What’s in your closet? Don’t worry I’m not talking about sharing your deepest, darkest secrets. I’m curious about just the opposite. If your closet is anything like mine, it’s full of clothing with logos and branded apparel you’re proud to wear. Whether it’s the latest sports-team gear, the 25-year-old college sweatshirt, or clothing with your company or farm logo, what we choose to wear helps us tell our story and share what’s important to us.

At work I almost always wear clothing with the PDPW logo. It’s a symbol I’m proud of and honored to wear as a constant reminder of the dairy-farm families our organization serves. Wearing the logo also keeps me focused on our mission every day.

Outside the office I’m often wearing clothing representing our family’s farm or businesses. Those represent the values and beliefs of my family and the work we do together. They’re a symbol of what I love and believe in. Each day I wear a cross necklace that’s often tucked into my shirt, which is a constant reminder of what I am and what I am close to.

Wearing symbols and logos are great ways to promote, share and start conversations. But those outward symbols are just small pieces of our story.

In contrast our brand is much deeper. It’s the entire package of what we believe, how we portray that to the world and how we are perceived. It’s built through time and tested during crisis situations. We each have our own personal brands and are part of building the brands of our farms, companies and communities. And together we’re united by one incredibly important brand – dairy.

The dairy brand is birthed from within. It represents the values, hard work, perseverance and resilience that everyone in our industry shows every day. Whether you’re cleaned up and ready for a meeting – or exhausted and covered in soil, grease, cow hair or manure – the dairy brand is part of you.

I’ve seen the unity of the dairy brand on display more than ever in this challenging year. As we finish the last few months of 2020, I couldn’t be prouder of how the dairy industry has worked together and supported each other. As a sector we’ve partnered with food pantries, government and community groups to help move cheese to shelters for the hungry, harvest crops for families suffering from farm accidents, lent a hand to neighbors states away who lost buildings and crops in storms – and the list goes on.

Each and every one of my colleagues overcame fear and faithfully stepped beyond the unknown to milk the cows, to keep milk in stores and food on people’s tables. While we may have trembled on the inside, we worked tirelessly together with steady hands to be nimble and productive. Our can-do attitudes were tested while we creatively pushed forward – all in the name of dairy. At our farms and throughout the entire supply system, we’ve navigated through obstacles, developed new systems and moved forward with steadfast faith that our work is essential – and so is our brand.

To all who have played a role this year, thank you for everything you’ve done to strengthen our brand, support one another and build a foundation for a stronger future. Our dairy brand comes from within and is on display every day no matter what logo we wear.

Shelly Mayer is the executive director of Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin; email smayer@pdpw.org to contact her. Visit pdpw.org for more information.