Fueling my passion for the dairy industry

April 12th, 2017

Ariane France is a dairy enthusiast from Eastern Ontario as well as a current agriculture student at the University of Guelph. In February, she spent a week in Arizona, attending the Young Dairy Leaders Institute, a program designed to further develop leadership and communication skills in the next generation of the dairy industry.

I left for my first session of the Young Dairy Leaders Institute (YDLI) on February 7th to meet up with around 60 other participants in Phoenix, Arizona. Class 10, the class I was in, consists of participants from various states, one from Mexico and one from Canada: me! YDLI will consist of three phases.

On the first phase, we focused on personal skills – how to become better leaders as well as improve our communication skills. On the first day, we toured two farms – the first one had 1200 cows and a glass bottling plant and the second one had 1500 cows with a really amazing feed system. They feed a total mixed ration three times a day which is basically a big salad bowl with ingredients such as cottonseed, almond hulls, sorghum, fresh hay, corn silage and various grains and supplements. They do 18 cuts of hay a year which is very different from 3-4 in Eastern Ontario!

The following few days were spent in the classroom where we learned about a wide variety of leadership skills. For example, recognizing our personality types and how effective leaders are able to work with people of different personality types; how to really appreciate when we were good at something and work on our strengths while surrounding ourselves with people who could do other things better than us and how to work on our “Powerful Message” – a message of why we are in the dairy industry and why we love what we do.

The class took a field trip to Arizona State University (ASU) where we got to apply our communication lessons and talk to students! This was eye-opening because some of the questions we got were not at all what we expected, and it was interesting to get a public’s perception of the dairy industry. One of the final presentations talked about turning “dairy speak” into consumer speak by identifying shared values and creating a personal core story. It made us realize that we may know lots of other farmers, but to individual consumers, we might be the only dairy farmer or industry representative a person may ever talk to. It made us think of what do we want them to take away from the conversation and what message do we want to pass on?

On February 12, I took an early flight back to Canada. With my head full of new ideas and heart full of renewed passion, I came back home and am now preparing my ‘Phase II project’.

For this project, I'm looking at creating a video series on YouTube along the lines of Mythbusters, but cleverly calling it ''Cowbusters''. The series will feature 30-40 second videos which will cover some of the popular myths about the dairy industry. I'm hoping they go viral, but if 10 non-dairy people see the videos, I'll be happy! I want to make them funny, to the point, and simple to understand so they can be great for sharing on social media. I will also be doing consumer interviews and some presentations. All of this until next January when I return back to Arizona for Phase III!

I hope that I can share my YDLI experience with as many people as possible!

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