Photo courtesy of NorthFit Creamery, home of CrossFit Fort Atkinson.

How do you define strength? Does it mean you squat 300 pounds and do 30 unbroken pull ups? Is strength being a dairy producer, waking every morning to face yet another day of hardships — but doing it because of your passion for feeding the world? What about the countless women in the industry who have broken down gender barriers and are now the most trusted solution providers farmers turn to every day?

Recently, while at a dairy industry networking event, I was asked to share a couple things about myself that others may not know — and I told the group I am one of those "crazy" people who wake up at 4 a.m. to go to CrossFit at NorthFit Creamery, here in Fort Atkinson. (I also shared my passion for premium vodkas — but I’ll save that topic for another blog.) It was in that moment that I looked around the room and realized the eerie similarities between CrossFit and the dairy industry.

Photo courtesy of NorthFit Creamery.

One of the obvious parallels is that it takes both mental and physical strength to succeed. Deadlifting and box jumps at the gym can easily be compared to activities on the farm like moving hay or scaling fences. At the same time, pushing through a tough workout when every muscle is telling you to stop is like continuing to milk, feed, and care for your cows when it’s below zero degrees outside and snowing.

Resiliency is another similarity. There will be days when an athlete leaves their box (what CrossFitters call their gym) feeling defeated. Perhaps they couldn’t hit a personal record or they felt like dying after doing 100 burpees. However, tomorrow they’ll tie up their Nanos (aka tennis shoes) and go back for more. The same is true with dairy farmers. Maybe a cow falls in the parlor or the TMR mixer breaks down today. But tomorrow that producer will lace up his boots and start the new day with a fresh mind.

To get some other perspective, I asked a few of my fellow CrossFitters and dairy friends to also chime in.

  • Family is key to both. Most dairy operations are centered around family, and the success of the farm relies heavily on the support of those family members. When you join CrossFit, you gain a new family — people that hold you accountable and push you when you want to give up. (Jennifer Eighmy, Agri-Sales Associates, Inc.)
  • Being a dairy producer’s wife, I am sometimes called upon to help with chores. CrossFit has given me the stamina and drive to keep going when helping move calves or hauling water and feed for the animals. (Registered Nurse and Wisconsin dairy farmer’s wife)
  • I’ve worked on a dairy farm and done CrossFit since I was a teenager. Both have taught me responsibility, accountability, how important it is to take care of myself — but to also have fun, enjoy the little things, and celebrate the accomplishments. (Bailey Rockney, Employee at Straussdale Holsteins)
  • I was doing farmer carries far before they were cool. I’ve also helped “carry” teams both in CrossFit and in the dairy industry to success. What I’ve learned growing up on a farm has truly helped me persevere through injuries, hardships, and roadblocks — both at the gym and as being an advocate in the most cow-populated part of our country. (Laura Gordon, CrossFitter and California cattlewoman)

Whether you toss around bags of feed or barbells, a few things are for certain: To succeed in the dairy industry or at CrossFit, you must have undying passion, work hard, push through the tough times, and support those around you. The commonalities between the two are truly staggering — and the fact that both choose the same location (the Alliant Energy Center in Madison, Wis.) as the epicenter for their largest event of the year is ironic. Or not?

Amanda Wollin

The author is the digital marketing manager and leads the development and implementation of digital marketing channels and advertising products for Hoard’s Dairyman. A graduate from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, she previously led U.S. and global marketing activities in the cattle genetics industry and has had a lifelong passion for advancing the success of agriculture.