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Mentorship program helps prepare the next generation of dairy farmers

Professional Dairy Producers (PDP) of Wisconsin is a professional development organization dedicated to the future of dairy farming. By helping farms large and small keep up with the industry’s ever-evolving business, science and technology, PDP actively works to sustain dairy farming’s future.

“Similar to Alliant Energy, PDP values a strong, innovative workforce and lifelong learning,” said Andy Kitslaar, lead community affairs specialist, Alliant Energy Foundation. “We are proud to support their mission to help dairy producers succeed while focusing efforts to helping expand their mentorship program this year.”

PDP makes advancements in the dairy farming field and supports its members through professional development, stakeholder engagement and a unified presentation of the industry to the public. “Strong, sustainable dairy farms are critical to the Wisconsin economy and rural communities,” said Shelly Mayer, PDP executive director.

For the dairy industry to succeed, it’s essential to pass the torch to the next generation. Some PDP members are long-time, successful farmers. Others are young people just starting their careers in the industry; some grew up on dairy farms and some did not.

Education is at the root of everything the organization does, so in 1996, the PDP created its Mentor Program. It gives participants real-world experience in modern dairy production through on-site job shadowing at working farms. Mentees gain exposure to every aspect of production agriculture from day-to-day milking operations, to veterinary practices, to the business side of things. More than a thousand students have gone through the program since its inception.

“The PDP Mentor Program works to build a pipeline of talent to lead these farms and allied dairy industry businesses,” said Mayer. “The program also helps students build a professional network of farmers and industry leaders as they plan their future.”

The program matches mentees with farm owners or managers for at least one full day of job shadowing. Mentees get further opportunities to network and ask questions of their mentors at the PDP business conference in the spring.

“The support of Alliant Energy Foundation has helped us grow and sustain the PDP Mentor Program and reach students at multiple universities, technical schools and short course programs,” Mayer said. “The volatility of the dairy industry can put a strain on our members and funding, so the grant support ensures that we are steadfast and keep the Mentor Program a priority.”

As a company with a strong commitment to workforce readiness and a long-time partnership with PDP, Alliant Energy is proud to continue to support the Mentor Program.

people holding a big check in front of an Alliant Energy logo

“The support of Alliant Energy Foundation has helped us grow and sustain the PDP Mentor Program.”
Shelly Mayer, PDP executive director

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