Robin Oliver  – pictured with her husband, Randy — dairy farms with her family near Amherst Junction, Wisconsin. Oliver has been a member of the Dairy Moms Facebook group for several years and said the connection to people who understand her lifestyle is important to her. 
PHOTO SUBMITTED
Robin Oliver – pictured with her husband, Randy — dairy farms with her family near Amherst Junction, Wisconsin. Oliver has been a member of the Dairy Moms Facebook group for several years and said the connection to people who understand her lifestyle is important to her. PHOTO SUBMITTED
Sometimes having an understanding friend to whom one can vent, a brain to pick or a shoulder on which to cry is exactly what the doctor ordered. Often, in the sometimes isolated life of a dairy farmer, those things can be hard to find.
One Facebook group called Dairy Moms has grown into a global community of like-minded women bound by their passion for dairy farming and now touts over 3,700 members.
Ohio dairywoman Jodi McDonnell started the group about five years ago as an off-shoot of a blog page she had created.
“There were about 40 women that regularly followed and participated in my page, so one day I decided it would be nice to create a group where we could all be,” McDonnell said. “I figured it would end up being maybe a couple hundred women just discussing everyday life on the farm. Never in my wildest idea did I think it would become what it has.”
McDonnell, who milks 60 cows with her husband, Tom, and their four children on their Lakeville, Ohio, dairy farm, said the group has connected her to a wide array of dairy women with whom she would otherwise never have come in contact with.
“The group is so comfortable because all of us get it, the daily challenges that come with dairy farming and raising a family,” McDonnell said. “For a long time, I didn’t really realize the impact the group has for some women; for some, it is their connection to the outside world.”
Overseeing a group of this size can present challenges, and McDonnell admits some days she is overwhelmed by the amount of administrative work she must do for the group. She has enlisted the help of several members of the group to act as moderators.
“I would say 95% of the time the group does well and basically runs itself with very few issues,” McDonnell said. “That speaks to the women in the group. The majority of the people appreciate what the group does for our small sector of the global community.”
Most of McDonnell’s efforts are focused on introducing conversation starters to give the members a topic to chat about. Frequently, members post their own questions, soliciting advice from other women who have likely walked in their shoes.
Female dairy enthusiasts said they are drawn to the page by the open and accepting atmosphere shared among the group members. Not all members are moms and not all are active dairy farmers, but all share the common bond of connection through the dairy industry.
“The best part is these women understand the agricultural industry and know the struggles,” said Robin Oliver, a group member for several years. “It is good to be able to just run ideas or problems past other women who are doing the same thing as you. Sometimes it is good to just be able to vent to people who will understand.”
Oliver and her husband, Randy, milk almost 300 cows on their dairy farm near Amherst Junction, Wisconsin.
“We are all dealing with the same things, and we are just trying to raise a family on the farm,” Oliver said. “You can ask just about anything to the group and not feel embarrassed because more than likely, someone has had a similar experience.”
Allison Bredlau said she joined the group about a year ago at the suggestion of another Dairy Mom member. Bredlau and her husband, Brent, milk 50 cows on their Augusta, Wisconsin, dairy farm.              
“Joining Dairy Moms helped me realize there are others in similar situations as me,” said Bredlau. “It is great to ask for advice or hear what others are thinking about. Our community is not a heavy dairy community, so it is nice to find people I can relate with.”
As the community of dairy women grew and many members developed close connections, the idea of adding some holiday cheer to the group surfaced three years ago. That was when a small group initiated a Secret Santa exchange. In its second year, the activity attracted about 165 participants, while nearly 400 members registered to take part in the gifting tradition this Christmas.
“I enjoy Christmas and everyone needs a little pick-me-up after the struggles we can face each day,” Oliver said. “It is fun to meet a new mom and share a gift with them. Sometimes we need a little something to look forward to, to remind us to slow down and get excited over something.”
The premise of the activity is simple, with a $25 suggested spending limit. The group makes use of an app called Elfster to randomly assign a Secret Santa to someone.
“I like thinking of others, and it is nice to be thought of as well,” Bredlau said. “I used to do something like this with my college friends and I always enjoyed it. This is my first time participating in the Dairy Moms Secret Santa.”