Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin (PDPW) is focused on helping dairy producers succeed through learning and sharing information. As part of that mission they have launched a new website, with lots of tabs and resources to help producers catch up on happenings in the industry, not just in Wisconsin.

"We welcome dairy producers and leaders from anywhere, because they are part of that network [we are building]." says PDPW's Executive Director Shelly Mayer. "We all learn and grow. The organization started out as a Wisconsin organization, but now it has branched far beyond that. The issues of the dairy industry branch far beyond any state or region."

The organization started in 1992 with 10 producers in Wisconsin talking about forming a group that would help producers with their business decisions. What they started was a network of producers that could help teach one another profitable practices and eventually give them a guiding light to better management. It is still producer-run and has a nine-member board of directors, which are voted on by the member-producers.

"Producers get invited through PDPW to take a place at the table, as it were, in shaping policy or providing direction for other parts of our industry where we can facilitate change. For example, dairy producers might get the opportunity, because PDPW is often contacted for our opinion, rather than the organization necessarily taking a place at a meeting we would ask our members to represent themselves and give their opinion of where they think the industry should go. So it's putting producers where they can help determine the destiny or the direction of the industry, rather than having a bureaucracy speak on behalf of a producer, it's producers sitting at the table."

Right now PDPW is working on educating producers through seminars and conferences — the group's Managers Academy will be held in Seattle, Washington, in January — connecting media outside of the industry with resources within the industry, continuing to facilitate and move forward with the National Animal Well-Being Initiative and much more. Another program they have is called Agricultural Community Engagement. This program gathers producers and local elected officials to discuss not only the needs and issues that face dairy farmers but also educate the dairy producers about issues that impact local communities.

What does it take to establish an organization like this? What is the motivation behind the efforts to educate producers and anyone looking for information about the dairy industry? Mayer says the motivation for her is in the change that she is part of.

"If we make a difference for one person, if it's one young person that makes the decision to stick with our industry, if we make a difference for one dairy producer and his family, [it's all been worth it]," says Mayer who has been involved in PDPW since 1992. "It's about helping people. We feel that if individual dairy producers are successful, our whole industry will be successful."

Mayer has a lot of pride in the dairy industry and not just because of the products it produces.

"I am proud to be part of an industry that produces what I truly believe is a healthy, wholesome product," Mayer says. "We're an industry that is in concert with our environment. I truly believe that what we do is a wonderful profession. All my life I grew up on a dairy farm. I always wanted to dairy. My husband and I after college chose, and have worked very hard, to own and operate our own dairy farm, and it's all because I believe that this is the very best business that I could be a part of."

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