Amanda Waite says she's lucky to have fallen into the role of full-time FARM Evaluator and Animal Care Specialist for Land O'Lakes, Inc., an opportunity that brought her back to her dairy roots. Growing up on a family dairy near Middleburg, Pennsylvania, Amanda loves spending her days with farmers and cows, trekking across Pennsylvania, New York, Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia to connect member-owners with resources to help them meet or exceed FARM Program guidelines. She never tires of the diversity of the industry and hard-working farmers focused on doing things better every day.
Tell us about your family.
My parents are some of the hardest working people I know. They started dairying shortly after getting married at the age of 19 and haven't quit yet. Both come from multiple generations of dairy farmers and decided to start their own operation. It's because of them that I am in this career field and because of them that I get to have some of my own cows to "play" with. My fiancé and his father fun a small cow/calf-finish operation, which I'm slowly becoming part of as well. Beef cows are less work, but not nearly as fun!
Why did you decide to become a FARM Evaluator?
I was just lucky enough to fall into the opportunity, honestly. Animal care has always been a topic of interest to me! In my first job out of college, I worked for a third-party auditing company conducting animal welfare evaluations for meat animal species. That position sparked my interest because of my animal agriculture background and the possibility of extensive travel around the U.S. and Canada. About two years into that position, travel started getting less fun. My family's dairy had recently been through Version 1 of FARM. During the evaluation, my dad told the evaluator about me and my current role. Several months later in July 2014 that evaluator reached out to me about an open position and the rest is history. No other career could better match my dairy background and animal welfare auditing experience!
What do you like most about what you do? What inspires you?
I love spending my days with farmers and cows! These people work harder than most and are proud of the work they do - as they should be! The dedication that farmers have to their land and animals is so inspiring!
What is your philosophy when it comes to dairy cow care?
It's been said so many times: "If you take care of the cows, they will take care of you." We all know it's true! In any animal industry, animals must be #1 if you want any chance of success and survivial!
What do you enjoy about being a National Dairy FARM Program evaluator?
The dairy industry is so incredibly diverse, and I get to see that diversity in action every day. Despite the differences in facilities and management, we all have the same goal of creating a safe, sustainable, nutritious product. I enjoy seeing the creative mind of a dairy producer in action. Many do not have ideal facilities or extra money in the bank, but they make it work anyway. FARM focuses on continuous improvement and there is nothing more enjoyable than going to a farm and see the improvements they've made.
Why do you feel FARM is important to today's dairy farmers and the industry?
With over 85 percent of our U.S. population being several generations removed from the farm, consumers have a lot of questions and very limited access to reliable information. FARM is a way to tell our story with solid facts. Overall, farmers do a good job caring for cows! Why wouldn't we want to share our story and deliver that message to our customers and consumers?
What are you passionate about outside of work?
It's hard to have hobbies outside of farming when you truly enjoy farming, but I do have a passion for traveling and seeing the world. I would love to do agricultural education in developing countries. However, my main hobby or passion is breeding and caring for registered Ayrshire cattle. I've remained involved in my community and industry with 4-H leadership, breed association boards and county fair volunteering.
Describe your "perfect" day.
I like to channel my "inner cow" for this "perfect" day idea. Much like the life of a cow, my perfect day would consist of 55 degrees and partly cloudy. My time would be spent lounging and hanging out with friends with nothing to do all day except grab some dinner and spend some time at the local watering hole. Cows really don't have it so bad most days.