Laura Elliott recently was elected as a director at-large for the Association of Women in Agriculture Benefit Corporation. She recently returned to Wisconsin after having lived in the eastern United States and then Indiana for her career in animal-health sales and marketing.

“I’m glad to come back and be more involved, and to give back to the association that has given so much to me,” she said.

Elliott was a member of the Association of Women in Agriculture – the student chapter of the alumni organization – before graduating in 2012 from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. There she earned bachelor’s degrees in dairy science and life-sciences communication. Both student and alumni associations foster career development and leadership skills. They bring together a large network of women in agriculture.

“The network is so powerful,” Elliott said. “The members are there to support you. And you can call them and ask questions.”

Elliott grew up on a dairy farm owned by her parents, Ken and Kathie Elliott, near Marshall, Wisconsin. She was a member of the Oak Park 4-H Club and the Marshall FFA. She also was active in the Junior Holstein Association, showed cattle and was a dairy princess.

“Laura was a natural leader during her time in FFA,” said Paula Bakken, agriculture teacher and FFA adviser at Marshall High School. “She served as an officer in both middle school and high school. She was passionate about the agriculture industry and enjoyed sharing her knowledge with others, especially her love of dairy cattle.

“She was hardworking and dedicated to her goals. One of Laura’s strongest attributes that kept me on my toes as a teacher was her attitude in life – that if we were going to do something, we were going to do it well. There was no half-way.”

In addition to being a member of the Association of Women in Agriculture at UW-Madison, Elliott was a member of the Badger Dairy Club as well as Badger NAMA, a student chapter of the National Agri-Marketing Association.

“My parents were a big influence in me being involved in agriculture, and particularly the dairy industry,” she said. “They also encouraged me to try something new. I remember my mom saying, ‘You have so many talents; try something different.’”

Elliott said she followed that advice by accepting an animal-health sales position with Zoetis. She moved to the east coast where she called on customers in Pennsylvania, Maryland and West Virginia. She credits Edward Graf, her manager at Zoetis, for her career path.

“He’s why I’m in animal health,” she said. “He took a chance on me when I was fresh out of college, guided me and let me know I could do more.”

She moved in 2017 to Indianapolis where she worked as a marketing consultant in cattle and swine vaccines for Elanco. She returned to Wisconsin in fall 2018, where she is now a regional sales manager for Merck. She leads a team of nine sales representatives serving customers in Wisconsin and Minnesota. About 60 percent of the team’s sales are to beef-cattle producers and 40 percent are to dairy farmers.

“I have the opportunity to work in the best industry in world,” she said. “It doesn’t feel like I’m working because I enjoy my job so much.”

Elliott echoes her mother’s words when she is asked what her advice is to young women beginning their careers in agriculture.

“Try something different or move out of state,” she said. “That pushes you out of your comfort zone. It doesn’t have to be permanent, but it gives you an opportunity to learn.”

Lynn Grooms writes about the diversity of agriculture, including the industry’s newest ideas, research and technologies as a staff reporter for Agri-View based in Wisconsin. Email lgrooms@madison.com to contact her.