A new status quoA new status quo

New direction
May 1, 2011

Julie Hanscome, owner of Hanscome Dairy in Kersey, Colo., did not come from a dairy background. She grew up in upstate New York and had her future mapped out. She only entered the agricultural field in 1981 to support herself through graduate school at the University of Northern Colorado. “I needed a part-time job and ended up working for DHIA (Dairy Herd Improvement Association) testing cows,” she says. “At the time, I was working toward my master’s degree in zoology. Once school was over, I had no doubt that I’d find a job doing research.” Her career plans shifted after meeting her late husband, Cole, while serving on the board of directors for DHIA in the mid-1980s. “I definitely just fell into this line of work,” she says. “I met Cole, we got married, and we worked together here, on the dairy he started, for more than 20 years.” But the couple’s time together was cut short in 2004 after Cole learned he had colon cancer. In fall 2005, they sold their cows through a buyout program and leased the dairy to another operator. The following August, Cole passed away. “I didn’t expect to start working on the dairy again, but in fall 2009, the tenant asked me to take the place back and the cows,” she says. “I wasn’t at retirement age, I had two kids to support and it didn’t feel right to just sell the farm, especially since it’s what I’ve known for my entire career, so I came back on as owner. I knew how to run this place, and I wasn’t afraid to tackle it alone.” Today, Hanscome milks nearly 460 cows three times a day with the help of 13 full-time and two part-time employees. Since returning as sole operator, Hanscome has made significant improvements to the operation. Most recently, she invested more than $400,000 to improve the barn with lighting and a complete overhaul of the building’s physical structure. She also added a new bulk tank and is in the process of remodeling the corrals. She plans to add 150 cows to the dairy by year end. “Everyone in this industry has always treated me fairly,” she says. “I’ve never had anyone treat me differently because I am a woman. I love knowing that more women are entering the field, but you’re seeing that in all of corporate America and at all levels of management. “It still amazes me though that there are people who are stunned when they see a male nurse or a male elementary school teacher. Roles shouldn’t be defined by gender, but by what you’re good at.” Troy Mesbergen, herdsman at Hanscome Dairy, could not agree more. “Julie is honestly the best employer I’ve had; I should know, I’ve worked on four other dairies before coming here,” Mesbergen says. “She ranks right up there with the best of them. I never once questioned working for her. She’s easygoing and knows her stuff.”