There has been very little break between bitter cold, blizzards and the aftermath that we are all dealing with this winter. February was record-breaking for Minnesota snowfall amounts in a single month according to the climatologists. Keeping up with day-to-day chores is the main focus on our farm, and I imagine every dairy farm in our region, these past few weeks. Devastating damage to people’s barns from snow load and just the sheer job of moving snow for milk and delivery trucks is overwhelming to say the least.
    Now March has arrived. What will this month bring for challenges? Will we have more of the same or maybe a small respite from the unrelenting snow and wind? I think we are all hoping for some calmer weather with time to regroup, catch up and get some overdue lot cleaning and cattle moving underway.
    Normally this is the time of the year that we attend various meetings. One or more of us try to go to meetings that we feel are important to our management or business skills. Other events are more on the fun side, because we get to celebrate and maybe see old friends. Still other appointments revolve around finances, taxes or signing up for dairy and crop programs. Whatever the case, it takes time, energy and planning if we want to get away to attend. Some stay on the wish list even if we cannot make it every year.
    Rolf and I have had the good fortune to attend the Gopher Dairy Club Banquet three years running. This is a fun event held the third Sunday of February (thank goodness, no blizzard) where the accomplishments of the University of Minnesota dairy club kids are celebrated. This year my brother-in-law, Mike was able to join us. It so happened that alumni of his age were either speaking or being honored by the club, so he had an interest in going. He was able to visit with a good friend during the meal. We are all alumni of the university, and this event is a great way to reconnect with people we went to college with or know from our industry. The students do a tremendous job of organizing and orchestrating the banquet and program. It is an honor to be involved and watch them shine.
    Another interesting meeting I went to was a farm succession planning workshop held by the United Farmers Cooperative at their headquarters in Winthrop, Minn. The workshop was conducted by Jolene Brown, West Branch, Iowa, who is a renowned speaker on this topic. I had heard her a few other times and was excited to go. The take-away message and information she provided was excellent. Now comes the tough part of explaining and implementing the suggestions. It was useful to have a packet of information to take along to refer to in days to come. The afternoon session covered more of the nuts and bolts of transition planning from the perspective of an attorney, CPA and financial planner.
    The February storms meant that some meetings were rescheduled. One of those is our regional DHIA meeting that I was looking forward to attending. The records we pay for and receive are comprehensive but not as well used as they maybe could be. The topic of the meeting was how to better utilize your records. I am hoping it works to get there on the new date.
    Sometimes, I try to take in a webinar and rely on online or published articles where reporters cover meetings that I cannot attend. Most of the time, that is a good alternative, but it requires some real discipline to actually take time to focus. For Mike and Rolf, this winter has not allowed much time to sit and watch webinars, read or anything else. It seems like every hour in the day is taken up with work needing to be done or dealing with the latest snow storm.
    Another meeting that comes up in March is our county DHIA and Holstein Association meetings that we hold on the same day. This a collaborative effort between University of Minnesota Extension and the boards of both organizations. At last count, I think there were more than 40 emails to get the time, place, meal and speaker decided for this event. The meeting is fun, and it is good to get together with local dairy farmers that you do not get to see very often. It is an event where we celebrate, learn, conduct business and enjoy a meal together. Our group is small but passionate about what we do.
      I hope you can find a meeting or event to attend that offers a chance to gain insight, relax and step away from the difficult winter and economic times we have faced.
    Jean dairy farms with her husband, Rolf, and brother-in-law, Mike, and children Emily, Matthias and Leif. They farm near St. Peter, in Norseland, where she is still trying to fit in with the Norwegians and Swedes. They milk 200 cows and farm 650 acres. She can be reached at jeanannexstad@gmail.com.