Leveraging fresh perspective

Midwest Dairy CEO Scott shares her background, goals

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ST. PAUL, Minn. — Midwest Dairy has a new CEO, Corey Scott, who joined Midwest Dairy March 13. Scott is taking over the reins from Molly Pelzer, who retired after a long career serving dairy farmers.

“I don’t think there’s any other profession that I could have found the absolutely incredible people to serve and represent as I did here,” Scott said.

Scott was previously the vice president of sales and marketing for Athian Inc. and also worked for Land O’Lakes Inc. in their sustainability division, Truterra LLC. Scott plans to focus on sustainability at Midwest Dairy.

“My responsibility is to tell the story for our farmers in such a way that it appeals to consumers, then appeal to food and beverage companies with sustainability goals to ensure the future of dairy as a solution in sustainability versus a problem,” Scott said.

Scott said this is about sharing the work that dairy farmers are already doing and innovating.

“My opportunity is to be the bridge, telling that story in an effective manner to where it builds trust,” Scott said.

Scott’s new role is her first with the dairy checkoff.

“With any business, there are things where ... it’s done that way for many, many years,” Scott said. “Somebody coming in with a fresh perspective has the opportunity to understand more deeply the why behind (things).”

Scott said as she has learned more about the checkoff program, it has also been an opportunity for her staff to reflect.

“Dairy farmers have been under significant economic pressure in recent months,” Scott said. “It’s critically important that we’re being good stewards of how we use checkoff dollars. ... It’s always been, but even now, there’s a higher awareness of how we’re deploying those dollars.”

Scott respects the dairy farmers she serves.

“Farmers are some of the most hard-working, highest-integrity, salt-of-the-earth people that you could find,” Scott said. “They wake up every single day to do work to serve others. ... They do it in the hard times and in the good times equally well.”

Scott’s background in agriculture stretches to childhood. She grew up in Massachusetts. In the summers, her family visited South Dakota on vacation to help friends work cattle, doing tasks like ear tagging, vaccinations and castrations.

Then, when Scott was in high school, her family moved to South Dakota. In high school, she said she became interested in agriculture and worked at a sales barn. In college, she worked at an agronomy cooperative.

Scott earned her undergraduate degree from the University of Minnesota-Crookston and then a master’s degree from the university’s Carlson School of Management.

Scott said Midwest Dairy’s strategic priorities for the next 2-3 years are focused on increasing consumption.

To do this, Scott said building trust is the first pillar toward that goal.

“We recognize that consumers don’t consume dairy in the same way as generations before us did,” Scott said. “They love innovative products. They love cheese. So, dairy consumption doesn’t look the same. Also, what’s not the same is awareness of where food comes from.”

With that change comes alterations in how to reach these consumers to build awareness, Scott said.

“We will need to work to build trust, but we’ll be doing that through some different pathways that appeal to the generations coming behind us, meeting them where they are in their journey,” Scott said.

Scott said that a new initiative for Midwest Dairy is using 20 social media influencers to share about how dairy farmers care for their animals and dairy’s impact on sustainability. If the test pilot is successful, they will expand the program.

“(We are) leveraging different thought leaders and influencers than we have historically,” Scott said.

Scott said she wants to encourage dairy farmers to share what they are doing on their farms digitally through social media. Scott said that consumers want to hear directly from farmers and that this is a crucial element of building trust.

“Many population centers will never have the opportunity to see a cow in person, much less touch a cow or have the opportunity to talk to a farmer,” Scott said. “Farmers have this unique superpower. If they invite others into their world, ... their reach is enormous.”

Farmers looking for digital training or support can go to the Midwest Dairy website or speak with Midwest Dairy field staff. Scott said Midwest Dairy is going to amplify farmers’ voices.

An activation that Scott appreciates that Midwest Dairy had completed before her arrival was late-night snack pairings that were done on several college campuses. She said this activation helps to build trust and excitement with college students who will soon be making their own grocery decisions.

“It was wildly popular,” Scott said. “Activations like that excite me for the future.”

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