Featured in our 2017 Fall Special Edition, we are introduced to six extraordinary Dairy women who are making an impact in the industry.
Background on where you grew up, where you are located now, and business you are involved in:
Julie Eby grew up at Fisherville, Ontario, on her parents Jersey Farm, Pleasant Nook Jerseys. In October 2009, she became the fifth generation to carry on the Pleasant Nook prefix. Julie and her husband Rob moved the cows and quota to Ayr, Ontario, moving into a new pack barn equipped with boxstalls and a 6 stall flat barn parlor. “We Want It All” defines their philosophy and goals and this has not changed from generation to generation. To survive and prosper in the dairy business it has always been essential to have high production; correct type recognized through longevity; show ring victories; high classifications averages; stacks of breed leading, truly superior sires with deep generating cow families. With these breeding goals Pleasant Nook Holsteins & Jerseys have attracted a lot of interest in their genetics. Julie and Rob continue to breed, buy and sell top genetics and, while Rob is busy with his Kubota business, they are truly a dynamic duo when it comes to knowing how to get cows ready at home and at the show. The last two years they have claimed many Premier Breeder banners in the Jersey ring including this year’s World Dairy Expo.
Lisa McRae Hemphill is a partner and practicing dairy veterinarian at Agwest Veterinary Group, a large animal clinic located in Abbotsford, British Columbia. Even though Lisa was not born into Agriculture she chose Agriculture. She grew up in a small farming community in New Brunswick and her introduction to agriculture came after high school when she started working on a small dairy and beef farm where she fell in love with the country lifestyle. Her first experience solidified
her commitment to farming, and allowed her to use agriculture to help finance her way through college. Even to this day Lisa finds enjoyment in coming home from work and spending time doing the simple chores of feeding, cleaning and vetting her hobby herd.
Deanna Bendig grew up in Bradford County, Pennsylvania, in the town of Troy. Her family milked 100 cows in a tie stall barn, owned 500 acres and grew all their own crops. Today Deanna and her husband Dale live in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. They own a 79-acre farm and rent additional 45 acres. They grow some hay and forages. They milk 65 cows and have 100 head of young stock with cattle housed in loose housing and free-stalls. Part of their operation includes boarding cattle for people, while 70% of their herd is owned. Known for their work with Snickerdoodle, Dale and Deanna have also had the pleasure of working with Champions from Rucks in Florida, including this years Grand Champion at the All-American Dairy show in
Joan Lau was born and raised on a dairy farm in Iowa. She graduated from Iowa State
University with a double major in Dairy Science and Agriculture Journalism. Today Joan lives with her partner Lowell Lindsay near Guelph, Ontario, and celebrated her 20-year anniversary with Semex in September where she serves as Manager of Marketing Communications & Global Branding.
Monique Rey Pradervand was born and raised on her family farm, Rey Holsteins, Les Verrières in the French part of Switzerland. In 2002 she married Cédric Pradervand and they have two children, Alexandre (15) and Emilie (13). Together they run Cédric’s family farm located along Lake Leman, (15 min away from Geneva airport). They milk 80 Black and Red Holsteins plus 4 Jerseys with 200 total head. In the summer time, the whole herd and family goes up in the mountain, (alt 1300) where they make Gruyère cheese. Monique’s family, specifically her brother Jacques, has been a key player in the success and rise of the Swiss Expo.
Jen Hill grew up in Emmitsburg, Maryland, on her family dairy farm, Glad-Ray Farm. The farm has been in the family for 100+ years. She now resides just 7 miles from the farm in Thurmont, Maryland, with husband Chris. Together they own and operate MD-Hillbrook Sales and Service. She is also fully involved in her families dairy operation. Jen and Chris have bred and exhibited many All-American winners and continue to work with top genetics.
Tell me about your career. Where has your career path taken you? Has it changed from what you originally wanted to do?
Julie: My career as a dairy farmer began when I was young and I used to spend a lot of time with my father and mother who farmed constantly and depended on our family to contribute and learn values through daily chores, field work, and participation in shows. The standard of our Jersey’s was second to none and the family name carried not only a sense of quality but also strength and commitment to excellence. My mother approached me about taking over the farm in 2008, when the herd was set to be dispersed for the third and final time. That’s when I found
my calling. Over the years I have worked diligently to learn and adapt to the changes in Agriculture and farming industry to not only maintain the family farm but to develop and increase its sustainability for the future. My career path was always in farming and milking cows; I never dreamed I would have accomplished the success I
have in such a short time.
