Sharing Wisdom Educational Seminar

Virtual Sharing Wisdom Event:

“Create Your Niche: New Opportunities for Income and Personal Growth”

Happened live on Thursday, February 25th, 2021

This Sharing Wisdom event starts with a keynote from Mary Heffernan (Five Marys Farm), building excitement around entrepreneurship and what it takes to be successful. Next, we’ll split into three breakout rooms (choose one) focusing on Events/Agritourism, Food Production, and Publishing/Art/Digital Presence. This will allow attendees to have more focused conversations, ask detailed questions, and learn about each venture type. To close the event, all participants join back together in one “room” to build a business plan with Paul Dietmann from Compeer. This Sharing Wisdom event will give participants valuable knowledge and key takeaways for attainable income diversification. Bonus: A digital business plan template plus resources and contacts for future ongoing conversations.

Access to the event will cost $25.

Why register for this event?

  • You’ll have the ability to learn first-hand from some of the best in their businesses.
  • You will have the opportunity to interact with the speakers and ask them your questions, personally.
  • You will get your own copy of a lean business plan to use to make your dream come to life.
  • Connect with like-minded individuals and have the opportunityto continue conversations in peer groups.
  • You’ll even get some virtual DGN swag!

Register for the recordings HERE!

Check out the speaker lineup – you won’t want to miss this!


Mary Heffernan | Five Marys Farm

Mary Heffernan, along with her husband Brian and their four daughters (all named Mary!) own Five Marys Farms, where they raise and sell their ranch raised meats directly to customers all over the country by selling online and shipping. Mary’s story is a long journey of creating businesses when and where she sees opportunity, and then working hard to make them successful. She is passionate about small business and she shares her years of knowledge, experience, and insight with other small business owners in her M5 Entrepreneurs Academy. Mary released her first Ranch Raised cookbook in September of last year and is currently working on her second. Her latest projects include the M5 Entrepreneur Mastermind course, Five Marys Ranch School and the Boots & Bangles podcast (releasing soon!)

BREAKOUT SESSION: Events/Agritourism

Do you have the prettiest place in the county with a cozy barn or shop perfect for hosting events? Do you long to share your farm life with weekend tours, camping or even B&B? Learn how to turn that extra space and knowledge into a business opportunity. Gather your questions on vendors, clients, insurance, permits, neighbor relations, marketing and more.

Panelist: Carissa Itle Westrick | Director of Business Development | Vale Wood Farms

Carissa Itle Westrick is the Director of Business Development for Vale Wood Farms in Loretto, PA. Vale Wood Farms is an integrated multi-generational dairy business and family farm that processes milk from their cows into dairy products that they deliver directly to customers. Carissa is tasked with analyzing profitability: from feed costs to delivery efficiencies and all the steps in between. She also coordinates her farm’s marketing efforts. She was appointed to the recent Pennsylvania Dairy Future Commission, serves on the County Penn State Extension Council, and is a Trustee of Penn Highlands Community College. Before returning to the family farm, Carissa gained invaluable experience working for the National Milk Producers Federation in Arlington, Virginia. She has worked with dairy farmers, cooperatives, processors, and consumers, and believes that success in the dairy industry can be realized by working together.

Panelist: Kristin Pfaff | Owner/Operator | Garden Valley Gatherings and Pfaffsway Farms

Kristin and her husband, Steve, have been dairy farming since they were married 33 years ago. They took over the family farm and are currently milking 180 registered cows on two farms. Cash cropping is also a portion of their family income. Kristin has worked closely with many local organizations and served on the local school board. As an advisor on the County FSA board for many years, she feels her personal farming experiences gives producers fair opportunities. After graduating from college, her son, Casey wanted to work on the family farm. This gave her the golden opportunity to start an exciting business on a family-owned homestead which is now a wedding venue. She transformed a building that was utilized to raise registered bulls into a beautifully decorated, elegant barn venue where guests enjoy their family celebrations. Garden Valley Gatherings (named after township) is now a full-service seasonal wedding venue hosting approximately 22 weddings a year.

Moderator: Denise Skidmore | Director of Education and Public Relations | Hilmar Cheese Company, Inc.

