This past week I attended the Organic Valley Leadership Summit in LaCrosse, WI.  It was filled with inspirational speakers, employees, and farmers.  The first night was getting to know each other, dinner, and bed.

The next day we took buses to visit our facilities at Headquarters, Cashton, and Chaseburg.  I had to drive alone behind the bus, because I get extremely car sick.  It’s embarrassing, but a fact of my life and I didn’t mind the time alone.

The first was headquarters.  When we arrived, several farmers asked me if I was ok, and it surprised me that anyone even paid attention to me following behind.  But then, Organic Valley Farmers are different.  We went through the areas we could since the fire pretty much took care of 1/3rd of the building.  I was inspired by the employees and their positive attitudes, friendly atmosphere, and absolutely no complaining about their working conditions, not even a little.  We reached the R&D lab area and were met by a pretty young woman named Emma with soft brown hair that was braided (I always take note of things like that).  She said “Oh, are you Theresa Westaby, I read your stories!”  “How is your sister doing?”

Truthfully, I didn’t think many or any people read my stories, and it was a surprise to hear.   I thanked her and told her I really appreciated hearing that.  She later emailed me a note that made me laugh out loud.  She is one of many treasures Organic Valley has, that we call employees.  Another farmer said to me that he hoped her excitement and enthusiasm ignites great new products for our line.

We heard from George our CEIEIO, CROPP founders, Theresa Marquez head of Misson and Messaging and Jamie Lamonde.  Lisa Carnahan and Maureen Knapp held a session on communication.  All just so positive and excited about our future.  Then we played games, yes games, and that was fantastic and hilarious. We did a World Cafe’ session with Sarah Hundt, she was so energetic and happy, one Mennonite farmer said to me he wished he could hire her for just a week!  There were farmers and staff from the U.K., Netherlands, Germany, and France.  They did presentations on how organic farming is done on their own farms and in their countries.   We had a life changing talk by Tom Thibodeau a professor at Viterbo University, about Servant Leaders.  I said it was life-changing because if even one of us tries to follow his words of wisdom, we will be better people.

Thank you, thank you, thank you, Lisa Hass for not missing a detail and I never saw a glitch or problem, that’s either great abilities, or great cover-up, either way, she’s good!  Finally, we watched the video of the fire at headquarters, it was called Phoenix.  I could not see a farmer or employee that didn’t have tears in their eyes or rolling down their cheeks.  I can’t imagine loving a job or company that much.  The jobs that I had prior to marrying a farmer, I would have gladly watched them burn to the ground and may have been called as a suspect in starting them!

Bringing so many farmers and employees together to teach what we know to be true, that if you love one another and treat each other with kindness, listen, and communicate,  you can change the world.  I may have thought that would work in the past, but after this summit, I know it to be true!