairy industry?

Be a sponge!  The dairy industry has been here so long because it supports so many families.  But remember you can only improve your business if you are willing to learn more and make changes.  Protect yourself! Unfortunately will live in a world where we have to protect ourselves from our neighbors and groups trying to shut your business down.  If you follow the rules, care for your cows like they are your own kids, and create a safe and secure product, you will thrive!

What are other roles and/or opportunities available to those in the dairy industry?

The opportunities in the Dairy Industry are almost limitless! The Dairy industry can provide jobs, in manufacturing and processing, nutrition, reproduction, finance (because unless you truly understand a farm its hard to understand its finance), management, handling, mastitis work, the demand for well qualified large animal vets is always high and strong, working for a research company, facility design, and how about teachers, from high school to college, much more.

What do you envision the future of the dairy industry looking like?

My job as a Dairy Extension Agent is to help keep the Dairy industry strong by educating not only the producers but also the general public about why we need farming.  Explain to the public when they complain about the price of milk and say the farmer must be rich, point out the true fact that the farmer makes very little off the cost of a gallon of milk.

Cynthia, thank you for sharing your story with us!

Women in Dairy: Julianne Holler from Sharpsville, Pennsylvania.

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I would like to introduce, 21 year old Julianne Holler from Sharpsville, Pennsylvania.  Julianne is currently a senior at Thiel College where she is pursing a degree in Biology with plans to attend graduate school next fall while continuing to be involved in the dairy industry.  While Julianne did not grow up directly on a farm, she has owned and been around cows her entire life.  Her current herd includes 17 head, including: Red and White Holsteins, Black and White Holsteins, Guernseys and Brown Swiss.  While pursuing her education, she milk at a local farm, Ridge Dell Holsteins and cares for her own show cattle on a daily basis.  Julianne was involved in 4-H for 11 years and served as her club’s President, and Treasurer.

Julianne’s favorite dairy product is a tie between any type of hot, or melted cheese and ice cream! She admits that she is not a big fan of cold sliced, or cubed cheese, but if it is melted, the more, the better! As far as ice cream goes, she loves it all!

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Julianne’s Story in her own words:

Who is your favorite cow?

I would say that my favorite cow is Maple Lane Miss Christmas, my first ever Guernsey. I invested in Miss Christmas when I was a senior year in high school, and she has led me to so many opportunities. She is the first animal that I ever took to World Dairy Expo, where she placed 4th in the junior show. I have two daughters out of her who are full sisters. Last year, her oldest daughter, Holler-Way Carolina girl was nominated honorable mention Junior All-American. This cow was a great asset to my herd, and I want to thank the late Bryan Wolfe for making her available to me.

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What is the most rewarding part of production agriculture? Challenging?

I feel that the most rewarding part of production agriculture is the fact that I play a role in feeding the world. The most challenging part of production agriculture is losing one of the members of the herd. Some may say they are just a cow, but to me, they are part of the family.

Describe a typical/average day for you.

A “typical/average” day for me normally begins before sunrise, as I head to the barn to feed and milk my show cattle. During the week, I then proceed to college classes, and do chores once again in the evening. On many weekends, I care for my cattle morning and night, as well as I milk for a neighboring farm milking 100+. In between all of this, I must keep up on homework, as well as work individually work with my cattle for any upcoming shows. Although I don’t have much free time, when I do, I enjoy traveling, baking, and relaxing.

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What are 3 things you want consumers to know about the dairy industry?

  1. Farmers genuinely care for their cattle
  2. All dairy products are wholesome and produced under great standards
  3. The dairy industry is a great industry to be a part of, with fellowship, networking, and genuine bonds.

Julianne, thank you for sharing your story with us!

Women in Dairy: Britte Nooijens from the Netherlands!


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Today, it is my honor to feature Britte Nooijens from Dongen in the Netherlands!  Britte has a very unique perspective, she works as an embryo technician and enjoys going to Holstein shows.  I really appreciate Britte taking time to answer our questions especially since English is not her native language.

Britte’s Story in her own words:

My name is Britte Nooijens; I am 25 years old and living in Dongen (Netherlands). I live with my Sister Stacey, my mam Rhesy and dad Jan on a small farm where my parents used to milk cows. Unfortunately my dad sold the cows when I was 3 years old. My parents are currently running a horse livery (boarding stable). My hobby was horse-riding as I did competitions every weekend but quit because I could not find time for it because I got busier going to cow shows. I was always interested in horses and cows and decided to go to agricultural college to study Animal Husbandry. My dad did not like the idea and made me realize it was a tough business with 24/7 work but that didn’t scare me. I enjoyed college as it gave me the opportunity to do internships. Through these internships I got the opportunity to go to Ontario, Canada and to China which was a great experience. One of the farms did a lot of embryo transplants and this fascinated me. I always kept that experience in the back of my mind. When I went to university I got my license to teach at an agricultural school but I could get the idea of embryo work out of my mind. I was able to do an internship at a company that did embryo transplantation and I am currently working there fulltime.

