In eighth grade, I developed a sudden interest in becoming a dairy farmer. I hadn't been around cows since I was 6, but I was determined to spend my life milking them. Since I wasn't raised on a farm, my dad was confused and my teachers were confused, but my Spanish teacher – a former farm girl herself – visited home one weekend and thought it would be a good idea to bring back some issues of Hoard's Dairyman for one particular student to check out on Monday morning. I remember turning back the cover, being absolutely transfixed with the content seeping its way into my brain . . . and thirsting for more knowledge on dairying.
Fast forward to the fall semester of my junior year of college. I had just started blogging for the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation and was writing some freelance stories, in addition to helping Sam (my fiancé) on his dairy farm. I was finally able to combine two of my greatest loves – words and cows – into a budding writing career. Sam hinted that I should apply for the Hoard's Dairyman editorial internship.
"No," I said stubbornly. "They won't take me because I didn't grow up on a farm."
"I think you're being stubborn. You've got plenty of experience with cows now, and you're a better writer than you think," he replied. I wouldn't budge, so he added, "If you don't take this chance I think you're going to regret it for the rest of your life."
Shortly after that, my application materials were in the mail. I went down to Fort Atkinson for an interview the Friday of finals week in December, and I can still remember my jaw hitting the floor when I was selected as the 27th Hoard's Dairyman editorial intern.
During my summer in Fort Atkinson I visited 16 farms and wrote dozens of pieces including Farm Flashes, two-column stories, blog posts, Young Dairymen features and farm stories. I was also tasked with compiling the annual top 50 co-ops list, which runs in the October 10 issue and historically has been one of the most popular features of our magazine. In addition, I wrote some pieces for our World Dairy Expo supplement.
All told, I penned nearly 25,000 words over the course of the internship. I got to add some new states (Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia) to ones I've previously visited while attending dairy breed conventions, and have met some truly incredible people – and cows – along the way. I also had the chance to polish my photojournalism skills, which will give any future stories I write even more dimension and lasting power.
I was challenged and sometimes humbled when something I had written wasn't quite up to par, but the guidance I received along the way from the editorial staff was top notch. The endless patience shown toward me by the Hoard's Dairyman editors was exceptional, especially during those days when I wasn't very patient with myself. But challenges are what make us grow, and I am a tremendously stronger writer than I was back in May. I also gained a lot of knowledge that I will be using on the farm when Sam and I begin to transition into ownership in the years to come.
If you like cows and words, and you're looking for a true, honest-to-goodness internship where you'll learn a lot, consider applying for the Hoard's Dairyman editorial internship in October. You will have the privilege and honor of writing for THE national dairy farm magazine. I can't promise that it will be easy, but I can promise that it will be a good learning experience you will never forget.
The author is a senior at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, majoring in agricultural marketing communications. She is the 27th Hoard's Dairyman editorial summer intern.