“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone,” Neale Donald Walsch said.
This quote is written on the front of a mug that has sat on the corner of my desk throughout my summer as the corporate communications intern for Midwest Dairy. When I read this quote and think about how it applies to how I see the dairy industry, the word that then comes to mind is opportunity.
I grew up with the best of both worlds. While it may sound like I am directly quoting Hannah Montana, the opportunity to see both sides of agriculture is how I really found my place as a dairy advocate.
I hail from a small farm in a suburb of the Twin Cities and have always enjoyed connecting those from my hometown community to the dairy community. Attending one of the largest high schools in the state, I would walk the halls as one of the only students with a direct connection to agriculture. This experience provided me with one of my first opportunities to serve as an advocate for dairy.
I loved taking the opportunity to talk about my cows, sharing how my family and I care for them every day and answering any questions my friends had about the dairy industry. I quickly found that I can continue doing what I loved while also wearing a crown and sash to represent the dairy farmers of Washington County. This opportunity brought me closer to Midwest Dairy, and in 2021, I got to work closely with their staff as a Princess Kay of the Milky Way finalist.
Some of my biggest role models were once butterheads. For as long as I can remember, I found myself at the coronation the night before the Minnesota State Fair watching all the finalists closely. They were all incredibly passionate and involved in the dairy industry, and their leadership and communication skills could be easily seen as they answered questions or talked with the crowd. I admired these dairy advocates for how they jumped at the opportunities in their lives so much that it inspired me to jump at the opportunities in mine.
I challenged myself to become a leader others could look up to one day, and today, I look back on all the opportunities I have taken, the leader I have become, and I realize how I need to thank the dairy farmers for building me into the leader I am.
I have benefited because our dairy farmers created these opportunities for young leaders like myself to grow. They have invested in checkoff, the dairy princess program, the ambassador program and much more. They have provided these experiences that have allowed us to build our confidence, think strategically and connect with others in the dairy industry so we can return to help the dairy community.
It was Demosthenes, a Greek orator, who said, “Small opportunities are often the beginning of great achievements.” Opportunities for young people in the dairy industry are plentiful, and the support we receive from dairy farmers as we grow through these programs, friendships and experiences are life-changing.
I have been extremely fortunate to share my dairy story with others through opportunities provided by the dairy farmers through Midwest Dairy checkoff programs. This summer I was able to dedicate my time by helping dairy farmers share their stories; I got to have a bird’s eye view on projects happening across Midwest Dairy’s 10-state region; and I even had the opportunity to share my experiences as a dairy advocate with the next generation of young dairy leaders.
As I near the end of my time as a dairy youth, I want to thank the dairy farmers just one more time for investing in the future of the dairy industry. The opportunities you have provided for young people like me have pushed us out of our comfort zones and have allowed us to grow into passionate advocates for the dairy community, and I look forward to giving back to you any way I can throughout my career.