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Dairy Advocate Will Share How Women Can "Lead the Way" at Women in Dairy Conference

Posted: October 14, 2008

One of Wisconsin’s leading dairy advocates will return to her Pennsylvania roots to share perspectives on leadership in the industry from a woman’s point of view at the Women in Dairy 2008 conference planned November 20.

The conference will be presented by Penn State Dairy Alliance at the Radisson Penn-Harris Hotel and Conference Center in Camp Hill, Pa.

Producer Deborah Reinhart, the 2007 World Dairy Expo Woman of the Year and current chairperson of the Wisconsin Livestock Identification Consortium, will be the keynote speaker at the conference, a biennial event created by dairy women for dairy women. This year’s conference theme is “Leading the Way.”

Although Reinhart’s advocacy for dairy has placed her on the national stage, she describes herself simply as “a normal gal who married a dairy farmer and loves what she does. There’s nothing special about me, but I am very passionate about dairy.” Reinhart will share this passion in her keynote address: “It’s all about the Journey: A Perspective on Leadership, Lessons Learned, What Worked, and What Didn’t.” Her message is something every woman in dairy can appreciate and will be able to use to make a difference in their family, on their dairy, and in their community.

Reinhart believes women in dairy are particularly suited for the role of spokesperson for the industry. “Women have a remarkable ability to tell their story. Today, the average consumer is far removed from where their food is coming from. As women we are consumers for our families, too, and I think we can tell the industry’s story the best. We can share our passion about the care of our animals. And as women, we have a way to share this passion that I don’t believe men have.”

Reinhart attributes the start of her personal leadership journey to the growth and development she experienced as a 4-H member in Adams County, where her projects focused on cooking, sewing, and leadership. She had no livestock experience before marrying dairy farmer Dave Geiser, but today the couple milks 250 Holsteins on Gold Star Farm in New Holstein, WI.

Reinhart attended Drexel University, where she studied marketing and business, two subjects that have served her well on the dairy. “So much of running a dairy is analysis,” observed Reinhart. “You really have to manage the business; you can’t let it manage you.” On the dairy she generally acts as the business manager, feeds the calves, and balances the feed ration. “I’m a ‘blossom-where-you-are-planted’ kind of gal,” noted Reinhart, adding, “It’s been a great life, full of some wonderful, unique opportunities.”

Many of these unique opportunities have sprung from her involvement in Wisconsin’s dairy industry. Reinhart is a member of the board of directors of the Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin Foundation and as chairperson of the Wisconsin Livestock Identification Consortium she had the vision to launch 26 pilot herd projects that are introducing producers to animal ID technologies. The WLIC is using the herds to field test various ID technologies as it attempts to create an identification network that, in the event of a disease or weather-related animal crisis, will be able to trace an animal back to its herd within 48 hours. The goal is to prevent harm to the food chain and individual dairy businesses, explained Reinhart.

As the 2007 World Dairy Expo Dairy Woman of the Year, Reinhart played an active role in the recent 2008 World Dairy Expo, where she participated by talking about the nationwide Dairy Animal Well-Being Initiative. “You don’t get to retire after receiving that award,” noted Reinhart.

Even though she is working on issues that will have national impact, Reinhart insists there’s nothing special that separates her from other dairy women. She simply wants to give back to an industry that has sustained her family and continues to nourish her own personal development. This advocacy means helping other women, too. “I want to help dairy women feel empowered to make a difference. We are such a small population that we can’t sit back and let others do it. There just aren’t enough ‘others’ among us to do it anymore.”

She adds, “There are many challenges our industry faces, and I want to be part of the solution – not part of the problem.”

In addition to Reinhart’s keynote address, the conference will feature numerous break-out sessions on a broad array of topics, including living life in the balance, managing family finances, using voluntary milking systems/robotics, and understanding the use of dairy ingredients and their implications for production. In addition, leading Pennsylvania producers will present virtual tours of their dairies, discuss how they created value-added opportunities to boost profitability, and offer tips that work for promoting the positive image of dairy with neighbors, the community, and the media. Special guests will include Pennsylvania’s newly crowned Dairy Princess and her court.

New this year is a pre-conference reception, which will be held November 19, from 7:00-9:00 p.m. at the Radisson. Schneider’s Dairy is sponsoring this informal get-together open to all conference participants.

Registration is currently under way. A complete agenda and registration form can be found at: http://dairyalliance.psu.edu/education/women-in-dairy/, or call toll-free, 888-373-7232. Thanks to a grant from the PA Department of Labor and Industry, Pennsylvania dairy producers and their employees may register at the discounted rate of $39. The registration fee for non-PA producers and non-farm employees is $99 per person. Participants can save money by registering as a group. A group of four who register at the same time can pay for three registrations and receive the fourth registration free.

Women in Dairy 2008 is offered, in part, by these sponsors: AgChoice Farm Credit, Center for Dairy Excellence, Dairy Farmers of America, Elanco, Land O’Lakes, MidAtlantic Farm Credit, and Monsanto.

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Dairy Alliance is a Penn State Cooperative Extension initiative.