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Who is your favorite cow?

Toc Farm Alllen Amyly and Rapid Bay Gorgeous, these two cows are not online good in the show ring but they also have the DNA to breed great daughters and sons. And the first cow I owned Betsie! I bought her as a calf and she is now at my friend’s farm where she is doing a great job!

Describe a typical/average day for you.

No two days are the same, there are days we flush where I give assistance in the barn, and then I go in and filter and search for the embryos. We also do IVF where I also assist.  I am responsible for implanting the embryo’s into recipients which is the most exciting part of the job. Every embryo has a story! We also do pregnancy checks and it is nice to see your results and a happy farmer when the results are right.

What is the most rewarding part of being in the dairy industry? Challenging?

Most rewarding, I am surrounded by cows every day and that every farmer has their own philosophy.  No matter what cow we have to flush, there is always a great reason why she gets flushed. Most challenging part is that I am a girl and have to prove myself. I think you have to work hard and earn trust. At the time you have that trust it is a great atmosphere to work.

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What do you envision the future of the dairy industry looking like?

I can see the dairy industry growing and becoming more efficient in developing countries, and I think we might see the industry go through good and not so good times as it has done in the past ,

Britte, thank you for providing us with your international story, we really appreciate it!

Previous Women in Dairy Features:

Women in Dairy: Amy Rowbottom from Crooked Face Creamery in Norridgewock, Maine.

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Today, I would like to introduce Amy Rowbottom from Crooked Face Creamery in Norridgewock, Maine. Amy grew up on dairy farm in Norridgewock, Maine where her parent’s dairy farmed for over 30 years.  After attending Wheaton College, Amy joined the marketing, sales, web development, and bookkeeping world for a while but found that she missed the farm.  She started making cheese in her late 20’s and Crooked Face Creamery began. Today, she’s been making cheese for the last 5 years.  Amy’s family includes her 2 year old daughter (her sidekick) and Howard, their basset hound/border collie mix.  Amy and her daughter live close to the farm and her parents still raise and sell grass fed beef.  Her typical day (if that’s even possible) includes getting milk, making, packaging and delivering cheese and spending time with her family.

When not on the farm, Amy enjoys hiking, taking the farm dogs for a walk, cross country skiing, and horseback riding. She serves as the Somerset County FSA County Committee representative where they connect farmers to the great programs FSA has to offer.

It’s seems appropriate that Amy’s favorite dairy product is cheese and she shares her favorite recipe with us today – Pioneer Women’s – Macaroni & Cheese.

Amy’s Story in her own words:

When did you start farming and what is your role in the dairy operation?

I started farming 5 years ago on my parent’s farm. I grew up on the farm and after school I realized it was where I wanted to be. I knew I didn’t want to rely on just milking cows so I started experimenting with value added products – like cheese! I am the cheesemaker and I also do bookkeeping and manage my website, social media, etc. and do all the sales and marketing.

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What do you want consumers to know about the dairy products you produce at Crooked Face Creamery?

My products are all made by hand in 25-40 gallon batches. The milk changes with the seasons so there is always some variation in my batches and unique qualities that come with that shift. I make a few aged cheeses and a fresh whole milk Ricotta. My specialty is smoked cheese – I have a custom designed cheese smoker which sets my products apart from others.

As a Mom what do you want to share with others about the dairy industry?

Know your farmer. The care and energy they put into their farm and animals will show in the quality of their products and the health of their herd.  I think sometimes larger dairy operations are often expected to be harder on their cows than smaller family farms. I know a few big farms that are that do a phenomenal job. Buy direct from your local farmer if it’s an option.

Photo by Jeff Pouland AWARD-WINNING RICOTTA: Crooked Face Creamery's whole milk ricotta cheese recently won third place in the nation at the American Cheese Society Conference in Madison, WI.

Photo by Jeff Pouland
AWARD-WINNING RICOTTA: Crooked Face Creamery’s whole milk ricotta cheese recently won third place in the nation at the American Cheese Society Conference in Madison, WI.

What is the most rewarding part of being in the dairy industry? Challenging?

Most rewarding is seeing the smile on people’s faces when they eat my cheese. The most challenging is the cost of being in the dairy business.

What advice would you give someone interested in production agriculture?

Take classes – there are so many Ag related schools and universities now. Then apprentice on farms as much as you can. You learn so much from your peers and hands on experience.

What are other roles and/or opportunities available to those in the dairy industry?

I think that possibilities are endless if you work hard and are passionate about what you do.

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What do you envision the future of the dairy industry looking like?

