Women may still be a minority in the dairy industry, but their contributions, whether it’s as a calf feeder or as a public-relations professional, are not to be overlooked.
Connecting women across the dairy industry is the mission of the nonprofit Dairy Girl Network, which began at the 2013 World Dairy Expo.
Since a humble meeting of about 45 women at a Madison restaurant/bar, the Network has grown to about 450 enrolled members and 1,200 Facebook followers nationwide.
The Network was started “by accident, really. A lot of good things really happen that way,” according to founder Laura Daniels, a mom of two who milks 250 Jerseys near Cobb, serves as the Iowa County Farm Bureau Vice President and works as a business development manager for a feed company.
The first networking event at the 2013 Expo was small and word-of-mouth, with Daniels asking her friends to each bring a friend. A Facebook group was launched.
When they arrived at the venue, she was asked to provide a name for her party and, off the cuff, told the greeter that they were the Dairy Girl Network. The name stuck.
The point of the evening was to meet people and that happened very naturally, as women moved from group to group introducing themselves, Daniels said.
“I wanted them to mix and leave knowing 10 new people — or 40 new people. It worked really great,” she said. “We thought there might be something to this, so we kept the Facebook group going.”
Sponsors stepped up to support the initiative, and the group officially launched at Expo in 2014, with more than 150 women attending a networking get-together.
She said the Network recognizes that women play significant roles on dairy farms and in vendor businesses, as well as serving in industry-organization leadership positions and that their experiences vary from women working in other sectors of agriculture.
Life on a dairy farm, as well as in some other parts of the dairy industry, can be isolating, Daniels said. Many women can benefit from having a mentor or simply a friend to call who understands the unique challenges of the dairy business.
The Dairy Girl Network offers opportunities for all women in the dairy industry to achieve personal and professional development.
To help them connect, the Network hosts socials in conjunction with larger dairy events across the country.
“Events have really worked well because people wanted to spend time together when they’re in town,” Daniels said.
Also, many women at dairy shows and expos wouldn’t otherwise get to know each other because they’re so busy caring for their show string or staffing an exhibit.
Alternative support networks are in the works, including a mentoring program that will link two women within a certain segment of the industry. These women may never meet in person, she said. Network staff will help prompt conversations by providing specific questions.
“Networking events will always be a cornerstone of the women involved in dairy who will never be able to make it to an event,” Daniels said. “It’s important that we keep finding ways to reach women who may be isolated, not just on farms.”
As the Network grows, Daniels said, they are in the process of hiring their first freelance employee to coordinate activities.
Story appeared in the August|September issues of Wisconsin Farm Bureau’s Rural Route. Reprinted with permission from The Country Today.
The Dairy Girl Network World Dairy Expo Networking Event
Where: Monona Terrace Conference Center
When: Wednesday, September 30, from 6-9 p.m.
Who: This networking dinner is open to women involved with any part of dairy – whether as a calf feeder, dairy owner, marketing or sales consultant servicing dairy farms or cheese producers, veterinarians, researchers, etc. If there is a dairy cow involved in what she does, she’s invited!
What: The Dairy Girl Network strives to connect dairy women with one another as a source of support and inspiration. This networking event is a fun way to connect with other women attending the Expo from Wisconsin and across the nation. It also will be a chance to learn more about the programming and opportunities being developed by the fast-growing Dairy Girl Network.
Sign up to be a network member or register for events at DairyGirlNetwork.com.
• Membership in the Dairy Girl Network is free by completing a membership form on their website at www.dairygirlnetwork.com.
• To request access to the Network’s Facebook group, send an email to Laura Daniels at email@example.com.
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