Lisa: After graduating from the Atlantic Veterinary College in PEI, I spent 10 years practicing at large animal clinics in Orangeville and Navan, Ontario. Although I enjoyed the individual cow medicine, I began looking for something more than the ‘fire engine’ type of practice and wanted to try to prevent the cows from getting sick in the first place. That lead me to take the Dairy Herd Health Management Certificate Program at OVC in Guelph, ON, graduating in 2004. Spending time engaging with likeminded dairy veterinarians from across Canada and the United States
really focused my passion for Proactive Herd Health and Dairy Reproduction. With goals of having more control over how the practice was run in mind, my husband, Phil Hemphill, and I moved to Abbotsford, BC, in 2007 where I became a partner in Agwest Veterinary Group. During my first years at Agwest, I introduced the ultrasound as an integral part of herd health on BC dairy farms. We taught our clients how to be more proactive in their approach to managing their farm, enabling them to be more profitable and sustainable, which was a new concept to many producers.
In 2009, Agwest expanded to include a full Bovine Embryo Transfer Mobile Service and I became one of only 5 women certified as an ET veterinarian in Canada in 2011. In the last year I have also become one of the satellite veterinarians to offer IVF for producers through Boviteqwest. Although I enjoy this new part of my career, I still get the most satisfaction from working through herd issues with the farmer. Most recently, Agwest and Westgen have formed a new partnership called Proventus. This agribusiness consultation network will give producers the opportunity to access expertise that encompasses everything from veterinary care to agribusiness management.
Deanna: My career path has allowed me to develop good cows and be able to take them to national level shows. I have been lucky enough to work with cows like Snickerdoodle and Tango and this year’s WDE Junior Champion, Wiza, owned by Lindsay Rucks. Dale and I were honored to be recognized as the 2016 Klussendorf Mackenzie award winners.
Joan: After graduating from Iowa State University, I worked for both the Minnesota and Wisconsin Holstein Associations for six years in public relations and editor of their membership magazines. In the late 1980’s, I joined the Advertising and Promotion Department at World-Wide Sires in Hanford, California, and worked for 7 years marketing genetics internationally. When Alta Genetics and Landmark Genetics joined forces in the mid 1990’s, I joined Alta Genetics working from their Hughson, California, office. In 1997 when the Semex Alliance was formed, I was offered the opportunity to join Semex at the corporate headquarters in Guelph, Ontario, and lead the international advertising and promotion efforts. After 20 years, every day is enjoyable as I work closely with our 80 international distributors and our 3 partner/owners with corporate branding and marketing campaigns. Thanks to my work responsibilities, I’ve served on the Royal Winter Fair and World Dairy Expo’s Commercial Exhibitor Committees and am currently serving on WDE’s Board of Directors. Looking back at my career path, it’s along the same lines as what I aimed to do when I started university.
Monique: My career as a dairy farmer started in 1986. As a kid I saw how hard my dad worked and said I would NEVER marry a dairy farmer. I became a seamstress (dressmaker) and graduated in 1986. The same year my dream came true and I had the opportunity to learn English on a farm in Wisconsin. My brothers had a good laugh about that. I travelled with four other young Swiss people and we made a stop at World Dairy Expo. It was something I had never seen; I could sit and watch the fitters getting those beautiful cows ready! I had never seen a Jersey before but that day I fell in love! I spent 2 years at Lakeside Farm, Elkhart Lake, Sheboygan County, and in 1992 I went to Acme Holsteins at Carstairs, Alberta, where I stayed with the Clark family for 2 years. That was my agriculture school! After I returned home I became a cow fitter and travelled Europe clipping cows until 2002 when I became a mom. Today I still clip our cattle when we show.
Jen: My career path has had a few twists and turns but has always involved agriculture. My original major in college was Sports Medicine, but changed within a year to Communications with a minor in business. It did not take long for me to be away from home to realize that I was going to need cattle in my life to keep me happy. Upon graduation I got a job with the MD Extension Service as a Nutrient Management Specialist. This was more of an agronomy position but the county I served is the largest dairy county in the state and allowed me to work with many dairy producers. It was my ability to connect with farmers that landed me this job, definitely not my "dirt skills. My next step was a job with Purebred Publishing where I was the editor of the Brown Swiss Bulletin. This job was more suited for me and I really loved it. The only hang up here was the job was based out of Ohio and took me away from hands on work with cattle. I returned home and became fully involved in our farm. When I married Chris I also took up a role in MD-Hillbrook Sales and Service. In 2007 we built a heifer barn on the farm to help expand our business of buying and selling cattle.
What has been key in your success?
