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Brenda Rudolph and her son Everett in front of the National Capital June 2018. (Brenda Rudolph/Special to Agweek)

Identifying movers and shakers of the dairy industry

When we think about the movers and shakers of the dairy industry we right away think of, "Who is cutting edge? Who has the best production? Who has the newest equipment? Who is putting in the latest and greatest robots?"

The list is endless for whom "should" be considered cutting edge. If there was a prerequisite of needing to have one of these to be consider a mover or shaker in the dairy industry, the farm my husband and I run would not meet those standards. We look at these standards: We milk cows in a tie stall barn that was built in 1980. Our equipment is used and worn out. We are constantly feeling like we are failing, especially in today's climate of the industry.

When I look at who the movers of the dairy industry are, I don't look at who has the best pregnancy rate, who is putting the most milk in their tank or even who has low debt. I look at the ones who are not afraid to be honest. I look at the ones who are willing to make a difference in their communities.

For me, I don't have to look far. This summer, my son Everett showed he is a mover and a shaker. The first week of summer vacation for Everett, we were invited to Washington, D.C., to share our dairy story and concerns we had about the industry. I watched my 9-year-old son be engaged with legislators. I watched him not afraid to say what was important to him and what matters to him. I heard him say, on his own during a meeting, "Milk is everything." He is my shaker. As Everett's mom, I know the decisions we make today are going to have a big impact on him.

He finished his summer vacation sitting alongside me on a panel at the Minnesota State Fair sharing about food and farming. When I first asked Everett if he would like to be on the panel with me, he replied with his nonchalant, "Sure." As he shrugged his small shoulder. A little bit later he questioned me, "Why do you always ask me?" I gave him a long answer about how he can choose yes or no and how important it is to tell our story. He responded with a confused, "I don't understand that." I then simply stated "Just because you are small doesn't mean your voice isn't important. Your voice is just as important as mine." He replied, "That I understand."

During the panel, when the question was asked what are other resources people can use, he proudly stated to the audience, "Drive around, find a farm and talk to the farmer." Everett is my mover.

This summer a young 15-year-old lady named Alice entered her non-livestock project into the Morrison County fair, proudly talking about why milk prices matter. In her project, she clearly stated why low milk prices and what is happening is a big problem. Alice is not the daughter of a dairy farmer. Alice does not call her home a dairy farm. On paper, she does not fit the mold of who a mover and a shaker in the industry should look like and come from. This young lady works hard helping her brother and uncle on their dairy farm and brings sunshine wherever she goes. She is everything the dairy industry needs. She is bold, not afraid and knows what matters. She loves everything about dairy farms from the work to the fun.

These two mover and shakers in the dairy industry are the ones who keep me going, because they bring hope and love to an industry that is hurting right now.