LITCHFIELD, Minn. – A lot has changed in the last few decades of First District Association’s history, but one man has remained steadfast.
    For 21 years, Clint Fall has served as CEO and president of the cooperative in Litchfield, Minn. He will retire from the position June 14, marking the end of a 42-year career in the dairy industry.

    “I’ve been given the privilege to lead a company and have a good team to work with,” Fall said. “Now, I want to be remembered as a person who worked hard throughout his career and can retire with dignity.”
    In Fall’s position, he has reported to a nine member board of directors and worked alongside a leadership team focused on the longevity of the cooperative, making it an efficient and sustainable processing plant for Minnesota’s dairy industry.
    Fall was hired as CEO in the spring of 1998. When he became a part of the cooperative, his objectives were to unify the employees of the company as well as provide the best market for member patrons.
    “Our goal at that time, and still today, was to have a company that had a positive reputation, was a good company for our employees, was a good market for our dairy farmers, and we wanted to be known as a highly reputable processor for quality products,” Fall said.
    With Fall’s visions in mind, he worked with the plant’s employees to create a positive culture in the workplace; it soon became a culture that clearly demonstrated everyone’s dedication to the processing plant.
    “We realized we’re all just trying to do our little best … everyone needs to make a living,” Fall said. “I’ve worked in many different plants, and First District is one of the companies where the work ethic amongst the people is stellar.”
    Soon after, the processing plant developed plans that would solidify its place in the industry for years to come.
    When Fall arrived, the plant was processing 1.7 million pounds of milk per day but not running at full capacity.
    “Over the years, there have been many projects – almost one project after another. We’ve just continued to improve the processes and improve many things with how we conduct business,” Fall said. “We’re probably one of the most efficient, modern state-of-the-art cheese plants in the Upper Midwest.”
    In 20 years, the company has increased processing capabilities to 5.5 million pounds of milk per day with another project to be complete by 2021 that will further increase the processing capacity to 7.5 million pounds.
    “I am most proud of being able to work with this team and come together and think this is where we are today,” Fall said. “We put our dreaming hats on and figured out where we could be in the future. … There’s a part of me that’s a little sad I won’t be around for this project, but I can say going back 15 years, this is what we envisioned.”
    Every project Fall has supervised has been completed with intentions of bettering the farmer owners as the cooperative has upheld its grassroots philosophy.
    “Our members have a strong voice in what happens here,” Fall said. “Over the years, everything we’ve been able to accomplish has ultimately resulted in earnings and good milk prices passed on to farmers, as good as can be given the dynamics of the market.”
    Having grown up with family involved in Wisconsin’s dairy industry, Fall always had an interest in milk products.
    “I was always very intrigued with the science behind milk, and I still am,” Fall said. “Milk is such an incredible product. Even to this day, there is so much innovation regarding the attributes of it that there is always something to learn.”
    Fall graduated from the University of Minnesota with degrees in food science and technology, chemistry and biology, and pursued a career in dairy foods processing.
    After 21 years with Mid-American Dairymen Inc., now Dairy Farmers of America, Fall became the operations manager for many of the company’s plants nationwide.
    When the CEO position at First District became available, Fall saw opportunity to connect with a side of the industry he was missing in his previous position.
    “I came in not having a lot of experience working with dairy farmers or working with a corporate board of directors,” Fall said. “It was refreshing and enjoyable to have the chance to work with dairy farmers and the people who make things happen.”
    As Fall recalls his time with First District, he is humbled by the relationships he has formed with the company’s farmer members.
    “[Dairy farmers] make going to work mean something. You’re working for people that you know,” Fall said. “I know the fruits of my efforts, admittedly extensive, were what I had to do to meet the needs of our members.”

    Outside of the cooperative, Fall has served in many capacities in the industry, such as on the board of directors for National Milk Producers Federation, American Dairy Products Institute, Minnesota Milk Producers Association and the Midwest Dairy Coalition, among others.
    Now, after investing so much time into the dairy industry, Fall is looking forward to giving more time to family and community organizations. He and his wife, Deb, have four grown children and seven grandchildren. The couple is also active in their church.
    While Fall will have ample hobbies and volunteer opportunities to fill his plate, he will miss the relationships he has formed in the industry over the last 42 years.
    “I have gained a significant appreciation for dairy farmers and, in many cases, consider them my close friends,” he said. “I will dearly miss the people I have worked with.”
    The cooperative is in its final stages of naming a new CEO and president.