Last year we had the pleasure of meeting a wonderful group of dairy farmers from Pennsylvania that were visiting California dairy farms. Our dairy was one of their stops. Tony and I shared our dairy and our cheese plant and the debut our chocolate milk. I had the opportunity to speak to them and shared our struggles with the dairy business and operating a dairy products plant.
A couple months later I received an email asking if I would be interested in being the Keynote speaker at their Women in Dairy Conference being held in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
I reminded them that I was not a professional speaker. She said that it was the ladies from the tour that suggested me as the speaker. I was flattered and frightened at the same time.
They also asked if I could sit on a panel for blogging. That, I thought, no problem. I feel comfortable with blogging. I admit I do not know a lot of the technical things associated with blogging but I do feel comfortable sharing my message and I realize the importance of getting your story out and not let others speak for you. Especially in the dairy industry.
I agreed to do it. I admit, a bit reluctantly. It seemed so far away. I really didn’t know where I would be with my business. I didn’t know how I was going to manage to get away. I didn’t know how to put together a keynote address. I had seen plenty of wonderful speakers in my day. I was especially moved when I had seen Dr. Scott Vernon from Cal Poly SLO give his keynote address at the California Women in Agriculture convention earlier this year. I was challenged and I like that. I decided to do it!
Months before, and up to just before departure I was agonizing over my decision. One day it was, “how exciting” the next day was “what the heck did I get myself into”. I was worried about letting those ladies down. I knew it was too late to back out now. I dug my heels in and resolved to do my best.
I would hole myself up and write, rewrite, write and write some more. It is very rewarding putting your life on paper. I also created my first power point! Accepting challenges and learning new things, isn’t that what life is about?
Penn State Extension is an outreach program of the Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences. They provide educational programs for dairy producers, their employees, and advisers. (click here to see the great programs that they offer) They do a great job. They are professional and work very hard. It is very clear that they like what they do and they like working with these dairy farmers. I felt their devotion and respect for the dairy farmers that they served.
There is nothing easy about getting to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania from Fresno, California. I departed at night on November 5th. I arrived, after a couple of plane changes, in the morning of November 6th. It was a beautiful day. It was a beautiful place. I would not let my weary body get me down. I had to go explore. Explore I did. I want to thank Unique Limousine of Harrisburg, PA. I called them at the last minute. They asked what I was interested in seeing. Offered me a very fair price and picked me up right away to escort me on my adventure. I got to visit the Central Market in Lancaster, PA It is the oldest, continuously ran, farmers market in the nation. A perfect stop for me right? I enjoyed introducing myself to the farmers/vendors there and they were kind and warm. I even got a hug from a lovely Mennonite vendor. I was driven through the beautiful countryside enjoying the farms and got a glimpse of Amish life. I drove through Hershey, PA, the “sweetest town in America” and yes the street lights are the shape of Hershey’s kisses. The whole time, as I was enjoying this, I kept telling myself how much Tony would love to see this and vowed to come back and spend more time.
After my full day I got to enjoy dinner with some of the Penn State Extension team. We also went to a pre-conference reception that evening. It was nice to have this “warm-up” because that moment was here and there was no turning back now.
After a surprisingly good nights sleep, that moment, that I had agonized for so long, was now here. I admit, I was glad that I was up first. When I was done I felt great relief and satisfaction. Mission accomplished! I had wonderful feed back and response and felt embraced. One very nice young lady said that I had “set the tone” for the conference. I was happy that I did not disappoint. These are hard-working dairy women. They are busy working on the farms, milking cows, raising calves and taking care of their families. I wanted it to be worth their time and I didn’t want to disappoint the ladies that suggested me for the job.
I was happy to share my life. I believe they realized, like I did, that even though we might run our dairies differently. We might have more or less cows to take care of. We share to same goals and struggles in our lives. At the end of the day our lives are consumed with the care and well-being of not only our families but our animals.
Sitting on the blogging panel was fun. It is always fun to share the rewards and challenges of blogging. I got to sit on the panel with Raechel Sattazahn. She did a great job sharing her blog, Go Beyond the Barn Blog please check it out. Her husband is a guest writer and they do a wonderful job sharing our agricultural story. Lisa Perrin from Mid Atlantic Dairy Association did a great job as the panel facilitator.
I got to enjoy the rest of the day mingling, eating good food, and taking in the other breakout sessions. I met too many wonderful people to name individually. I hope they know how much I appreciated my time with all of them.
During the day I had the opportunity to meet Jessica Armacost. She is the director of the Pennsylvania Dairy Princess Program and Promotion Service . They have a very impressive program. The girls are very active in promoting dairy in their state. She had with her two of her princesses, Callie and Heather. These two lovely princesses gave a beautiful “milk toast” at lunch. They attended the whole conference and were staying on for other appearances. They were staying the night and asked if I would like to join them for dinner.
What a great evening. She drove us into the town of Harrisburg and indulged me in some picture-taking of this beautiful town. We ate at a local restaurant Appalachian Brewing Company. It was an evening of good food and good company. I so appreciate their invitation. This was a perfect ending to a wonderful experience.
I want to thank Dr. Lisa Holden, associate professor, Penn State Dairy and Animal Science and Laurie Porter for their efforts in arranging this conference. They make it seem easy. Congratulations to you both and everyone who made this day the success that is was.
I made it back home without delay. I was comforted to know that my cheese/milk and dairy business ran just fine without me. Tara and Tony do a great job and did it all themselves without complaint. It is I, that do not know what I would do without them. Thank you both for “holding down the fort”. I love you both.
Again, Pennsylvania Women in Dairy and Penn State Extension, my deepest gratitude for this opportunity. Until we meet again….