Longtime dairy extension agent Dianne Shoemaker retires

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Dianne Shoemaker
After more than 30 years with Ohio State University Extension, Dianne Shoemaker, field specialist in dairy production economics, is retiring June 30. (Farm and Dairy file photo)

By Haley Shoemaker and Chris Zoller | Ohio State University Extension

After more than 30 years with Ohio State University Extension, Dianne Shoemaker, field specialist in dairy production economics, is retiring June 30. 

Growing up in Worthington, Ohio didn’t exactly lend itself to being around many dairy farms early on, however, Dianne’s interest in cattle and the dairy industry was piqued during regular family visits to Wisconsin. This interest developed into a tangible goal and vision for her career throughout her time as a student at the Ohio State University, where she dove into the world of dairy “boots first” while working at the university dairy farm. 

This experience led to a six-month internship in Switzerland milking Simmentals, along with the opportunity to tour with Elsie the cow during her days as an undergraduate student. Following graduation, Dianne worked as a herdsperson at a dairy in Highland County and was a Dairy Herd Improvement Association supervisor before returning to OSU to earn her master’s degree. Dianne began her career with Ohio State University Extension in 1986. 

First female

As the first female county agricultural agent in Ohio, Dianne knew that simply “doing her job” wouldn’t cut it. By approaching each task and project with honesty and a refreshing sense of integrity, she quickly earned the trust and confidence of both her co-workers and clientele. It is because of this consistent approach to her work that she has enjoyed a successful career educating farmers and farm families throughout Ohio. 

Like many county-based extension professionals, Dianne has seen a lot throughout her career and has had to adapt to the everchanging needs of her clientele. She started her career learning about potatoes, picking up information from a retired ag agent who was conducting variety trials in Columbiana County at the time. The real switch, though, was changing from teaching focused on dairy production practices to teaching about production and management — “farming as a way of life to farming as a business to be able to enjoy it as a way of life.”

Leadership

Throughout her time in extension, Dianne has also become known as a visionary leader. At a time of downsizing and restructuring within OSU Extension, Dianne recognized the need to bring together a group of university professionals to address the issues facing Ohio’s dairy producers. As a result, the OSU Extension Dairy Working Group was formed and still meets to this day. Under Dianne’s leadership, the group has taught numerous educational programs, developed a website to house dairy resources, written fact sheets, conducted team study tours and produced the popular “Dairy Excel 15 Measures of Dairy Farm Competitiveness” bulletin. This bulletin has been used by farmers and advisers across the United States. 

Another example of Dianne’s visionary leadership is with the OSU Extension Farm Business Analysis and Benchmarking Program. This program uses a computerized software to analyze the financial performance of farm businesses. Since her start with the program, she has successfully secured grant dollars to aid in the completion of analyses and produce annual statewide dairy and crop financial summaries. In recent years, upon hiring additional technicians, she has also been able to expand the program and continue Ohio’s contribution of farm financial data to the national database. This expansion allowed the program to include more grain farms and crop acres across Ohio, providing vitally important information to a larger segment of Ohio agriculture. 

Expertise

You’ve likely also seen Dianne’s smiling face in the Farm and Dairy newspaper. With approximately 180 articles authored by Dianne and numerous others printed in state and national publications, her work has reached far beyond the borders of Ohio agriculture. 

Dianne has been recognized by her peers for her outstanding teaching, leadership and service to her profession, having received the Distinguished Service Award from the National Association of County Agricultural Agents. She also received the OSU Extension Excellence in Extension Award and was recognized as the North Central Region Excellence in Extension Award winner for farm business management education efforts that help dairy farms improve profitability and sustainability. 

Lasting impact

Dianne has led a storied and distinguished career with OSU Extension, and has made a lasting impact with the many colleagues, dairy farms and farm families who had the pleasure of working with her. Her work has laid a strong and sturdy foundation for those to come, however, filling her shoes will be no easy task. 

As for future plans, there will likely be many days spent with family, friends and spoiling her grandchild. We wish Dianne the best in her retirement, and hope that we can someday look back on our careers with the same pride and sense of accomplishment. 

And to Dianne — we thank you for your tireless dedication to OSU Extension and to Ohio’s farmers. May your retirement be full of joy, new adventures, and reasons to laugh — you’ve earned it!

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