Doris Mold visits with Stan Vander Kooi of Minnesota during the National FFA Convention in Indianapolis. Both are FFA alumni.
PHOTO BY SHERRY NEWELL
Doris Mold visits with Stan Vander Kooi of Minnesota during the National FFA Convention in Indianapolis. Both are FFA alumni. PHOTO BY SHERRY NEWELL
CUMBERLAND, Wis. – The presentation of an Honorary American FFA Degree to Doris Mold had only one downside: The Wisconsin dairy farmer had to fit a trip to Indianapolis, Indiana, into her busy schedule. Her daily work includes not only a dairy but an agricultural consultancy with multiple clients.
Mold was among 150 people nationally who were awarded the degree during the National FFA Convention Oct. 29 in Indianapolis, Indiana. The honor goes to people who help advance agricultural education and FFA through personal commitment. It singles out those who have gone beyond daily contributions and made a difference in the lives of students.
While Mold and her husband, Andrew Whyte, farm in Cumberland, her nomination was made by Minnesota FFA. That is because most of Mold’s involvement with the agricultural community has been Minnesota based.
She may be best known in the dairy community for her role in creating and continuing to manage the Minnesota State Fair Moo Booth and Milking Parlor. In fact, many who know her from her off-farm roles are not even aware she is a dairy farmer as well.
She and Whyte, with their 17-year-old daughter, Sarah, have a herd of 40 cows. Mold manages maternity, youngstock, feed purchases and the financial side of the business.
The family has a unique arrangement with a neighbor, David Dittbrenner, with the milking cows cared for and milked in his family’s facilities. Labor surrounding the co-mingled herd is shared between Whyte and Dittbrenner. Whyte usually milks mornings six days a week and any other time he is needed.
The arrangement began in 2018, when the Whyte-Mold farm, known as Sunrise Farm, was dealing with aging facilities, and Dittbrenner’s farm needed additional labor. Dry cows and heifers are managed at Sunrise Farm.
“It’s a unique arrangement,” Mold said. “They had needs, and we had needs. This was an opportunity to help both farms and the families who owned them.”
Mold’s agricultural consultancy carries the same moniker as the farm – Sunrise. Mold’s projects with the Sunrise Agricultural Associates LLC include the Rural Resiliency Project at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, the Farmer Veteran Coalition, evaluator work for the Farm Business Challenge Grant for the Minnesota Agricultural Education and Leadership Council, and co-leadership of Annie’s Project along with a national agricultural stress management task force. She usually teaches once a week at the University of Minnesota, putting her farm and agricultural business degree to work.   
Sunrise Farm began in 2004, two months after Sarah’s birth. Mold was raised on a dairy farm in Chisago County, but the property was sold after both of her parents passed away.
Whyte was raised in England and without any farm background. His father, however, arranged for him to work on several farms.
After receiving his degree in farm management in England, Whyte traveled to Minnesota on the University of Minnesota’s MAST International program. MAST places trainees on farms and at the university to gain practical, cultural and academic experience. Mold was working as a volunteer with MAST students at the time. They married in 1988 with a goal to have their own dairy.
But as the couple prepared for the plunge into dairying, Mold pursued both her work and a variety of efforts related to FFA.
“There were people who supported me when I was young,” said Mold, who was involved in both 4-H and FFA, and earned a Minnesota FFA State Degree. “I think it’s important to give back, not just take. If we are going to have any future in agriculture, it can’t stop when you do (as a student). You have to turn around and do things for others. That’s what will build a strong and vigorous future for agriculture.”
Her contributions related to agricultural education and FFA have included helping with and judging career and leadership development events at the Minnesota FFA Convention, mentoring state officers, helping to charter the Metro FFA Alumni and supporting FFA members who were part of the National Ag Day celebration in Washington, D.C., during her service as national president of American Agri-Women.
She also incorporates FFA members into two of her off-farm efforts: Minnesota State Fair and the Women’s Agricultural Leadership Conference held in the spring.
“The conference is, I think, one of the few conferences where FFA members are treated like every other professional presenter,” said Mold of featuring FFA on the program.
During the Minnesota State Fair, she connects FFA exhibitors with media opportunities that come through her role as the Moo Booth and Milking Parlor superintendent.
Each of those interactions – and there are many more – give Mold a look at what FFA can offer young people.
“As you look at what FFA is embracing today, like agriscience and other areas, there is such diversity. I think it’s so critical to have that mix in order to get kids interested,” she said after being honored on stage at the convention where 57,000-plus FFA members, teachers and guests gathered. “I get so excited being around (the students). Why wouldn’t you be, seeing all this.”