Mariah Schmitt is Iowa Dairy Center’s new coordinator. Schmitt grew up on her family’s dairy farm near Fort Atkinson, Iowa.PHOTO SUBMITTED
Mariah Schmitt is Iowa Dairy Center’s new coordinator. Schmitt grew up on her family’s dairy farm near Fort Atkinson, Iowa.
CALMAR, Iowa - As Mariah Schmitt develops a career in the dairy industry, she is keeping in mind two of her favorite things - cows and communications.
"I love talking about dairy and am looking forward to promoting an industry and community that I am absolutely proud of," Schmitt said.
In May, Schmitt was appointed the coordinator for Iowa's Dairy Center. The center is an entity of the Northeast Iowa Dairy Foundation - a partnership between Northeast Iowa Community College, Iowa State University and Midwest Dairy Association to educate farmers, students and consumers, alike, about the state's industry.
While Schmitt's responsibilities are vast, her primary role is to serve as a communications liaison between the center and the three groups of individuals the organization serves.
"I work to educate the students that are enrolled with our college partner; to educate farmers through workshops and meetings; and to educate consumers about the dairy industry," Schmitt said. "We want to increase the knowledge of dairy from farmers to consumers and everyone in between."
More specifically, the young dairy enthusiast is responsible for center programming, public relations and marketing, membership, tours of the facilities, grant writing and composing the center's newsletter. Schmitt also coordinates efforts with the foundation's board of directors to maintain the program's mission of fostering industry growth through education, research and demonstration.
"Essentially, anything that goes on here I have a hand in," Schmitt said.
As Schmitt entered into her newfound role, she coordinated the annual breakfast on the farm event, which was held June 17, and has become accustomed to facilitating tours of the facilities to individuals from across the country.
"We have a very unique set up here with a parlor and robots," Schmitt said. "We're often hosting workshops and meetings for producers to learn more about which setup might be right for them."
Schmitt recently graduated from Iowa State University with degrees in dairy science, and agriculture and society. However, her interest in the industry began long ago as a young girl on her family's dairy farm near Fort Atkinson, Iowa.
On her family's 50-cow Holstein farm, Schmitt established a small herd of Guernseys and spent much of her spare time involved in 4-H and FFA-related activities.
Over the years, Schmitt has received many accolades for her accomplishments at events held locally, statewide and nationally.
"I was very active in dairy judging," said Schmitt, recalling her individual eighth-place finish at World Dairy Expo last fall.
Schmitt was not only active in the show ring, but also the community as she served as the 2013-2014 Iowa Dairy Princess.
"Connecting with three different audiences really drew me to this position. With my past involvement in the industry, I've been able to come full circle after being a student, representing and working with farmers, and interacting with the public," Schmitt said. "Without those experiences, I don't think I'd be able to be successful in this role; they've really helped me out."
As Schmitt's dairy background facilitated in her ability as the center's coordinator, so did her former internships. Prior to accepting this full-time position, Schmitt served as Midwest Dairy Association's industry relations intern, as well as spent a summer working for a communication agency.
"During those internships, I learned more about the checkoff program and promoting dairy - how to be a good spokesperson through social media like Facebook and Twitter," Schmitt said.
With nearly two months under her belt, Schmitt is pleased with the path her career is taking and the experiences that have prepared her for this role.
As she looks ahead, Schmitt is hoping to add more value to the center.
"Dairy is local. I want to create greater awareness of that," Schmitt said. "It's such a good feeling when you can consume dairy products and support your local industry."
Through personal interactions and social media accounts, such as Instagram, Schmitt is eager to be a good representative of Iowa dairy farmers and encourage the consumption of dairy products.
"Farmers, like my dad, have 14-hour-plus days and don't always have time to be a spokesperson for the industry," Schmitt said. "That's where my role comes in. I'm here to be a greater presence in the community and create more transparency between consumers and farmers."
Most importantly, as the coordinator for Iowa's Dairy Center, Schmitt is looking forward to serving the farming community that provided her with a memorable childhood and promising future.
"I'm now able to give back to something that has given me so much," Schmitt said.