ST. CLOUD, Minn. – Dana Adams’ career, which has taken her throughout the country and across international waters, has now brought her to the heart of Minnesota.
    Adams was hired as the livestock extension educator for Benton, Morrison and Stearns counties with the University of Minnesota. She started her position Nov. 2.
    “This is a very strong fit with what I had been working towards,” Adams said. “Since grad school, my goal had been to be a livestock educator in a county that has a lot of ruminant animal producers.”   
    In her position, Adams will provide education and outreach to livestock producers in the tri-county area.
    While Adams’ formal training has been in dairy nutrition, she recognizes how an animal performs and its ability to provide for the farm business is far more complex. She is looking forward to connecting and building relationships with farmers of all backgrounds and being a point-person for the agriculture community.
    “That really is the power of extension,” Adams said. “Yes, I can talk about nutrition, but the farmer also wants information about transition planning, new facilities. Extension can bring those things to the table and really support that farmer.”
    The new hire grew up in Alexandria, Virginia, where her father was stationed as a member of the United States Air Force and family currently lives.
    She completed her Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia – an hour south of her hometown. Then, furthered her education with a master’s in dairy nutrition from South Dakota State University in Brookings, South Dakota. There, Adams’ studies focused on forages and forage digestibility.
Adams’ exposure to agriculture stems from her father who is from Nebraska.
“Growing up, we’d go out every year and visit with friends and family,” Adams said. “You see agriculture there more than in northern Virginia.”
    While Adams’ childhood had a small influence on her choice in careers, it was a study abroad experience in Holland during her time as an undergraduate that solidified her desire to work in production agriculture.
    “I did a short vet course and worked with veterinarians who were finishing up their degrees,” Adams said. “We worked with cows and pigs. That was the light bulb moment, the moment I learned more about how our food is developed. It was fascinating.”
    During her time in South Dakota, Adams participated in many public engagement events where she educated children about ruminant animals, in one instance using a cannulated cow.
    “Those experiences started my enthusiasm for teaching about agriculture,” Adams said.
    In that same period, Adams conducted on-farm research trials to collect information that was useful for the livestock producer and their operation.
    After receiving her master’s degree, Adams sought to use her education in an applicable way. She spent the following six months on a 1,200-cow dairy farm in New Zealand.
    In returning to the states, Adams accepted a position as an agricultural and natural resource educator with Purdue University in Terre Haute, Indiana. During her nearly five-year tenure as a Boilmaker, Adams worked closely with corn and soybean growers.
    “My time with Purdue gave me more experience with the big picture,” Adams said. “How does that row-crop side segue with what the cow is eating, how we manage our animals, and how that applies to her lifespan? It approved my flexibility and thinking to look at multiple avenues.”
    As Adams delves into her responsibilities in central Minnesota, she is looking toward her past for guidance.
    “Experience is a huge asset I have,” Adams said. “I’ve seen farming in Holland, Canada, New Zealand, Indiana, South Dakota and Virginia. I have seen problems attacked on different fronts yet was always looking for an opportunity to get back into livestock and found it here.”
    She is also relying on her personal skillset to be a helpful asset to the community and build strong relationships with the area’s farmers.  
    “I’ve got positive feedback about how I make research and facts relevant, and I take a lot of pride in that,” Adams said. “I want farmers to come to me because they know I can do that as an educator and we have that relationship. These are people I care about.”
    However, Adams’ first month on the job has looked quite different from what she hoped it would be. With the presence of COVID-19, connecting and forming relationships with farmers has not been an easy task.
    Adams is working with county commissioners and others in the community to connect with farmers. She also encourages the agriculture community to reach out and introduce themselves and participate in programming offered virtually.
    “We’re still working hard,” Adams said. “And, hopefully, one day I’ll be able to swing out to people’s farms. I’m excited to get to know farmers, their history, their families, what they take pride in.”