Turning The Page In A Pandemic

by Ellie Grossnickle

A year ago, I would have never expected that at this time, I’d be preparing to celebrate my college graduation from home, sitting in front of the TV and waiting for my name to flash across the screen. I thought that in my final days as a student at Virginia Tech, I’d be surrounded by my friends and professors whom I’ve become so close with over the past two years. Instead I’m saying goodbye to most of them behind my computer screen. Although 2020 has brought challenges to everyone, and my college days aren’t exactly ending the way I hoped they would, adapting to this pandemic has proven itself possible.

In November, our dairy club was able to put on our annual Hokie Dairy Day event in a virtual setting. Usually this is an in-person event that allows youth, ranging from 8-18 years old, to learn more about the industry and the programs that Virginia Tech offers to those interested in Dairy Science. Since this year, everything was going to be done over Zoom, it allowed us to contact people far and wide — that normally wouldn’t be able to attend the in-person event.

I interviewed Maryland & Virginia Chief Executive Officer, Jay Bryant, to learn more about milk marketing and the structure of our cooperative. We ended up discussing where Maryland & Virginia milk goes, how COVID-19 has, and is still, impacting our members, and where he sees the future of our cooperative going. As a daughter of Maryland & Virginia members, I came away from the interview with a much greater understanding and appreciation for the work that our co-op does to represent its members and market their milk in such a challenging time. Our dairy club was incredibly grateful to hear from Jay as his interview was one of the highlights in our program.

As I near the end of this semester, it’s opportunities like these that I reflect on, and am grateful to have been a part of. COVID-19 has forced everyone to get creative when it comes to staying in touch with the outside world, and without that innovation, I doubt that our interview would have happened.

Although graduating in a time like this is intimidating, I look forward to the opportunity to be able to apply the education and skills that I have gained in my college career while remaining involved in the dairy industry. Upon graduation, I plan on returning home to our farm in Frederick County, Maryland and seeking a job in agricultural communications, that still allows me to work alongside farmers. My passion lies in advocacy, so I would love to be able to help consumers better understand where their food comes from and the importance of keeping real dairy products in our everyday diets. I also love being on the farm and working with our herd of Holsteins, so I would like to remain working part-time for my parents if possible. That being said, wherever I end up, I plan on giving back to the industry that has given me, and many others, such a wonderful way of life and so many amazing opportunities thus far.