BURNETT, Wis. – As she talks about working for Dairy Girl Network, dairy farming or running a half marathon with friends, Andrea Brossard shows how much “sense of community” means to her. It’s a feeling that members of a group matter to one another.
A quote from Brossard on the organization’s website is telling.
“Dairy Girl Network has given me the opportunity to collaborate with like-minded women throughout the industry on new ideas, building confidence to be a strong advocate and educating ourselves on ways to be the best dairywomen we can be.”
As the organization’s educational-resource lead Brossard helps build community through online forums and webinars. She has worked on Dairy Girl Network’s “Inspire” mentor program. It matches mentors with “mentees” to help women in the dairy industry grow professionally and personally.
“Women of all ages with different experiences in life participate,” Brossard said. “And the Inspire program has provided me an opportunity to work with members throughout the United States.”
More than 30 Dairy Girl Network members participated in a beta test for the mentor program. That led to the organization’s inaugural class of mentors and mentees. Launched in early 2019, Inspire Class I has about 100 participants. Mentor-mentee pairs meet with each other monthly for 12 months. They can meet informally or choose a more structured program to create a personal-development plan. Another 50 members recently enrolled in Inspire Class II.
Brossard also works with Dairy Girl Network’s Spanish-language programs – one for beginners and the other for intermediate-level students. Spanish on la Granja – Spanish for “on the farm” – is taught by Katie Dotterer-Pyle, a dairy farmer from Maryland.
“I wanted to improve my Spanish-speaking abilities on the farm,” Brossard said. “And I knew there were others who felt the same. The Spanish courses we offer focus on the dairy industry.”
She became the educational-resource lead in 2017 for Dairy Girl Network. A dairy farmer herself she already was a member. And she has experience in teaching.
Karen Knipschild is an administrative program specialist and education coordinator at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health. She served from 2000 to 2011 as the assistant director of the UW-Madison Farm and Industry Short Course. That’s where she met Brossard, who was then serving as a short-course house fellow.
Brossard was enrolled in the short course and continued her education at UW-Madison’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. She earned bachelor’s degrees in 2005 in dairy science as well as agricultural and life-sciences communication.
Knipschild at the time was writing a thesis on female farm managers for a master’s degree in continuing and vocational education.
“Andrea’s experience and knowledge about agriculture helped me,” she said.
She later hired Brossard to co-teach an English class for short-course students. Brossard also taught an agricultural-marketing class for short-course students. She was working for the then-Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board and shared her marketing knowledge with students.
“Andrea is a great teacher,” Knipschild said. “That’s why I hired her for those positions. She has a heart for agriculture. Through teaching she contributes to the future of agriculture.”
Sarah Botham, a faculty associate in the life-sciences-communication department at UW-Madison, met Brossard about 17 years ago. Brossard was president of the UW-Madison National Agri-Marketing Association chapter. That also happened to be Botham’s first year as the chapter’s adviser.
“Andrea and I forged a bond because we both were raised in Beaver Dam,” Botham said.
After Brossard graduated from college the women remained friends.
“Andrea is smart, kind and funny,” Botham said. “And she’s a leader. Failure isn’t an option for her.”
In addition to being able to pursue her passion for education, Brossard said she joined Dairy Girl Network for the organization’s overall atmosphere.
“There’s a community here,” she said.
Community extends to the organization’s private Facebook group, “Exchange by Dairy Girl Network.” The feeling that members of a group matter to one another was especially evident in May when the private Facebook page served as a forum to discuss behavioral-health issues.
“The community came together to support each other,” Brossard said. “Our members look for that.”
Supporting each other extends to the family farm she owns and operates with her brother, Anthony Brossard. With their mother, Carol Brossard, and seven employees the Brossards milk 400 cows at Brossard Dairy Farm near Beaver Dam, Wisconsin. They also farm 800 acres of corn and alfalfa.
The Brossards represent the third generation on their family farm. Their father, Dennis Brossard, suffered a stroke about 10 years ago and has been unable to farm. Andrea and Anthony Brossard decided they would continue the family’s legacy despite their spouses having off-farm jobs.
“Anthony and I decided we’d farm together or not at all,” Andrea Brossard said.
The siblings have worked together since childhood. Being involved in 4-H and FFA, Brossard said she at an early age learned empowerment and how to assume leadership roles.
“My generation has seen more females working on the farm,” she said. “At the farm we have a female employee working each shift. Since we’ve done that there’s been more open communication and team cohesiveness.”
On the subject of cohesiveness Brossard and a group of other women in agriculture have formed a running group. They’ve participated together in Ragnar, a trail-running contest and a half-marathon in Madison, Wisconsin.
“Running together helps reduce stress and we’ve built a little community,” Brossard said.
For her it’s another community where members of the group matter to one another.