Americans recognize farmers for their hard work and dedication to feeding the world, and recently a spotlight has been placed on this essential industry. Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin has shared that for the first time in its 20-year history, Gallup Poll, which measures public opinion of U.S. business sectors, listed farming and agriculture as the top-ranking industry among the 25 major sectors it tracks.

The poll found that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there is an increase in consumers’ understanding of, and appreciation for, farmers’ role in ensuring community well-being.

Wisconsin dairy farmers are encouraged by this report and have been essential to sustaining local communities and Wisconsin’s economy for decades. Annually, the Wisconsin dairy industry generates $46.5 billion economic impact and 154,000 jobs for the state, comprising nearly 50% of the total Wisconsin agriculture contribution.

Amid COVID-19, local dairy farmers continued their essential duties and worked together with companies and communities to provide more than 12 million pounds of milk, cheese, butter and other dairy products to the growing number of families in need.

“In addition to farmers being recognized for their essential role, the Gallup Poll shows promise for job growth in the farming and agriculture industry,” said Chad Vincent, Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin CEO. “We hope to continue to raise awareness of all the rewarding and reliable careers that are available, particularly among young people and women.”

In fact, recent reports show an increase in the number of female farmers in Wisconsin. Studies also show a growing number of young talent — Millennials and Gen Z — are pursuing meaningful careers, like farming. For example, 2017 U.S. census data shows a 16% increase in the number of female farmers in Wisconsin, and a new global survey shows the pandemic has reinforced Millennials and Gen Z desire to drive positive change through their work.

Wisconsin dairy farmer, Julie Maurer, believes this is representative of the rise in advocacy for women and young people in farming.

“The dairy community has been working tirelessly to support both female and new farmers,” said Julie Maurer, co-owner of Soaring Eagle Dairy in Wisconsin. “Over just the past few years, we’ve witnessed tremendous growth in the number of female farmers and support networks.”

Those interested in pursuing a career in farming and agriculture should visit Wisconsin Agriculture Education at wisconsinaged.org/wiaged/ag-careers to learn more.

Consumers can share their support for Wisconsin dairy farmers by looking for the Proudly Wisconsin Cheese and Dairy badges when shopping, and purchasing extra dairy products on National Farmers Day, which is quickly approaching on Monday, Oct. 12.