May 5 2023 09:00 AM

Not every dairy enthusiast was raised on a farm, but unique and unusual beginnings can lead to the most amazing journeys.

If you are an avid reader of Hoard’s Dairyman magazine, you might know a thing or two about the history of the company, the magazine, and the man who started it all. I was shocked throughout my time as an intern to learn the unique beginnings that brought us one of the leading resources for dairy farmers.

I want to provide a snippet of the story of William Dempster Hoard without getting too far into the details, but you can learn more at the Hoard’s Dairyman website. W.D. Hoard grew up in New York, but not on a dairy farm. His background with dairy cattle came from working on a neighbor’s farm. I immediately perked up upon hearing this fact, because I don’t come from a farm, either. I became involved in the dairy industry because of some wonderful people in my community who welcomed me with open arms and taught me everything that I know about dairy cattle.

Hoard relocated to Wisconsin and continued through life as a talented writer and speaker. He could have settled into his role as editor of the Jefferson County Union newspaper that he founded, but instead he stepped up to help develop Wisconsin into America’s Dairyland. Combining his experiences with dairy cattle and his knowledge of growing crops in New York, he started to use the local paper to spread his ideas to local farmers. In an area where many of his readers were farmers attempting to grow wheat, he wrote about the great potential of raising dairy cattle and planting alfalfa to feed them, which would do much better in the glacial soil than wheat. It took some time for farmers stuck in their ways to try these new ideas, but over time, they took his advice.

Once again, I was interested to see the similarities in my story and his. I could have taken the knowledge I gained about dairy cattle and went on with my life choosing some other career path. However, I was inspired to stay and to continue learning and growing in the industry. This led me to a college degree in agricultural communications and a career in marketing and communications for the dairy industry. (I wonder what he would think about my major and career path?) Without some twists and turns early in my life journey, I certainly wouldn’t be where I am today.

Hoard’s story reminded me about what I already knew. It doesn’t matter where you start; it’s about where you end up and what you do with the knowledge that you gain along the way.

Mikayla Peper

Mikayla grew up near Osceola, Wis. She discovered her passion for the dairy industry while working on her neighbors’ Holstein dairy farm. That spurred her involvement in 4-H and FFA, and following graduation from Osceola High School, she headed to the University of Minnesota to pursue a degree in agricultural communication and marketing. During the school year, she worked as a website designer for the University of Minnesota department of animal science, and last summer, she was a farmer relations intern for Midwest Dairy. Peper served as the 2022 Hoard’s Dairyman editorial intern.