A young farmer in the current DEAL class talks with a Midwest Dairy employee about sharing dairy’s story with consumers.

Many times, the best storytelling comes right from the source. And here at Midwest Dairy, that’s the farmers. All dairy farmers across Midwest Dairy’s ten-state region have amazing on-farm experiences to share; however, we realize not all of them know where to begin. That’s why we created the Dairy Experience and Agricultural Leadership (DEAL) Program.

Started in 2019, the 18-month, three-phase DEAL program provides leadership development opportunities for young dairy farmers ages 25 to 40. It allows dairy farmers to dive deeper into dairy checkoff so they can see how we are wisely using their investment to build dairy sales and trust in dairy. It further empowers dairy farmers to use each of their unique skills to share about on-farm practices, sustainability, and products with consumers. There have been 15 farmers so far who have completed the program, with its second class of 13 participants currently working through all three phases.

Participants in the current DEAL class connect with each other during a DEAL workshop.
Each phase of the DEAL program has specific purposes. Phase 1 focuses on explaining Midwest Dairy and learning the history of the checkoff at the national, regional, and local levels. Additionally, all participants learn about their personality strengths and how to use those when working with others. Phase 2 is about connecting with consumers. Training from the Center for Food Integrity teaches DEAL participants how to connect with consumers on shared values along with creative ways to engage with them online through social media. They also hear from checkoff partners about how they connect with consumers through products. In the final phase, Phase 3 participants learn about Midwest Dairy leadership and make industry connections by spending time with the corporate board, followed by a media training session.

Two members of the current DEAL class shared insight into their experiences.

“This program has made me more confident in speaking to consumers,” said Courtney Lintker, a dairy farmer from Illinois. “The resources, information, and coaching from the DEAL program make it a lot easier to share my family’s dairy story in an authentic way that allows me to better connect with consumers.”

“I was a little intimidated about putting myself and our farm on social media, but DEAL gives me the know-how about doing that," said Cole Hoyer, a dairy farmer from South Dakota.

A farmer from the first DEAL class practices his media interview skills during Phase 3 of the program.
Along with gaining leadership skills and gathering valuable resources for sharing their stories, it’s so important for these young farmers to develop relationships and form a sense of community with others in the industry that they can lean on and learn from, which is a big part of this program. In the future, we also hope that from these programs and relationships, the dairy farmers stay engaged in checkoff happenings and potentially take on more leadership opportunities in the future.

“I think more importantly, DEAL gives us a support system by introducing us to other dairy farmers doing the same things, experiencing the same challenges, and wanting to share their stories. Plus, my DEAL classmates have become great friends,” Hoyer said.

We know this is a big ask of the dairy farmers to take time away from managing and running their operations, but we hope this program provides opportunities that will benefit them personally along with the wider dairy community.

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(c) Hoard's Dairyman Intel 2022
November 21, 2022
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