I grew up in Dodge County on my family’s dairy farm, which is still in operation. My father and grandfather have a passion for the Guernsey breed because of the high butterfat and protein components. I pursued a dual degree in life sciences communication and ag and applied economics at UW-Madison. This led me to my position at FarmFirst Dairy Cooperative. My husband, Todd, and I and our daughter, Sadie, live in Fall River.
When you were growing up what did you want to be?
I don’t believe I ever had one single thing in mind, as I vividly remember playing doctor, farmer, chef, circus ringmaster, teacher and so much more when I was younger. I always wanted to experience as much as I could and I wanted to work in the agriculture industry. Everything seemed to fall into place from there.
Tell us about your responsibilities as a Director of Communication at FarmFirst Dairy Cooperative.
I oversee and write all communication pieces that represent the cooperative including monthly newsletters, weekly e-newsletters, the website, social media and press releases. I work with our other divisions on their communication pieces as well. I oversee the membership database and coordinate the cooperative efforts on planning for the organization’s district and annual meetings. I manage and coordinate the new leadership development program we’ve developed, known as FarmFirst Future Dairy Leaders, focused on preparing future leaders of the cooperative and the industry.
Share your experience with the WFBF Leadership Institute.
The WFBF Leadership Institute is a wonderful experience to build skills in serving as a leader and to grow your network of inspiring, ambitious members in Farm Bureau. I loved this experience to grow and build my skills and to gain connections with others in my institute class. The experience expanded my awareness of what WFBF does and offers its members, which in turn makes me a better member and leader within my county.
How long have you served on the Dodge County Farm Bureau Board of Directors? What is the best part of these roles? The most challenging part of these roles?
I’ve served on the Dodge County Farm Bureau board since 2011 and as membership chair since 2016. What I enjoy most about these roles is working with board members with different perspectives and experiences and planning membership events. My time on the board has been very eye-opening to learn about the policies Farm Bureau advocates for, in addition to the learning opportunities it provides.
Describe your experience with the Discussion Meet.
As a long-time participant of the Discussion Meet and winner of the 2020 state Discussion Meet contest, I appreciate this YFA contest for what it offers. Not only does the experience expand a person’s communication skills but led me to make life-long friendships along the way.
What is one agricultural experience that has defined you?
Selecting one experience is impossible, but I would say that the Washington, D.C., Fly-In is one. In my role at FarmFirst, my work focuses on sharing updates with members about dairy policies and federal programs. Keeping members informed and, more importantly, having their voices heard is a top priority with my position.
What is one Farm Bureau experience of which you are most proud?
While in college, I signed up as a member. I became active in the YFA program, which led myself and others to form the first Collegiate Farm Bureau Chapter in Wisconsin. I served as the first UW-Madison Collegiate Farm Bureau president and although we were a new organization, we held our first Ag Day on Campus, which has grown to an even larger event.
What is something that Farm Bureau members do not know about you?
In 2013, I backpacked through Europe. For 14 days, a friend and I visited seven cities including Paris, London and Dublin. It was the adventure of a lifetime, and I would love to do it again.
By Marian Viney, originally appeared in the December|January 2021-2022 Rural Route.