Julie: The key to my success is recognizing that we can’t farm alone, it is done with our trusted community of people who we can depend on. My father and mother were always my strongest support, along with my husband and children who are constant reminders of why it’s important to keep going. Often times a farm can be a 24/7 job, which prevents me from being able to do what I want for my three girls, however I’m grateful for the strong female role models that influence their lives. The girls are watching my every move in life and learning that to be successful means rising to the challenge every day and to love what you do.
Lisa: I think my passion has been the key to my success. Being a dairy veterinarian has never been just a job for me, it is my life and my clients see that and respect it. I have never been satisfied with the status quo and have always strived to do my very best for all my clients. When I am on farm, I try to never be in a hurry. I push farmers to be better and I find satisfaction in their success. From the beginning of my career, when I walked onto a farm, I saw myself as a veterinarian there to do a job, not as a woman. I have never felt like I couldn’t handle the job, and was confident that once they had given me a chance, there would be no more issues with my gender.
Deanna: Having the opportunity to board some cattle and have them do well for other people has certainly helped increase our reputation and the opportunities available to us. It is important for us to always do our very best for our clients and ourselves at all times.
Joan: The key to my success has been always being open to change, looking for opportunities, learning from others and other cultures and collaborating in a positive way.
Monique: Always facing the challenges head on has provided me with some great opportunities. In my country, to be able to take over a farm, 15 years ago you couldn’t think about having a woman running a farm.
Jen: Persistence and providing a service that is second to none. Don’t do things “half ass” always be proud of the job you do. And third, be open minded and realize there is always opportunity to learn and improve.
What do you see as the biggest opportunities and challenges for women in Agriculture?
Julie: I believe that it took a long time for woman to become appreciated for their contribution in farming. Historically, woman have been support to a farming husband and seen in the background. Although there is no doubt in my mind the amount of sweat, blood, and tears my mother endured in the name of a successful business, it was my father who received most of the recognition for a job well done. Times have changed, and I’m grateful they have. Doors are consistently being open for woman to farm and to succeed in an industry that was considered a male dominated. I’m proud of my mother, and I’m proud to be the next generation of strong farmers who are not recognized by their gender, but by their strength and ability along with passion and commitment.
Lisa: Over the years, there have been a lot of walls broken down with respect to women in Agriculture, but stereotypes still exist today. Women chose their job and career because of passion, not money. Women tend to be afraid to ask for equality in the work place and a raise when they deserve it. We need to learn to be our own advocate and continue to encourage and inspire other women to believe they have the right to be in Agriculture. We provide a unique perspective and should be willing to take leading roles to help steer the future of industry. Roles in Agriculture have evolved and diversified in such a way that there are hundreds of different job opportunities for women, and the ability to problem solve and communicate make women invaluable assets in many Agricultural careers. As women increase their numbers in the Agricultural industry, they need to take the next step and take on more leadership roles. Our ideas and opinions are important and should be heard.
Deanna: A challenge for women in agriculture is a woman deserves the same respect that a man gets with the same job. There are some people that come to the farm and ask for the boss. I say “you are looking at her!!”
Joan: Women have always been valuable contributors to family farms; now there’s more opportunities for women to have a greater presence in senior leadership roles, serving on boards, influencing others through mentorship positions, having a voice through social media, etc. Challenges are balancing work, family, friends, health and managing it all!
Monique: For me probably the biggest challenge is being a mom!
Jen: I think the biggest opportunities for women moving forward are leadership roles but the biggest challenge is the courage to take on those roles.
Have you been presented with other challenges outside the industry and how have you handled them? Do you feel challenges have changed over the years – less, more, different?
Julie: The challenges stay the same; my attempts at mediating them is forever changing and evolving with the times. New information and new approaches is key to success in any business, especially farming, and making room for growth and adapting to change is necessary.
Lisa: My career path has meant that my husband and I have moved across the country, away from our family and friends. We haven’t had our family as a support system like a lot of people do, and we haven’t been able to be there for our family as much as we would like. The thing that has made it easier over the years is that no matter where we have lived, our agricultural community has always made us feel at home. The dairy industry is very close knit and has always made us feel like a part of their family.
I have the greatest admiration for Women in Agriculture that manage to have a family and excel in their career as well. However, as a woman who has chosen to not have children, I feel that there is still a negative social stereotype to my decision. Society dictates that it is ok for women to focus on their career for a few years, but then it’s time to have a family. The sad part is that most of the negative feelings come from other women.
Deanna: The biggest challenge is trying to convince the public that our product is safe and good to eat we need to educate public more on what we produce. With a small farm is harder to make it because everything is geared for the bigger dairy farms. I do think the challenges have changed. Inflation in prices and cost of making milk is going up but our products are going down and we have no control over it.
