I will forever be a dairy advocate


As I think about my first few months working in the dairy checkoff 40 years ago, I cannot help but smile. I started as a program director at Midwest Dairy, working with schools and health care professionals in June 1984. Since then, I have had the pleasure of holding numerous leadership positions before accepting the CEO role in 2019. Before Midwest Dairy, I also worked with the Midland Dairy Association and Dairy Council Inc., both former checkoff organizations that are now part of the Midwest Dairy organization.

I laugh about my first few days in checkoff, because I specifically recall how intimidating it felt to learn all the acronyms within the dairy industry, from DMI to other states and regions like the ADA to Midwest Dairy-specific programs like the MDFRC. For those of you who know, there was a lot to learn. After a good month, though, I found myself learning and solving these acronym puzzles, and it started to feel like I was understanding the nuances of my new job. I know we have many more acronyms today than when I started, and I am pleased we now have a cheat sheet as a tool for new staff joining the organization. That is something that has always been important to me when it comes to my staff and their feeling of belonging.

My heart swells when I think about my time within the industry because I have created many lifelong friendships that I cherish dearly. As I reminisce about the beginning of my career, a particular college professor stands out to me. She had just received her master’s degree in nutrition and was teaching at a college, working with future health professionals, when we were connected. She knew there was a lot of opportunity to enhance her students’ understanding of nutrition in dairy foods and wanted to lean on checkoff for guidance. At that time, the National Dairy Council had released a resource for health professionals on osteoporosis, including a summary of scientific-based information. These resources were gold for my friend, who was grateful for my help. I connected with this partner during my first week working for checkoff, and it showed me the benefits of collaborating with national experts and having staff on the ground build relationships nationwide. Since that connection, my friendship with the college professor continued to grow, and we stayed in touch even after she relocated to the Kansas City area. If she ever has a dairy question, my phone will ring.

I tell this story because as I say my final goodbye and reflect on the years of friendships I have made, I hope my phone never stops ringing. I am a committed dairy advocate for life and hope to stay connected to the many friends, staff and amazing farmers I have gotten to know. All of these relationships are, and will always be, important to me.

I would love to continue encouraging all dairy farmers, young and old alike, to engage with their checkoff at Midwest Dairy. Consumers constantly tell us they are curious about where their food comes from, and I truly believe talking to dairy farmers is the ideal way for them to best build trust in the decisions dairy farmers make every day while on the farm. Research shows that as consumers build confidence in dairy, they purchase more dairy products. Checkoff is a group effort, one we all have a hand in.

In my 40 years, I have learned how important consumer events are, but Midwest Dairy’s board members are also vital to the strategic decisions of the checkoff organization. These board members help staff identify opportunities for partnerships and provide input on strategies to build consumer trust and sales. It is never too late if you want to get involved in these leadership positions. Checkoff needs its farmers to be involved. Keeping the work of checkoff relevant to dairy farmers is vital for the future success of the dairy promotion and research work done by Midwest Dairy, and I know the next CEO will value this too.

I have had 40 fulfilling years working for the Midwest dairy farmers, and I want to say thank you. Checkoff strategies have evolved and fostered new ideas that make a difference for dairy farm families. Working for dairy farmers in each of my roles has been a privilege, and I will continue to be a dairy advocate in my retirement. Knowing how hard farmers work to produce milk that feeds and nourishes the world is a daily inspiration, and I owe my career to the farm families in our 10-state region. Thank you for what you do and for allowing me to work with you to build trust and demand for dairy.


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