March 26, 2022 at 8:50 p.m.

CPDF helps fund education, research

Deb Wehde
Deb Wehde

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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – The Central Plains Dairy Foundation continues to work toward its goal of funding educational and research opportunities to assist people involved with the dairy industry.
CPDF can trace its roots back to a meeting of the board of directors of the Central Plains Dairy Association, the group that started the Central Plains Dairy Expo.
“The Central Plains Dairy Association had always funded a few scholarships and grants,” said Deb Wehde, field representative at Agropur and president of the CPDF board of directors. “We wanted to increase that effort, and Lon Tonneson, who with his wife, Kathy, ran the Central Plains Dairy Expo, suggested that we form a nonprofit organization.”
CPDF was established as an independent 501(c)(3) charitable organization in 2016. The foundation has since awarded numerous grants and scholarships to nonprofit organizations that address issues affecting the dairy industry. These issues include economic, community and workforce development along with efforts to promote the dairy industry.
“We want to support dairy in the central region that includes North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa and Minnesota,” Wehde said. “Some of our efforts could reach as far as Wisconsin.”
The foundation receives much of its funding from donations by corporate entities involved with the dairy industry. The foundation also raises funds via its annual Grazing on the Greens Golf Outing held each summer at Rocky Run Golf Course in Dell Rapids. Additional funds will be raised via a silent auction at the CPDE and through ticket sales for the beer garden.
“We also welcome private donations,” Wehde said. “Any support at any level will be greatly appreciated.” 
CPDF has awarded scholarships and Dairy Innovation Grants totaling up to $33,000 in one year. The size of individual awards can range from $500 to $10,000.
Dr. Athena Ramos, assistant professor at University of Nebraska Medical Center, was a 2020 recipient of the Dairy Innovation Grant Program. Ramos organized a study titled “Community Welcoming and Integration in Rural South Dakota.” Ramos conducted surveys and interviewed immigrant agricultural workers and community leaders in the towns of Beresford, Viborg and Centerville. That area saw an influx of large dairy operations over the past several years.
After her study was completed, Ramos and her team made recommendations directed at helping immigrants feel more welcome and included in their communities. Some of her recommendations have been acted upon by the communities that were part of the study.
Promotional efforts funded by the foundation include supporting the Moo Booth at the Minnesota State Fair. Holly and Harriet, a pair of Holstein mascots, began working for the foundation last March. The bovine duo attends farm shows and other events where they hand out cheese and pose for photos.
The foundation has also helped fund a study that will update the data surrounding the economic impact of the dairy industry. Northeast Iowa Community College in Calmar, Iowa, received foundation funding for an initiative that is looking into methods the dairy industry can use to achieve net zero sustainability.         
Jason Mischel, vice president of sales and milk procurement for Valley Queen Cheese Factory, is a member of the foundation’s board.
“The Glacial Lakes Multicultural Center recently approached Valley Queen Cheese Factory for a donation,” Mischel said. “The center impressed on us how impactful they have been in the community. Many of those they have helped were dairy farm employees, and one of Valley Queen’s employees was volunteering at the center. It was very obvious to us that their services were valuable and needed, so Valley Queen made a donation and challenged the foundation to match it. They did.”
Some of the services the Glacial Lakes Multicultural Center provides include interpreting for parent-teacher conferences and helping immigrants find a doctor or a place to do their banking.
“The foundation has also been making technical grants to public educational institutions,” Mischel said. “The foundation recently made a $1,000 grant to the Milbank School District to help support their (English as a second language) services. Valley Queen Cheese Factory matched the grant and Victory Farms, who is one of our patrons, followed suit. The foundation’s original $1,000 soon became $3,000. It’s nice to have partnerships like that. It reflects well on our dairy producers. They saw the need and opened their wallets.
Greg Moes is the lone dairy producer serving on the board of CPDF. Moes and his family operate Modak Dairy, a 2,500-cow dairy located in Goodwin.
“I visit with a lot of other producers, and many of them say that one of the dairy industry’s biggest challenges is finding people who have technical skills,” Moes said. “We need to create more educational opportunities for the people we work with and make the kind of employees that we need.”
With an eye toward that goal, Moes and his family have initiated a Producer Challenge.
“Modak Dairy has pledged to contribute $500 per year for the next five years to the foundation,” Moes said. “We are challenging other dairy producers to match that pledge. Those who meet the challenge will be honored by having their names listed on a barn-shaped board that will be on display at the Central Plains Dairy Expo. Our goal is to fill the barn.”
Moes said the pledges to the foundation will help fund the expansion of such things as educational tours and dairy-oriented teaching opportunities.
“Donating to the Central Plains Dairy Foundation means that we can help guide educational opportunities to fit the needs of the dairy industry instead of letting someone else decide,” Moes said.  
Other members of the board of directors of the CPDF include Jody Kuper, Valley Queen Cheese Factory, retired; Lucas Lentsch, executive vice president of United Dairy Industry Association for Dairy Management Inc.; Paul Kostboth, owner of A1 Development; and Jamie Johnson, technical sales specialist for Balchem.


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