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Passion is the word that comes to mind when you talk to Rebecca Long Chaney and Kathy LaScala. It's a passion for women and families in the dairy business and, in particular, the International Forum for Women in Dairying. The event is in September in conjunction with the World Dairy Expo in Madison, Wis., and the two are working diligently to make the event memorable and informative for women throughout the world.

When you read the mission of the meeting, it's easy to see how Chaney and LaScala, both raised on dairy farms, would be committed to its success. It is: "To enrich the lives of global dairy women by encouraging them to share challenges and contributions to the industry and to provide a venue to learn, network and be inspired."

Speaking of inspired, I usually devote this column to public relations and promotional programs that are completed. But I'm so impressed by the fervor shown by these two women (and the goals of this effort) that I'm going to be part of the publicity juggernaut being implemented to promote this program to potential attendees and sponsors. It is refreshing to see the volunteer efforts underway to make this event a smashing success.


Chaney attended the first forum of this kind four years ago in Australia. "Basically, I didn't want the program and its vision to end," she says when asked how she got involved as coordinator of the 2004 event. "I was inspired by the 2000 event and thought it really beneficial to continue it in the U.S. I submitted an idea to Tom McKittrick, the general manager of the World Dairy Expo, and he agreed to allow us to hold it as part of the Expo."

Chaney is an at-home mom currently tending to five-month-old twin girls while her husband manages a registered Hereford operation on her old homestead in Maryland, where she grew up as part of a dairying family. She also spent time with her husband working on a million-acre cattle ranch in Australia.

I digress slightly, but that experience led to Chaney writing a self-published book that's already sold 2,500 copies. The book is Bulldust in My Bra: An American Couple's Working Season in the Outback. Are you beginning to see this connection now to passion and wanting to get women more and better information to be partners with their husbands in dairy farming?

"I love this industry," Chaney says. "It's done so much for me over the years, and I want to give something back."


Meanwhile, back at the ranch (or should I say office, where the PR machine continues to crank out tactics to promote the forum), LaScala says growing up on a dairy farm in western New York and her involvement in the Junior Chamber of Commerce Young Farmer program has kept her engaged on the dairy side of the business. That, I suppose, and the fact that she's a national accounts manager for The Vance Food Systems Group (publisher of Dairy Herd Management, Drovers, Meat & Seafood Merchandising, Food System Insider, Pork, Swine Practitioner and Bovine Veterinarian).

"About a year ago Becky (Chaney) asked me to participate on the committee," says LaScala, co-coordinator of the event. "It seemed so right. Committee members also include dairy producers, people involved with other dairy businesses, publishing companies, manufacturers and dairy breed associations. Each one is involved in some way with the forum." Other publications included in the effort include Hoard's Dairyman, Ohio Holstein News and Western DairyBusiness (Holstein World).

The tactics used thus far, or to be used in the upcoming months, include:
  • News releases to appropriate international, national and regional ag trade magazines;
  • Brochures and posters distributed at shows like World Ag Expo in Tulare, Calif., the World Dairy Expo last year in Madison, Wis., and state and national ag and dairy events as appropriate during the spring and summer;
  • Direct mailing to specific audiences, such as the graduates of the Young Dairy Leaders Institute, a program developed by the Holstein Foundation;
  • Linking to the World Dairy Expo's Web site, where potential attendees can get information about the forum at; and
  • Creating a public service radio spot with Orion Samuelson, agricultural services director of WGN-Radio in Chicago.

"After I graduated from Cornell, my goal was to work on a dairy operation with my father," LaScala says. "When experienced salespeople came along, they always asked for my father, thinking 'what can she know?' More and more women are an integral part of the dairy business.

"Dairy Herd Management magazine did a dairy tour in western Kansas last summer and we found that fathers, sons, mothers, daughters were all involved in the dairy operation. All are part of the decision-making process."

Chaney echoes those remarks. "Women often are the decision-makers on the dairy farm so it's important we have events specially geared toward women. These women oftentimes are mothers raising children, working on the dairy and managing the operation. So a program like our forum provides different speakers dealing with family dynamics, environmental issues and inspirational speakers. This type of program can rejuvenate women and help them network and learn what others are doing in the next town, the next state or the next country."

LaScala adds that managing a dairy operation means those cows are going to be there to milk every single day. "That puts a strain in relationships," she says. "One workshop we have is interactive and teaches skills to work in group development, high performance, team building and team blocking roles. These are all tools for women to help them initiate and continue dialogue within the family structure."


Sponsorships are available for the Sept. 26-27, 2004, meeting, ranging from $100 to $4,000 and above. If you'd like information on being a sponsor, contact Daphne Holterman at

"There are so many strong, well-educated women involved in dairying today that I'm thrilled there's a venue for them to participate in and allow them to share their challenges and strengths and contributions to the industry," LaScala concludes. "This meeting is a unique opportunity for women in dairying to network with women throughout the world." AM

Den Gardner owns Gardner & Gardner Communications, New Prague, Minn.

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