In my own area, I see scaling back on milking large herds and doing more value added products direct sales from the farm.

Amy, thank you for sharing your story with us today!  Make sure you check out the Crooked Face Creamery website; follow Amy on Instagram and “like” the Crooked Face Creamery Facebook Page.

Previous Women in Dairy Features:

Women in Dairy: Jodi Cast from JJC Jerseys in Beaver Crossing, Nebraska.

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I would like to introduce Jodi Cast from JJC Jerseys in Beaver Crossing, Nebraska.  Jodi and I are both active in Midwest Dairy’s Farm Moms and had the opportunity to meet each other last winter!  Jodi grew up on a small dairy farm where they quit milking while she was a senior in high school and swore to herself, that she’s never milk cows again.  Today, Jodi and her husband work together on their dairy farm that they purchased from his parents in 2013.  J  Their family consists of Garrett who is 10, the quads (yes quadruplets) Grant, Olivia, Ben and Alex who are 8 and Henry who was born earlier this month!  While Jodi admits she doesn’t have much time to get away or devote to many activities she is involved on their school board.

Cheese is Jodi’s favorite dairy product and today, she shares a Cast Family favorite recipe with us, Turkey Tetrazzini!

Turkey Tetrazzini

2 cups broken uncooked spaghetti

1 chicken bouillon cube

3/4 c boiling water

1 can cream mushroom soup

1/2 tsp celery salt

1/4 tsp pepper

1 1/2 c cubed cooked turkey

Small onion

2T diced pimentos, drained

1 1/2 c shredded cheddar cheese

Directions: Cook spaghetti. In a bowl dissolve bouillon in water.  Add soup, celery salt and pepper. Drain spaghetti, add to mixture. Stir in turkey, onion, pimentos, a 1/2 c cheese. Move to greased 8 inch baking dish. Top with remaining cheese. Bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes or until heated through. I always double this as it’s a family favorite.”

Jodi’s Story in her own words:

Who is your favorite cow?

We milk mostly Jerseys with a few Milking Shorthorn, Guernsey, Brown Swiss and Ayrshires; everything but Holsteins. I have a Jersey that I am probably most partial to. She shows at the state fair and her number is 5092 and name is Daisy. We also have Hershey, our Milking Shorthorn who is a good cow. I can’t say I have a favorite because I consider all of them my friends but there are some cows/heifers that are a bit more special.  Jerseys are probably my favorite breed. They are so cute when they are little. Then as they grow they just get pretty.

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What are 3 things you want consumers to know about the dairy industry?

  1. I read a lot about what is in our milk, from pus to blood to hormones. Yuck! My family and I drink this. I would not let my family; my kids drink something that gross.
  2. We don’t abuse our animals. All it takes is one bad guy on one farm to mark us all. There are bad ones in every job from lawyers, to doctors to anyone; it doesn’t make us all bad. It actually makes us strive to be better so to not be in that category.
  3. We don’t fill our animals with medicines for the heck of it. They are vaccinated at appropriate times to prevent disease.  They are treated for illness that left untreated, they would die. Milk is kept out of the tank that has any medicine in it until a test is run to prove it medicine free.

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As a Mom what do you want to share with others about the dairy industry?

I think people believe what we do is easy. That there is little to no education involved. My husband and I are not computer experts, but have had to evolve in a computer/data flooded world.  Everything is so technical, you have to know something. It’s not just milking cows. Its repairing equipment, figuring paychecks, accounting, nutrition, breeding animals, genetics, and vet work to name a few.  A lot is instinct. To look at a cow or calf and just know it’s not acting right.

What is the most rewarding part of production agriculture? Challenging?

Perhaps the rewarding and challenging is the same thing. We produce a healthy, nutritional food. It is something that matters. One thing you see everywhere, from stores to schools to restaurants to most everyone’s homes. At the same time it is a constant challenge to make sure it is healthy and stays that way!

What advice would you give someone interested in production agriculture?

It’s not easy. You sure don’t get into it for the money, because that’s not great now either.  You have to do it for the love. The drive to do better than those before, to carry on the family tradition, to instill the love of it in your kids and for future generations. I do believe dairy has to be in your heart, as cheesy as that sounds. Sure, ones will state it’s just a job, but that saying of do something you love… do something that makes you happy, and satisfies you.

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What do you envision the future of the dairy industry looking like?

I think consumers will demand a more open door to the foods they are buying. They do to an extent now, but with how far people are removed from the farms believe in all the chatter about our industry, I can see how we need to do more in promoting from a farmer standpoint and not so much wait and defend ourselves. I think everyone will need to be more efficient with what we have from the energy we use to the waste we produce.

Jodi, thank you for sharing your story with us today!  Make sure you follow Jodi’s Blog, Our Little Brown Cow and give her Facebook page, JJC Jerseys a “like”.

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