Bonnie Borden oversees her final Dodge County Fair

Dori Lichty
Bonnie Borden has been a "go-to" leader at the Dodge County Fair for many years. Leaning on Borden (second from left) for help are (from left) Linda Behling, Mandy Sell and Sarah Wendorf.

BEAVER DAM - As Bonnie Bodren, UW-Extension dairy and livestock youth educator, walked the aisles of the dairy and livestock youth barns at the 2017 Dodge County Fair this year, it was for the last time as a UW-Extension employee.

For 19 years, Borden has worked with hundreds of volunteers and teachers to mold the 4-H and FFA youth of Dodge County into outstanding and superior citizens, but she’s set to retire before next year’s Fair.

“I was hired first as a back fill for youth development; then a back fill was added on for my current position,” said Borden. “Various changes happened in the office, and I was able to take over the dairy and livestock youth educator full-time position. At the time, it was a 100-percent position, but the winter is not near as crazy busy as the summer. So, I struck a deal with management to change my position to 70 percent and use the remaining 30 percent to hire a summer intern every year.”

There is no limit to the responsibilities on Borden’s plate.

“My duties include creating, teaching, and/or implementing educational programs for dairy and livestock youth, both in 4-H and FFA. I like to see the growth in skills, communication, and achievements by the youth as they participate and get older in their project years.”

“Our Dodge County dairy program is one of the best in the state, and we owe a lot of that to Bonnie,” said Mandy Sell, Dodge County Junior Holstein Association advisor. “She keeps us organized and on track, and she always goes the extra mile.”

Sell went on to add, “One of my favorite memories was a few years ago, when some of the dairy exhibitors showed up the morning of the junior show with shirts that said, ‘Keep calm and call Bonnie.’ The look on her face, followed by lots of laughs.

"Since I was a youth at State Fair, Bonnie would make lunch for us on set-up day. She always took the time to make us individually-wrapped ham and cheese sandwiches, grapes, and water. For whatever reason, those sandwiches tasted better than any other ham and cheese sandwiches we had the rest of the year,” Sell added.

With Borden’s pending retirement, things are set to change in the Dodge County 4-H and FFA programs.

“My position is one that’s been targeted with budget cuts; UW-Extension has downsized, and they can’t afford it anymore. Right now, I’m the only one like me in the state,” Borden said.

Although Borden has not set an official retirement date other than to say it will be around November, she has started grooming the volunteers in Dodge County to take over her duties.

“All of UW Extension is looking to our volunteer groups to take on even more responsibility — like the Dodge County Dairy Committee setting up their own awards and sponsors, for example. One thing I’m working on right now is to get the livestock program to set up an education committee — not to teach, but to identify areas of need and bring in speakers,” Borden said.

As Borden thinks back over the last 19 years, she has numerous happy thoughts.

“I have many, many stories in my heart that make me laugh — I have so many good memories. I am super proud of the youth who have come through the Dodge County dairy and livestock programs who are now professional dairy and livestock fitters, have different careers in agriculture, and hold various leadership positions in the industry," Borden said. "I’m really proud of their achievements.”

Borden’s work during her tenure with Dodge County UW-Extension will forever be etched in the history of the Dodge County, and the relationships she has built will last long after her retirement.

For more photos and information on the Dodge County Fair  visit

Lichty is a farm wife, 4-H mom and full-time communicator