Sunrise over Lake Michigan signals the start of the new day at one of Manitowoc County’s largest dairy farms. Like a ray of sunshine, Rosario Ibarra greets every day with a smile, despite the early morning wake-up call. Life on the farm means Ibarra is constantly on the go. As general manager at Grotegut Dairy Farm, she supervises daily operations at the farm near Newton, Wisconsin. She has more than 5,000 animals under her care. “Every farm is unique. Every farm has its own challenges, but you need dedication, respect, and care. You have to care about the animals, about the people that you are working with,” says Ibarra.
Ibarra is bilingual in Spanish and English and interchanges between the languages at a moment’s notice. “I should pay attention to my English teachers when I was younger because I always used to say, ‘Why do I need to learn English?’ I’m never going to use it. And look at me.” Growing up in Mexico Ibarra remembers her grandfather’s farm with ten cows, chickens, pigs and sheep. When it came to working on his farm Ibarra emphatically says she “hated it!”
However, work on that farm planted a seed of an idea that germinated when Ibarra was in college. “My parents were not happy with that decision. I didn’t ask them, and they were very mad with me when I told them that I was going to be an agronomist,” says Ibarra. That science degree in soil management and crop production opened doors for an internship in the dairy state. When she arrived in Wisconsin it was the first time she had seen a Holstein cow.
For more than a decade Wisconsin has been home. A place where dairy farming requires long hours of hard work. Despite the grueling pace, day after day for Ibarra it is always farming with a smile.