FRENCH LICK, Ind. — During tough times in agriculture and, more specifically, the U.S. dairy farming sector, it’s easy to believe you are the only one with doubts and fears and questions. The feeling of isolation can be intensified when the demands of milking cows twice a day keep you on the farm and away from others.
That’s one reason for the Dairy Girl Network. But it’s not the only reason that the group was founded and not the only reason that the group has grown to some 5,000 members in just a few years.
“Sometimes it’s just about pressing forward,” said Kristy Pagel, owner of Leading Edge Consulting, and director of business development and strategic leadership for GPS Dairy Consulting. A dairy farmer whose farm is near Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, Pagel is an industry representative on the Dairy Girl Network board of directors.
Pagel was a keynote presenter at the 2019 Indiana Dairy Forum and also hosted a Dairy Girl Network networking event at the forum.
Pagel said the group, founded by Wisconsin dairy farmer Laura Daniels, revolves around three ideas — achieve, connect and inspire.
“The connection part happens in a few different ways. Connecting is the networking we can provide. Some women don’t have the opportunity to get off the farm and go to different conferences or meetings, where we connect women at the dairy level and also at the industry level, specific to them just seeing they are not alone in what they do but there are others doing the same thing,” Pagel said.
Women are a potent force in the dairy industry and Dairy Girl Network recognizes that fact.
“There are a large number of women, when you look at the number of women who are in a leadership role in their farms, whether that is ownership or chief financial officer or managers, heads of maternity units, herd managers, parlor managers,” Pagel said.
The group offers a monthly webinar series, with topics that cover everything from calf health to mental health and farm management. A private Facebook page also offers fellowship and a place for members to discuss various topics.
“That is probably our biggest area where the most communication takes place. It’s a safe forum for people to ask questions, whether it’s related to calves or what are the warmest socks to be wearing this time of year,” Pagel said.
Events like the Indiana Dairy Forum networking event are a big part of the group’s networking efforts.
“We really look for leaders within each state. The Indiana Dairy Forum event was a perfect example of that. We had our first connect event there. LuAnn Troxel, an Indiana dairy farmer and Dairy Girl Network board member, initiated that event. Connect events happen from coast to coast.
The group implements its “inspire” goal through a mentorship program.
“Our Inspire program is a mentor/mentee program that we launched in 2018. We are in the second round of pairing up mentors with mentees. That’s one of the things we do to support each other,” Pagel said.
The common thread through all of the group’s events and activities is lifting women in the dairy industry.
“It revolves around helping women be able to achieve their goals,” Pagel said.