Kayla Wilson
Burlington, Wisconsin
Racine County
250 cows

Family: I am the oldest of three children. My siblings are Kate and Sawyer, and my mom and dad are Mark and Jenny.

Tell us about your farm. We have an all-Holstein herd, and I even have a few of my own. We do all our field work and harvesting, occasionally hiring out some custom chopping. My dad started milking cows about 30 years ago. For a short time, he rented another facility before buying the family farm from his mom. Prior to moving back, he retrofitted the stanchion barn to have a double-8 herringbone parlor. I am always reminded that my love for farming started here because in the corner of the parlor is my baby footprint from the day they poured the concrete. Today, we have some part-time employees to do most of the milking; my aunt does most of the herdsman work, and I feed calves every morning and fill in where needed. I consider this my full-time, part-time job. My dad does everything else, which is a lot. Finally, I can’t leave out my mom. She does the bookkeeping and works off the farm as a baker at a local coffee shop.
 
What is the busiest time of day for you? Pretty much all day. I start my day pretty early feeding calves which I find relaxing (most of the time). After, I try to get a workout in before I start my full-time job as a field representative for a dairy cooperative. I normally finish the day outside or find something to fill my time.

When you get a spare moment, what do you do? In my spare time, you’ll find me in my garden when it’s nice out because I sure love summertime. Otherwise, I may be baking, shopping, getting a drink with friends or even getting my nails done. I enjoy feeling like a girl sometimes.

Tell us about your most memorable experience working on the farm. A couple years ago, we had some makeshift pens that had old cattle panel barriers for our bull calves. At the time, I needed to move a couple of calves around because we were having lots of calves. I was able to carry the calves easily, but I wanted to take the shortcut and not open the pens because I could easily step over the one section of paneling. That was all great until I lost my footing and fell right on the paneling. Normally, only my pride would have been hurt, but unfortunately, this old paneling was falling apart and had a couple of barbs sticking up, leaving me to have a barb pierce me. I instantly got up and realized my bottom was bleeding. I almost passed out in shock but managed to find my dad and tell him what happened. Thank God he didn’t laugh first and asked if I was OK, but that ended with a trip to the walk-in clinic to get an updated tetanus shot and some antibiotics.

What have you enjoyed most about dairy farming or your tie to the dairy industry? This is a tough one because there are so many things to love; it’s hard to choose. Growing up, I enjoyed the lifestyle. I loved getting to work with my dad, caring for the animals and the land daily. Now, I am humbled I get to work with not only my family but some of the best producers and people I have ever met. I enjoy hearing their stories of success. And even when things are hard, I hope I can leave them with some positive light.

How do you stay connected with others in the industry? I stay connected to others through social media, my job, dairy conferences and places like World Dairy Expo. World Dairy Expo is like a big reunion and makes you realize how small the world truly is.
 
Who is someone in the industry who has inspired you? My dad. He is my biggest inspiration because he is incredibly hardworking, smart and family-driven. He is always so good at making sure the work is done so he can have time to go to one of my siblings’ games or enjoy a family meal. That’s part of what keeps our family so close. Another thing I admire is that he always listens to my ideas and lets me do occasional experiments which require some changes to the way we do things.

If you could give a tour of your farm to a prominent woman in today’s society, who would it be? I enjoy sharing our farm with others. Many people don’t realize the day-to-day tasks that have to happen on farms to keep them going, and I enjoy seeing their surprise when they find out. It’s easy to forget that what is common to us is not common to others, and until you share your day-to-day lifestyle with them, they won’t realize the job we do is so incredible.

What is the best vacation you have ever taken? A trip to Punta Cana a few years ago. That was by far my favorite because it was winter here in Wisconsin and about 80 degrees there. I got to spend five days relaxing on a beach with some of my closest friends and all the food and drinks I wanted. Not having an agenda is my kind of vacation.

What are some words you like to live by? As cliché as it is, I like to live by the phrase, “Don’t cry over spilled milk.” My dad and I say this to each other quite often. Although, I literally spill milk every day whether it’s on myself or the ground. It reminds me to not sweat the small things because it’s out of my control anyway, so I may as well look forward to whatever is next.