MADISON, Wis. -- Amanda Borkowski has taken a few detours from her original life plan, landing instead where she found her calling.
After enrolling in the animal-science program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, she intended to proceed to veterinary school. Instead she discovered that using creative resources to help others was her passion. She’s now putting those “creative juices” to work as the interactive-media lead for the Dairy Girl Network.
Borkowski was raised in Waterford, Wisconsin. She wasn’t a farm kid but said she was interested in becoming a veterinarian.
“I didn’t know anything about livestock production,” she said. “But then I served a couple of internships where I worked in a milking parlor as well as with calves. I loved it.”
Tom Crenshaw, a professor in animal science at UW-Madison, was Borkowski’s adviser. He observed a detour that Borkowski didn’t necessarily mean to take. That happened after she had showed him a video she took of a friend’s wedding.
“I realized her talent and eye for photography,” he said. “She captured moments on video that one might not otherwise have expected. I saw the skill she put into it.”
As an adviser one of Crenshaw’s jobs is to help point students in a direction that matches their interests and skills.
“Many students don’t get to (veterinarian) school,” he said. “But there are many other things to do with a degree in animal science or with a joint major.”
Students in animal science receive more than just training in animal husbandry. They also are taught communication, leadership and scientific skills that can be applied to jobs with animal-health companies and other agribusinesses.
Borkowski chose to pursue a bachelor’s degree in animal sciences and life-sciences communication. She graduated in 2017 from UW-Madison and has since worked as a freelance writer, videographer and photographer. She formed in 2016 her own freelance company – Amanda Mae Media.
In addition to freelance work she is the interactive-media lead for Dairy Girl Network. That involves managing the organization’s social-media posts on Facebook and Instagram. She manages the organization’s website as well as facilitates communications between board members and staff.
“I work with membership management, help coordinate events and help with special projects team members have,” she said. “I work and learn from inspiring women. And I love to use creative resources to help dairy women who are successful on their own dairy farms and businesses.”
The Dairy Girl Network offers numerous resources and programs developed to help women connect with each other.
“It can be isolating on a dairy farm,” Borkowski said. “We offer resources for support and advancement.”
Among recent resources offered by the Dairy Girl Network are online Spanish classes. Each eight-week course is designed to help participants learn how to speak Spanish on dairy farms. Dairy Girl Network members can participate in two weekly one-hour live webinars or view recorded video lessons at their convenience.
Another resource is the organization’s private Facebook group – Exchange by Dairy Girl Network. The organization recently offered a month-long forum for farmers to discuss behavioral-health issues.
“Mental health is more important than ever,” Borkowski said. “We offered an outlet for women to share their struggles.”
Programs developed for and by women are important because they have always played crucial roles on family-dairy farms, she said. In the past 50 years more women have earned college degrees. That combined with equal-rights efforts has helped more women to assume ever-larger roles on their farms and businesses, she said.
At the same time they must address the evolving needs and wishes of consumers while helping to ensure environmental and financial sustainability.
Borkowski said she sees that as an opportunity.
“It challenges us to develop creative solutions together,” she said.