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From the Field: Young Dairy Leaders Institute

From the Field: Young Dairy Leaders Institute

Annaliese Wegner is a dairy farmer, wife, blogger and recent YDLI Class 9 participant from Wisconsin. The following article is excerpted from her moderndayfarmchick.com blog. You can also find her on her her blog, Facebook and Twitter.


As we look into the future of agriculture, not only do we need farmers, we also need leaders. Leaders who will reach out to consumers, debunk myths, correct misconceptions and open their barn doors to the public. Leaders who will share the truth about agriculture and ensure consumers that the food on their dinner table is safe and comes from farm families who care.

The Young Dairy Leaders Institute (YDLI) is a nationally recognized three-phase leader and communication skills development program for young adults working in the dairy industry. Each participant develops top-tier skills and the personal network needed to succeed in today's dairy business. The YDLI program Phase I program I attended last February included dairy farmers, dairy nutritionists, sire analysts, loan officers, AI technicians, marketing agents and many more.

After meeting our YDLI alumni mentors, a great aspect of the program, we had the opportunity to listen to Marnie Green, a specialist in the DiSC personality assessment. Through her interactive and energetic seminar, I was able to identify and understand my own personality style as well as others’. I learned people-reading skills that help me build effective working relationships with others.The interactive Leadership Communications Training had us on our feet and answering tough consumer questions. While it was a bit nerve-racking to be on stage in front of your classmates, it empowered us to find our voice and to be better prepared in the future. We spent most of the morning perfecting our communication tools and learning how to share our core story. We also touched on the power of social media and how to define who you are online in order to share your story and the truth about dairy farming.

That afternoon we hit the streets to practice what was preached, visiting the local university to talk with students about the dairy industry and the products they consume. Most consumers were really receptive to what we had to share and were excited to have had the opportunity to meet a dairy farmer. There were a few nay-sayers on campus, but we had the right tools to communicate with them effectively.

We also had the privilege to listen to the lovely Laura Daniels that night. A wife, mother, farmer, dairy consultant and ag advocate. Her message was "If agriculture is the tractor, and the people we feed are the wagon, YOU are the hitch pin and the very best one to make the connection". Laura inspired us all to be better leaders and dairy advocates. She helped us find our core story and influenced us to want to make a difference in the dairy industry.

Laura Daniels was then joined by Monty Miller to speak with us about communicating with consumers, including our leadership responsibility to listen, communicate and influence consumers and policy makers. We took a self-assessment of our sensory and cognitive preferences and applied the information to best align with people when communicating. The skills gained from this session gave us leverage to effectively communicate using vocal and body energy. Who knew communicating was more than just talking?

Later we worked in groups with our mentors to prepare for Phase II of YDLI, which includes putting our skills to use by developing and completing an Advocacy Action Plan. Activities are designed to get us out of our comfort zone and to make a difference in the community and dairy industry. I am happy to share that I have already started my "big" project. I am working with my County Farm Bureau to host a 5K an dairy day in my home town (idea credit to my sister). We are calling it "Moo-vin' with Milk" and hope to teach consumers about dairy farming and the health benefits of milk.

I always considered myself to be a decent communicator, but YDLI really helped me perfect my skills. I left Arizona with confidence, inspiration and a desire to lead. I'm pretty sure my classmates felt the same.