Did you know about the significant role women play on today’s dairy farms?
If you were to visit a dairy farm, there are certain things you’d expect to see. Cows, of course. Most likely a tractor. What you may be surprised to see, however, is who’s managing the herd and the farm. Increasingly, women are taking charge of day-to-day operations and becoming leaders in the industry.
Laura Daniels — a 1997 University of Wisconsin–Madison graduate in dairy science and agricultural and life sciences communications — has given this growing group a voice and a way to succeed on a personal and professional level that’s unique in the field. Through founding the Dairy Girl Network in 2013, Daniels has created opportunities for women nationwide to achieve their goals — from providing resources to help them run more efficient farms to offering tips on how to balance the multiple roles women play on farms and in society. Connecting dairy women to each other is vital to reducing feelings of isolation that many have.
“I want to make the biggest difference possible with my time and my energy.”
“Bringing people together in a common cause: that’s something that I’m good at,” says Daniels. “Even as a student at the UW, I was incredibly active in many organizations. I started things.” But it wasn’t just about her leadership skills. “I was lucky to be surrounded by people who were also really interested in new ideas and making a difference.”
Today Daniels surrounds herself with 300 Jersey cows on her Heartwood Farm in Cobb, in the heart of Iowa County. Beyond serving as general manager of the farm and president of the Dairy Girl Network — a virtual organization whose membership numbers in the thousands — she also works for Star Blends Feeds in Sparta. With many roles come many challenges, but Daniels looks at them as opportunities instead.
“I want to make the biggest difference possible with my time and my energy,” she says. “Sometimes that’s helping a group of women in Pennsylvania through the Dairy Girl Network. Sometimes it’s being the dairy judging coach for 4-H kids.”
And although she’s quick to point out that there are better farmers than she is, Daniels says, “Many can’t do what I can. So I really feel that I have to share and put my skills to good use.” Being an inspiration — and helping other women live their passion and achieve leadership roles — are definitely things that this dairy girl is good at.