Center Focus Column

Finding Strength Beyond Yourself

A while ago I was reading through the paper and came across this quote: “The strongest people are not those who show strength in front of us but those who win battles we know nothing about.” I thought to myself how much this resonated with where we are in the dairy industry right now.

Every day farm families wage their own personal battles – whether it is working through a very challenging financial environment, dealing with increasing regulations in almost every area of their business, meeting the needs of a fickle consumer, or just finding a way to navigate through the dynamics of running a family business and working with family in today’s world. It’s challenging at best, a battle at its worst.

Too often, though, we choose to fight those battles alone. In dairy, we are fortunate to have a strong network of people. Taking advantage of that network to share challenges, bounce around ideas and find solutions can help you grow beyond your own skillset and perspective to strengthen both your management ability and your business. With meeting season in full swing, now is the opportunity to build that network and take advantage of the people out there who share common goals and offer new perspective to whatever challenge you are facing.

It is easy to find a million reasons to stay home: “There is too much to do on the farm,” “We don’t have the time or money to get away,” “I’m not going to learn anything new,” “I am in no mood to listen to people talk about how great dairy’s future is right now anyway.” But I would challenge each of you to take the time to get away, get new ideas and grow your network. You would be surprised how much a day away can rejuvenate your thought process and your perspective.

Dairy Summit Just Around the Corner

The Pennsylvania Dairy Summit is quickly approaching, scheduled for February 5 – 6 at the Lancaster Marriott Convention Center in Lancaster, Pa. The Center for Dairy Excellence co-hosts this event annually with the Professional Dairy Managers of Pennsylvania to provide a mix of management training, industry insight, networking and inspiration appealing to anyone working in the dairy industry. We are excited about this year’s program, which will offer encouragement and guidance to help dairy producers and industry leaders who attend “follow your compass.”

Keynote speakers this year include well-known “Dairy Coach” Tom Wall, who will share his perspective on helping farms become more productive by putting people first, and dairy producer John Brubaker, owner of Knott-Run Dairy, a 300-cow operation in Buhl, Idaho, nationally recognized for its milk quality standards. Other program highlights include Hayden Shaw, a leadership coach who will share perspective on keeping generations working together, and Dr. David Dworak, deputy provost at the U.S. Army War College who has experience in supply chain management and logistics.

Breakout sessions this year are centered around four tracks: “Around the Table,” “At the Desk,” “With the Cows,” and “In the Field.” Some of the breakout topics include managing disease prevention through colostrum, the agronomic effects of small grain integration, working through mergers and acquisitions, and “Climate Change: Fact or Fake?” The complete line up of breakouts and mini breakout sessions is available at padairysummit.org.

Get Out of Your Routine

Attending events like the Pennsylvania Dairy Summit could provide the opportunity to escape your day-to-day routine and step out of your comfort zone. One way we encourage more producers to do this is by  giving a free trip to the Pennsylvania Dairy Summit away to attendees at the Keystone Farm Show. The trip covers all out-of-pocket costs associated with attending the Summit, although the winner still needs to cover the cost of labor on the farm while they are away.

Last year a dairy farmer in my county won the trip to the Dairy Summit, and he and his wife took the opportunity to get away from their dairy and enjoy a couple of days networking with others in the industry. This might have been the first time the couple had ever gone to an event like this.

I had the opportunity to speak to the couple at the Keystone Farm Show this year. They came right up to the booth as soon as they saw me and made sure they signed up to win again. The likelihood of them winning two years in a row isn’t very high, so I asked them if they plan to attend again even if they don’t win. They emphatically said yes because they really enjoyed the opportunity to network with other dairy farmers, share ideas and learn new things. For most people who attend the Dairy Summit, just getting together with other producers and the camaraderie of the event is the biggest reason why they are there.

It’s easy this time of year to go into hibernation. But taking advantage of those opportunities like the Dairy Summit to get out, grow your network and learn new things can give you even more strength in fighting those personal battles you face on your farm and in your life. If you cannot attend this year’s Dairy Summit, try to take advantage of at least one opportunity to get off the farm this meeting season. I bet you’ll be thankful you did.

If you are interested in attending the Dairy Summit, visit padairysummit.org to register or learn more. Registration rates for dairy farmers, their family members and employees are deeply discounted to make it easier to attend, given the current financial environment. The first person from a dairy farm can register for $125, and additional farm members can come for $50. One-day producer rates are even lower. To learn more, call the Summit Business Office at 814-355-2467 or visit padairysummit.org.

As always, the center is here to be a resource for your dairy farm. To learn more about our on-farm program resources or how we can help, call us at 717-346-0849 or visit our website at www.centerfordairyexcellence.org.

Editor’s Note: This column is written by Jayne Sebright, executive director for the Center for Dairy Excellence, and published monthly in the Lancaster Farming Dairy Reporter