Passionate about connecting consumers to agriculture, Denise Skidmore leads Hilmar Cheese Company’s strategic public communications, internet and social presence, media relations and oversees the visitor center retail, café and tour programs. She joined the company in 2000 and has grown the tour program to host more than 15,000 students and another 300 buses of tourists each year (BC – before COVID). Denise also coordinates the company’s sustainability reporting and crisis communications preparedness. She spent nine years as a Mobile Dairy Classroom Instructor for the Dairy Council of California and has taught more than 600,000 city kids about dairy and served in Producer Relations. She has a M.A. Instructional Systems from CSU, Long Beach and B. S. in Agriculture Education from CSU, Fresno. She currently serves as a 4-H leader, FFA speaking and marketing coach and is involved with California Women for Agriculture.


Do you dream of making and selling your own cheese, ice cream or bottled milk? What about harvesting valuable beef or pork grown on your farm and marketing it? Learn the business of marketing your own food products. Bring your questions on branding, advertising, distribution, basic health requirements and more.

Panelist: Lolly Lesher | Owner | Way-Har Farms and Way-Har Farm Market

Lolly Lesher, a dairy farmer and mother of four, lives in Bernville, PA. She and her husband, William, own and operate Way-Har Farms and Way-Har Farm Market. The farm market has been selling farm fresh milk and ice cream for over 50 years. Lolly is a graduate of Penn State with degrees in Ag Economics and Rural Sociology. Within the family businesses, Lolly manages all of the marketing, advertising, new product development and human resource tasks, as well as the financial responsibilities. All the children in the family have an active role on the farm and help with decisions, and they also lend a hand to keep the retail/wholesale business successful. As an active member of the dairy industry, Lolly has served on the Penn State Ag Council, Center for Dairy Excellence, PA Dairy Promotion Program, American Dairy Association NorthEast, Berks County Agricultural Land Preservation Committee and is a long time school board member.

Panelist: Dave McElhaney | Owner/Operator | McElhaney Family Farm Premium Aged Beef

Dave is the owner/operator of McElhaney Family Farm Premium Dry Aged Beef. He, along with his wife and parents, direct market USDA inspected beef in the western edge of the Pittsburgh region. He is the fifth generation to manage their 60 cow Beef Shorthorn operation. The herd is selected to provide good carcass weight and excellent marbling. All cattle are identified with USDA 840 RFID tags to assure customers that the animals can be traced gate to plate. The carcasses are dry aged 17 days and new cuts such as flat irons are used to increase the value of the carcass. The operation also provides a 45lb mixed bundle called a “Family Pack” that has grown in popularity. Dave and his family participate in five area farmers markets weekly, along with farm drive in traffic to retail their beef. They also utilize 1 brick and mortar produce market and 2 restaurants at the wholesale level to round out the marketing of on average 5 steers per month. Dave also manages an 18-state territory for Merck Animal Health Intelligence/Allflex USA. In this roll he works with state vet offices, distribution partners and producers to help provide them with livestock management solutions.

Moderator: Julia Nunes | 73rd Alice in Dairyland

Julia Nunes, of Chippewa Falls, grew up on her family’s registered Holstein dairy farm, where feeding calves and clipping dairy cattle for the county fair were just a couple of things that helped shape her childhood. During her teen years, she was heavily involved in her area Junior Holstein group and 4-H club. Nunes went on to study at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, where she was involved in the Gopher Dairy Club and Lambda Delta Phi Sorority. In 2017, she shared her knowledge of agriculture and the dairy industry while serving as the Northern Wisconsin State Fair’s Fairest of the Fair. Julia interned at Redhead Creamery, where she sharpened her love of cheese. In May 2019, she graduated with bachelor degrees in Agricultural Communication & Marketing and Animal Science, with minors in Agricultural & Food Business Management and Horticulture. She now serves as the 73rd Alice in Dairyland, where shares, supports and represents Wisconsin agriculture.

BREAKOUT SESSION: Publishing/Art/Digital Presence

Are you a writer with a book or a blog inside you? Maybe you paint, sculpt or weave. What if you could take that talent, add a digital presence, and share your creativity with customers? Learn how to get that book out of your head and into hands, how an accomplished artist has developed her talent and business, and how going digital is an avenue to real dollars. Bring questions on publishers, copyrights, royalties, seasonality, domains and more.