Joan: I’ve been very fortunate with my career, friendships and professional relationships. To answer this question, I would say losing my father and a brother at a young age have been my most difficult challenges. Those who have lost loved ones can understand and it’s part of life, but it’s the most challenging part of life.
Monique: Yes I do feel it is different farming as a woman, before would have been unheard of in our country but is becoming more widely accepted.
What inspires you to keep moving forward? What people have helped you? What words do you live by?
Julie: Inspiration for me comes from many places and many faces in my life. To be a great farmer, parent, wife, daughter, sister, and friend one only needs to be able to understand the importance of values and character. I remember a time when I wasn’t sure I could manage all the moving parts in my life and still maintain a farm successfully. Sometimes the best inspiration comes from the most unlikely places; those who do not believe in you, those who want to see you fail; that can fuel you or break you. I always allowed it to encourage me to show up and give my best. I live by the motto, “at times things in life may seem impossible; people will tell you it’s
impossible, and it’s your job to show them that anything is possible if you don’t quit.”
Lisa: When I graduated 20 years ago, there weren’t many women actively practicing large animal medicine long term. I would find myself the only woman in the room at conferences in a very male dominant profession. Now, every year there are more and more women in the room; that excites me! My progressive clients and the positive changes that I have seen in the dairy industry keep me moving forward. I have seen what dairy farmers can achieve and continue to want to be an integral part of raising the bar in the dairy industry and veterinary medicine.
My husband has been my biggest supporter since the beginning of my career. He has never questioned my decision to be a full-time career woman and has been right there ready to move across the country to start his hoof trimming business all over again with me.
My mentors have always been strong male veterinarians that never saw my gender and encouraged me to embrace my differences, teaching me to practice smarter than the average male veterinarian. Dr. Wayne Shewfelt of Tavistock Vets and Dr. David Douglas of Navan Vets showed me that there is more to veterinary medicine than fire engine medicine and instilled the idea to approach herd health as more than just palpating cows.
“She believed she could, so she did” is written on my shoulder as a reminder of the words I live by. Women can be successful in Agriculture, or any industry, as long as they believe they can.
Deanna: The challenges continue to inspire me to keep moving forward. I get a lot of enjoyment watching our herd develop. People that have helped me are my family, my close friend Creedin Cornman and our business partners.
Joan: I truly enjoy mentoring others who are getting started in their careers. Someone gave me a chance to get started in this industry and I believe in offering the same to the younger generation. The CEO’s at my employments led by example and I have great respect for each of them: Paul Larmer at Semex; Pete Blodgett and Doug Blair at Alta Genetics; and Bill Clark at WWS. Each of them had faith that I would work at a high level and I had to live up to their expectations!
Monique: Moving forward it is exciting that our son wants to be a dairy farmer. For me my family has been my biggest mentors.
Jen: The notion that tomorrow always has the potential to be better than today. I guess I live by the glass is half full theory. Many people have played a role in my life. I think no matter who you are you cannot go it alone. Some people will have a big influence on you and others small, but in some way it all shapes you and plays a role in your success/failure. I will say in a business full of ups and downs true friends sort themselves out quickly and it’s important to hold on to them.
What is the best piece of advice you were ever given? What advice would you give to women entering any kind of career path of choice?
Julie: The best piece of advice I was given and can impart on someone else is to work hard and believe in yourself. The advice I would give to woman would sound the same as the advice I give to my daughters: to show up, to never give up, and to never allow someone to tell you, you can’t.
Lisa: The advice that I would share with women as they are preparing to enter their career path of choice is DREAM BIG! Continue to break through that glass ceiling and don’t let anyone make you feel like you can’t do something because you are a woman. Most importantly, find a Mentor, male or female, that will provide a supportive environment for you to reach your true potential and give you guidance when you need it.
Deanna: The best advice is if you give 100% then you should receive 100%. The best piece of advice given to me was make sure your happy when you put your feet on the floor in the morning. The best piece of advice I could give women entering a career path in agriculture is never give up on your dreams!!
Joan: Early in my career, a seasoned colleague gave me the advice to “invest in yourself”. I’d give the same advice to others whether it would be with education, finances, taking care of your health or in other ways and your investment will provide rewards during your lifetime.
Monique: Always believe in what you do. Be patient and go for it!
Jen: Words to live by: Comparison is the Thief of Happiness. Best piece of advice I was ever given is “you gotta love what you do.” My mom says it everyday, sometimes with a bit of sarcasm if things are not going well but there is a lot of truth in the statement.