If you’ve headed home from a dairy meeting full of excitement from talking with friends, meeting new people or discussing technology, you’re not alone. The excitement when meeting with like-minded people who share the same passion is felt at every industry meeting and event.
That same excitement for the industry can also be shared within local communities through peer groups. According to the Oxford Dictionary, a peer group is “a group of people of approximately the same age, status and interests.”
Peer groups within the dairy industry bring together members of the industry who aren’t able to travel to meetings or events but want to brainstorm ideas with others, discuss different farm management practices and build relationships and camaraderie. Peer groups typically start based on location, type of operation and farming practices used.
In addition to bringing industry members together, peer groups provide an opportunity for members to hear different perspectives they can incorporate into their operations or community involvement. Peer groups can influence new purchases, community outreach opportunities and successful farm successions.
Dairy peer groups have been started by companies that want to tap into a geographical area or better know their customers. Some groups were started by local farmers who wanted a network of others to bounce ideas off.
However, for a peer group to be successful, it has to meet the needs of the members involved. Each peer group will be different, as some topics and issues are only relevant in certain areas. A few tips for success in hosting a peer group include:
Involve the entire group: From determining the dates to meet to the location to the topics discussed, involve every member to make them feel included. Be welcoming to everyone who joins the peer group.
Keep the group size manageable: Groups are usually no more than 15 people to ensure everyone gets what they need from the group.
Everything that happens in the group must stay in the group: Members need a safe place where they can share and brainstorm about family and farm concerns.
Create an agenda: This will help guide the conversation and ensure the topics proposed by the group will be covered and the conversation will involve everyone.
Balance the content discussed: Since we’re all in the dairy industry, it’s easy to focus on the current negatives or new trends, but including thought-provoking topics such as how individuals learn or best practices for working as a team will help benefit the needs of the group.
Some groups balance the business side by hosting a fun event every few months, such as attending a sporting event or a potluck where families can come together. Scheduling a fun event will help the group bond.
Invite speakers: Speakers can include industry representatives, other farmers and representatives from the community who can share about a new technology, provide tips on managing employees or host a discussion on how to continue connecting with the local community.
Outside experts will provide information and skills group members can implement into their farms or families. Polling the group periodically will help determine which topics will best resonate with members.
Facilitating versus leading: The person who organizes the peer group is a neutral member who helps guide the group, invites everyone into the conversation and assists the group to stay true to how and why they were brought together.
- Be encouraging: Let everyone share their expertise, have their voice heard and know they have an important role in the dairy industry.
If you are interested in joining a peer group, find out if there is one in your area. Organizations such as the Dairy Girl Network may already have one started. If there isn’t one, talk to the women in your area about starting one.
A peer group can include those involved in every aspect of the industry, from those running their family farms to studying dairy science to selling equipment and genetics to farmers. Depending on the goal of your peer group, it could also include farmers from other areas of agriculture.
If you’re in a remote area or don’t know other farmers near you, connect with other farmers across the country who may know someone who lives close to you. Or brainstorm with them ways to use technology to bring farmers together who are not located near one another.
Jolene was raised on a dairy farm in Michigan. She works on behalf of dairy farmers in her home state, connecting consumers to the dairy products they produce.
- Dairy Girl Network Encourage Peer Group
- Email Jolene Griffin