Big Hearts and Big Dreams – Jillaroos from Australia to Dairy Princesses from Pennsylvania

Have you ever taken the time to think about how certain events lead up to delightful unexpected opportunities in life? Do you believe that everything happens for a reason even if that reason is unexplainable at times? I have and I do.

In most recent events I have had the opportunity to speak to two very unique and diversified groups of aspiring young ladies.

The first speaking opportunity arose during my time in Australia at the Sydney Royal Easter Show as my best friend Alison McIntosh received a phone call from the Desert Channels Group about a possible speaking engagement in Mount Isa, Queensland. Alison was unavailable to attend because of her prior commitments with the Australian Rural Leadership Program. I guess you could say that I was in the right place at the right time and Ali recommended that I be their keynote speaker. Within a month’s time I found myself traveling on a redeye flight across the country.

(Which actually happened to be on the same night as the Royal Wedding. Like me some 200+ air bound travelers of all ages crowded around a television in the Perth International Airport. We awed when Kate first stepped out in her wedding dress and giggled when Prince William blushingly smiled when he first laid eyes on his beautiful bride.)

Mount Isa was a destination that not a lot of Australians can say they’ve traveled to but for many who work in the mining sector this was a busy place to be. I was excited to meet young women who work on cattle stations (Jillaroos) in Northern Australia. We had all gathered from near and far to participate in the Women in the Pastoral Industry Career Workshop. This unique two-day workshop was designed specifically to empower women in pastoral roles to identify their potential and take responsibility for career development and opportunities. My presentation was going to be fun and I was hoping that what I had to say would help inspire and motivate them into a future of ‘making it happen’ ‘expect the unexpected’ and ‘good things come from hard work’ attitudes.

Sharing funny ice fishing stories…

I spoke about farming in Canada. (Yes, we have very cold winters and the cattle are not under a shed, they stay happy outside as long as they have food, water and bedding.) Key themes also included leadership, the strength of perseverance through a family’s tragedy, women in agriculture, the benefits of being involved and many more. Afterwards I was lucky enough to receive such feedback:

“As an interested Nuffield Scholar I found Leona’s presentation highly reflective and informative along with her insight into her views of women in the rural industry.”

“Made me realise that almost anything is possible if you want it enough and have the right attitude.”

“Leona’s story was very inspirational and as a result it inspired me to work hard, believe in myself and never give up!”

“I seriously think she would have to be by far the most interesting and inspirational speaker that I have ever listened to. Leona has made me realise how lucky I really am and that the world is our oyster.”

I tear up when I read comments like these and am proud of the messages I was able to convey. Little do they know I think just as highly of them and have faith that they will be extraordinary in everything they do towards achieving their goals. Imagine the power of over 50 Jillaroos all working hard in initiating change and daring to dream. This is why I choose to share my story because I believe it has the potential to positively influencing someone’s life. The beauty of it all is that no matter what country you live in, we can all relate and as a result we develop friendships and networks that will support and empower us for the future. Leadership is evolutionary.

Girls are silly sometimes… and love to have fun!

The second speaking opportunity was diligently initiated by a persistent young Dairy Princess from Pennsylvania (PA), by the name of Liz Weber, who read my family’s article featured in the March issue of The Furrow, a John Deere publication. She thought that ‘it would be so cool to get all of the girls to be a part of the 2011 Dairy Princess Seminar’. This was before she realized that we were actually from Western Canada and 3,548 km away. However where there is a will there is a way and I was very keen on meeting these young ladies so I arranged a stop over as I was traveling back home from the UK. My first surprise was a welcoming posse of not only Jessica Armacost, the executive director of the Pennsylvania Dairy Princess & Promotion Services Inc., but traveling with her was the State Royalty team, Marissa Weidensaul, Jesse Kline and Elizabeth (Liz) Weber who all held welcoming signs at the airport! Liz was so excited she just had to hug me straight away! The girls and I clicked in a matter of minutes as we dashed into silly comments in getting to know each other. As we reached our destination in Williamsport (Home of Little League International), we settled into our dorm rooms at Lycoming College and for a second surprise the girls had put together a snack pack! Let me tell you I was sure spoiled! We had a fabulous evening and the 4th of July celebrations made it even more memorable as the evening ended with an incredible fireworks show.

My opening keynote address was a success and I must admit that this was the first presentation in a long time that I felt a tad nervous. I think it was because of Liz tearing up at the very beginning as she so proudly and kindly introduced me. She let everyone know that she had been looking forward to my speech for months and was so excited! Talk about putting on the pressure. I knew that no matter what I needed to be myself and just have fun and the rest was history.

Morning Keynote

Parent Session

Jane Harding – a Dairy Princess herself way back when and has been a dedicated volunteer ever since.

I no doubt had a blast with the girls for the rest of the week and I was equally thrilled to learn so much about the dairy industry. For example did you know that milk contains 9 essential nutrients and that chocolate milk contains the perfect combination of carbohydrates and protein to help refuel after a strenuous work-out? Or that there are 56,000 dairy farms in America today and 98 percent of them are family owned and operated? Or that a cow will produce 112 pounds of saliva a day? I challenged myself in learning to identify the different breeds of dairy cattle too from Holstein, Brown Swiss, Ayrshire, Jersey, Milking Shorthorn and Guernsey. To top that off we even toured the Schneider Dairy Plant where the milk went through the pasteurization and homogenization process.

Pictures of the Milk Process – Cow to Parlor to Plant to Cup.

It was refreshing to see such a young motivated passion for the dairy industry in Pennsylvania and the surrounding states. In having this wonderful opportunity to meet the young individuals who influence and help educate our communities was pretty powerful. I feel most grateful to have met Liz Weber and her vision in making this a valued opportunity. She is a charismatic, bright and beautiful young lady whose positive vibe is contagious. I can’t wait to see what her next accomplishments will be.

Picture of Liz and I

I find myself reflecting on past opportunities and experiences quite often and feelings of comfort and self-worth soon follow. It is no doubt that we all have busy schedules but one thing that I have begun to notice is that sometimes you’ll have these random events taking place that pull us back down to earth. Times that make us slow down and listen to a friend’s heartfelt story or witness an elderly couple walking down the street holding hands. Learning about an industry that you have little knowledge about to lending a helping hand where ever you are!


4 Comments on “Big Hearts and Big Dreams – Jillaroos from Australia to Dairy Princesses from Pennsylvania

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