It was only one week ago today that my daughter, Anna, and I headed west into the thunder clouds on our way to St. Paul, Minn., to attend the Dairy Experience Forum. It was going to be a five hour drive, and we would be arriving at the hotel close to midnight.
    We finished feeding calves and made sure to send a group text message to all of our crew, informing them of the number of bottle babies and which calves were to be weaned while we were gone. Communicating these details makes leaving the farm easier for us and also for our crew.
    As we were driving, the clouds were a horizontal ridge in the sky with lightening flashing and flickering off in the distance. Beautiful but scary. The power of the storm kept me awake and alert as we headed into construction zones. The signs were warning of the upcoming speed zone change, and the blinking arrows pointed to the left lane directed us to merge into one lane. As the crowd of cars, trucks and semis slowed to squeeze together, we entered into the slower part of the journey where we all moved as a line of tail lights between orange barrels and concrete barriers.
    Anna sat awake next to me, talking, no radio on, nothing to disrupt my concentration. We were on a mission to get where we needed to go and driving towards a storm that could produce a lot of heavy rain and flooding. We both knew this was going to be the next stage of the trip.
    It started as big rain drops. Then, the gates above us in the sky opened up and poured down hard and loud on the truck. The rain water was pooling on the road, and I hydroplaned a few times that made be grasp for breath. Slow down, slow down, slow down until we were going about 30 mph with the wipers slapping full speed. Anna mentioned a few times how glad she was that I was driving. All of the other drivers were experiencing the same effect of the rain, and we all heard the warning alarm screech with three loud bursts on our cell phones to expect flash flooding.
    The alarm warned everyone that the weather conditions were dangerous. Home owners, travelers and businesses in the area got the message loud and clear. Without the radio on, Anna and I did not know what we were headed into. This is a brilliant but simple way to help send a message and to save lives.
    Not too much later, we arrived safe and sound. Just after midnight, we opened our door to our hotel room and fell into bed exhausted from the stressful drive. In the morning, we heard about cars floating away in the flooded streets in Minneapolis. Storm sewer lids were lifting up with the surge of water that pushed up and out onto the streets. We were so thankful we were in St. Paul instead of Minneapolis.
    The walk to the St. Paul RiverCentre was bright and sunny with the humidity starting to lift from the streets. All of us farmers seemed to meet at the cross walks, greeting each other and talking about power of the storm, flooded farm fields and whether they needed rain at home or not.
    Farmers and dairy industry professionals in production, marketing, research, sales and service were all heading into the forum with great expectations of connecting and learning how to better the dairy industry. This forum was organized by Midwest Dairy Association and Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin.
    Bringing together the sectors of the dairy industry hit the nail on the head for us farmers to meet, learn and inspire new ideas with the leaders of the companies that get our milk to our customers.
    Powerful speakers, panels and great food made this an event we will attend again in the future. Anna, as a young woman in the dairy industry, was impressed and was greeted with open arms and invited into the discussions. Her presence is important as the future of our dairy industry is going to be passed on through the transition of our farm.
    Tina Hinchley, her husband, Duane, and their daughters, Anna and Catherine, milk 240 registered Holsteins with robots. They also farm 2,300 acres of crops near Cambridge, Wisconsin. They have been hosting farm tours for over 20 years.