Savana Mata has been interested in the dairy industry since she was a child, but growing up in Santa Barbara, California, she didn’t have much exposure to it growing up. That all changed when she came to Northcentral Technical College. 

Savana was studying biology and philosophy with a plan to go into neuroscience at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles when, during her junior year, she decided she wanted to get into the dairy industry.  

“I had no background in dairy,” she said. “When I Googled dairy science, NTC’s program was actually the very first one to pop up.”  

She finished her bachelors of science degree and toured a number of schools with dairy science programs, including schools in Vermont and the University of Wisconsin Madison, but after visiting NTC, she knew this was where she was meant to be.  

“NTC’s instructors were very hands on and had a lot of connections to the farming community,” Savana said. “I knew I could learn directly from the farming community instead of just learning from books.”  

From her first day of classes at NTC, Savana was hooked. NTC helped her get a job at Miltrim Farms right away. She went from having never been up close to a cow to working on a dairy farm with thousands of cows.  

“I learned so quickly from that,” she said. “I was able to use everything I was learning in school every day at work. I’m so grateful for that.”  

For someone from southern California, moving to central Wisconsin can be a bit of a shock. For Savana, the most challenging part was adjusting to the winters and learning to farm in layers. Other than that, she fit right in.  

“I love that everyone here treats me like family immediately,” she said. “Everyone is so open to teaching me anything I want to know.”  

Growing up near Los Angeles, Savana heard a lot of negativity surrounding agriculture. In an effort to combat misinformation, she has taken everything she has learned here and is using it to give informational presentations to people in Los Angeles.  

On a recent trip back to her alma mater, she had a booth at the university’s wellness event and at an Earth Day event. Armed with information, raffles baskets from Mullins Cheese and Knowlton House Distillery, and cows crocheted by a local farmer, she was able to connect with those who visited her booth. Some had a great grandfather who had owned a farm, but none had ever been to a farm themselves.  

“They never hear about farming in that area, so to be able to learn about it in that environment made them excited,” Savana said. “It was nice to talk to them and educate them on what’s actually going on and share how there are actually a lot of rules in place to combat the environmental impact.”  

She also gave a presentation, and as she showed footage of the farms where she works, attendees were given a cheese sample from Mullins Cheese. Both the farms she works at and NTC’s Agriculture Center of Excellence supply Mullins Cheese with milk.  

“People loved that,” she said. “It was nice for them to make the connection and see the cows that produced the milk that was used to make the cheese they were eating.”  

In addition to working at Miltrim Farms and a small local farm, Savana also works at Merrill Equipment, another opportunity that was made possible through connections she made at NTC.  

“It’s always about growth and helping people do what they want to do at NTC,” she said. “Farming is such a close-knit community, and if you are passionate about it, they will let you right in and give you any opportunity you need to grow.”  

Because NTC promotes hands-on learning, instructors are flexible when students miss class for something related to their industry.  

“They never make you feel guilty for that,” Savana said. “They understand that students are here to learn about agriculture, so when you have an agriculture related event, they are here to help you.”  

For anyone interested in an agriculture-related industry, Savana recommends NTC. She encourages everyone, even those who have no prior connection to agriculture, to follow their passion. Savana will graduate in May with an associate degree in dairy science and agri-business. She plans to stay in Wisconsin after graduation to pursue her dreams.  

“When I came out here, I had zero experience and got in the field on day one, and that’s a really nice feeling,” she said. “Being here has made me feel like I am able to make a difference. Farms help you follow your dreams, and I think that’s really important.”