When Bonnie Borden, UW-Extension dairy and livestock youth educator, walks the aisles of the dairy and livestock youth barns at the Dodge County Fair this year, it will be for the last time as a UW-Extension employee. For 19 years, Borden’s been working with hundreds of volunteers and teachers to mold the 4-H and FFA youth of Dodge County into outstanding and superior citizens, but she’s set to retire before next year’s fair.

“I was hired, first, as a back fill for youth development; then a back fill was added on for my current position,” commented Borden. “Various changes happened in the office, and I was able to take over the dairy and livestock youth educator full-time position. At the time, it was a 100-percent position, but the winter is not near as crazy busy as the summer. So, I struck a deal with management to change my position to 70 percent and use the remaining 30 percent to hire a summer intern every year.”

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There is no limit to the responsibilities on Borden’s plate. “My duties include creating, teaching, and/or implementing educational programs for dairy and livestock youth, both in 4-H and FFA. I like to see the growth in skills, communication, and achievements by the youth as they participate and get older in their project years.”

“Our Dodge County dairy program is one of the best in the state, and we owe a lot of that to Bonnie,” commented Mandy Sell, Dodge County Junior Holstein Association advisor. “She keeps us organized and on track, and she always goes the extra mile.”

Sell went on to add, “One of my favorite memories was a few years ago, when some of the dairy exhibitors showed up the morning of the junior show with shirts that said, ‘Keep calm and call Bonnie.’ The look on her face, followed by lots of laughs … . Also, since I was a youth at state fair, Bonnie would make lunch for us on set-up day. She always took the time to make us individually-wrapped ham and cheese sandwiches, grapes, and water. For whatever reason, those sandwiches tasted better than any other ham and cheese sandwiches we had the rest of the year.”

With Borden’s pending retirement, things are set to change in the Dodge County 4-H and FFA programs. “My position is one that’s been targeted with budget cuts; UW-Extension has downsized, and they can’t afford it anymore. Right now, I’m the only one like me in the state.”

Although Borden has not set an official retirement date, other than to say it will be about the November time frame, she has started grooming the volunteers in Dodge County to take over her duties. “All of extension is looking to our volunteer groups to take on even more responsibility — like the Dodge County Dairy Committee setting up their own awards and sponsors, for example. One thing I’m working on right now is to get the livestock program to set up an education committee — not to teach, but to identify areas of need and bring in speakers.”

As Borden thinks back over the last 19 years, she has numerous happy thoughts. “I have many, many stories in my heart that make me laugh … . I have so many good memories. I am super proud of the youth who have come through the Dodge County dairy and livestock programs who are now professional dairy and livestock fitters, have different careers in agriculture, and hold various leadership positions in the industry. I’m really proud of their achievements.”

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Borden’s work during her tenure with Dodge County UW-Extension will forever be etched in the walls of Dodge County, and the relationships she has built will last long after her retirement. They will last a lifetime.

The Dodge County Fair will continue through Sunday, Aug. 20, 2017. Visit www.dodgecountyfairgrounds.com for more information.

Written by Dori Lichty, farm wife, 4-H Mom, and full-time communicator