Participating in National Dairy Challenge
Posted on June 17, 2014 by Nicole Hood ’14.
Education, teamwork and networking are three things students must exhibit at the National Dairy Challenge. Delaware Valley College was represented by team members Caitlin Barwise ‘14, Sean LaGreca ‘14, Nicole Hood ’14, and Jacklyn Schroeder ’14, and academy participant Katelyn Sigman ‘16 in this year’s national contest, which took place in Fort Wayne, Indiana April 3-5. They were coached by Dr. Bruce Richards and Mr. Aaron Stepnoski.
During The Dairy Challenge, contest teams of students evaluate all aspects of an existing dairy farm. They take pictures, measurements and many notes about the farm they are assigned to; analyzing anything from the standard operating procedures and practices to the financial and business aspects of the farm.
The students are then asked to put together a presentation of their findings. The presentations include a full SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis, financial and production analysis, and also suggestions to help the farm become more efficient and profitable. Students must apply everything they’ve learned through classroom experience as well as additional practice time with coaches.
Groups demonstrate the art of true teamwork when competing in this contest. As a contest team, students must value each team member’s personal strengths and be able to effectively collaborate with all individuals to present their findings, suggestions and answer questions from the judges as a team. Participants also have to learn to work as a team, as they are assigned to random groups of students from different schools, and together they learn the process of evaluation and presentation for the Dairy Challenge.
Dairy Challenge gives students a chance to network. Throughout the week, students and professionals are encouraged to interact at career fairs, various demonstrations and also at casual socials and dinners. This opens up a world of opportunities as sponsors of the contest get to see firsthand the future “assets” of their respective industries. Students meet others from all over the U.S., making friends and learning about new career options.
There is one major difference between the Dairy Challenge contest and other contests or career fair opportunities that students can embrace in college. At this contest, students become an inspiration and represent a new hope to the dairy industry. The impact of our presentations actually makes a difference to the farms we evaluate. One of the judges Delaware Valley College presented to, a California farmer who the Dairy Challenge contest evaluated back in 2009, shared with us. He talked about his passion for the contest, and how simply by being a host farm and getting to listen in to the innovative recommendations the college presented, he was able to save his family’s farm and even make it very profitable. As the farmer told his story, tears began to form in his eyes, and at that point he had drawn in undivided attention by all.
The Dairy Challenge contest, in my opinion, is more than just a contest; it’s an experience of a lifetime. It makes all the hard work that goes into earning an education beyond high school feel absolutely worth it, the often challenging task of working as a team becomes a place where you can truly value the characteristics of each individual you encounter, networking becomes an easy practice, and at the end of the week, you truly have made a difference in someone’s life, which is simply indescribable.