Panelist: Bonnie Mohr | Owner/Artist | Bonnie Mohr Studio

Bonnie Mohr Studio is nestled on a remote gravel road just four miles south of Silver Lake MN. There, she and her husband run an 85-cow dairy and have raised their 5 children – it is also where Bonnie paints the sights of rural America and inspirational artwork that has been shipped all over the world. While Bonnie is most well-known for painting cows, her popularity has grown for her full line of artwork, now transitioning into a larger portfolio of paintings that offer encouragement and hope, available as canvas giclees, paper prints, mini prints and note cards. Her work is a testimony of who she is and what she believes – it celebrates the everyday life and beauty that surrounds us, including a full range of life’s pearls, from roosters to a robin’s nest! In 2017, Bonnie completed a full renovation of the on-sight showroom, including a new Originals Gallery, which now houses all of her original oil paintings. Bonnie Mohr Studio is open M-F from 8 am – 4 pm and also some weekends for Open Houses or special events. You can learn more about Bonnie Mohr at Tour Groups are also welcome and may call 320.864.6642 to set up a tour event!

Panelist: Amanda Radke | South Dakota Rancher, Children’s Book Author, Ag Blogger/Speaker

Amanda Radke is a fifth-generation rancher from Mitchell, S.D., who has dedicated her career to serving as a voice for the nation’s farmers and ranchers. A 2009 graduate of South Dakota State University with a degree in agricultural communications, Amanda is an international speaker, four-time children’s book author and a blogger for BEEF Magazine. Her work focuses on connecting consumers with producers and fighting for our freedoms to farm, to own livestock and to have access to safe, affordable food in this country. Amanda is active in the press and works tirelessly to dispel common industry myths. Notably, her open letter to Ellen DeGeneres went viral, leading to a media frenzy where she had the opportunity to dispel myths about beef nutrition, environmental impact and animal welfare. Amanda weaves humor and relatable stories into sometimes difficult subjects and aims to inspire her audiences to take action! She works to engage, inspire and get folks thinking critically about the steps they need to ensure their family’s legacy and for their futures in agriculture remain intact. Learn more about her at

Moderator: Emily Shaw | Founder and Owner | Dairy Girl Fitness

Emily Shaw, 26, is a Pennsylvania dairy girl who now resides in the sunny state of Florida. She grew up very involved in youth dairy organizations through her family’s show herd, Linden-Loch Holsteins. Along with her love for the dairy industry, Emily spent the rest of her free time playing an array of sports year-round. This is where her passions for dairy and health came from and helped form the idea for Dairy Girl Fitness. From her time spent in youth activities to being involved in various clubs and obtaining a Bachelor’s Degree in Agribusiness Management at Pennsylvania State University, Emily always knew she wanted to be an advocate and voice for the dairy industry. Dairy Girl Fitness was created over two years ago as Emily’s way to show others that you don’t need to cut dairy and other animal products out of your diet to be “healthy.” She wants to encourage women to make their health a priority and show that it doesn’t have to be extreme or confusing. Emily wants Dairy Girl Fitness to represent a strong, confident, and hardworking group of women.


Paul Dietmann | Senior Lending Specialist on the Diversified Markets Team | Compeer Financial

Paul Dietmann is a Senior Lending Specialist on the Diversified Markets team at Compeer Financial, a member-owned rural lending cooperative and Farm Credit System institution. Paul and his colleague, Sai Thao, are responsible for Compeer’s Emerging Markets Loan Program, which provides loans and technical assistance to farmers who market their products through local food systems. Prior to joining the staff at Compeer, Paul spent 16 years with the State of Wisconsin; eleven years as a county agriculture agent with the University of Wisconsin-Extension and five years as director of the Wisconsin Farm Center, which is the farmers’ assistance program in the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP). He served as Wisconsin’s Deputy Secretary of Agriculture in 2010. Paul holds a Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Economics from the University of Illinois, and a Master’s Degree from UW-Madison.  He is co-author of the books Fearless Farm Finances: Farm Financial Management Demystified and Financial Risk Management for Specialty Crop Farmers.

Register for the recordings HERE!