Earlier this month I had the opportunity to share Proud to Dairy with 45 young dairy enthusiasts at the Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin (PDPW) Youth Leadership Derby held in Milton, Wisconsin. The weekend was filled with tours and interactive workshops. As soon as participants arrived at the high school, they were treated to lunch by the Milton FFA Alumni. After a brief moment for introductions they boarded the bus for an afternoon of tours. The first stop was NASCO International Inc. to learn how they supply almost everything from farm goods to classroom tools. Next, they visited Larson Acres, a 1,400-cow, 3,000 acre family farm near Evansville. Owner Mike Larson shared how they not only manage the herd, but also the environment. The last stop of the day was at Doug and Melanie Nifong's 35-head dairy. Youth learned how show cattle are grown and groomed at Me-Do Meadows.
Back at the school it was time for some learning labs. Youth rotated between "How do your crops grow?" with Chad Staudinger, Dairyland Seeds; "Dairy foods" with Scott Rankin, UW-Madison Food Science Department; and "Where does the feed go?" with Elizabeth French, UW-Madison graduate student.
As the night moved on it was time to get the creative juices flowing. Participants split into groups to create and perform skits to a theme none other than "Proud to Dairy." (I hope to be able to post some of those skits to Proud to Dairy soon.)
After catching a quick rest, it was on to the morning workshops. Here they learned about "Finding profit in reproduction" with Dave Northey, UW-Madison research manager; "Communications" with Nicole Reese, Milton High School agri-science instructor and former Alice in Dairyland; and "So you want to go to college?" with students and staff from Wisconsin universities and technical colleges.
I made my Proud to Dairy introduction as a part of the Communications workshop. First, Nicole Reese discussed how important it is to educate consumers about the dairy industry and what key messages they can spread. Then we brought them to a computer lab where I stressed the importance of communicating within the industry and showed them how to use Proud to Dairy.
I hope that many of them will become members of this site and continue their conversations as they are the future of our industry.
Finally, before heading for home, the youth heard from Former National FFA Officer and Cornell Graduate Student Barrett Keene as he shared what has kept him motivated and driving toward success.
I had a great time at the Derby and I hope the participants did as well. I invite them to share their personal stories here at Proud to Dairy and for everyone to take a look through my photo album to see what a wonderful weekend it was.

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