Engagement of a diversity of audiences, both inside and outside our cooperative, is a central part of what the Maryland & Virginia Milk Producers Cooperative Association (MDVA) team does to serve our membership. July was a banner month for getting our name and our story in front of important audiences.

On July 15, Maryland & Virginia member Clint Burkholder hosted a roundtable at his family’s Chambersburg, Pennsylvania farm focused on farm conservation programs on behalf of the House Select Committee on Climate. The Burkholder’s farm has utilized programs at different levels of government to help implement sustainability practices like water recycling for cleaning the barn and a manure separation system which helps the farm reuse sand for animal bedding purposes.

During the roundtable, Burkholder as well as MDVA board members David Pooland Lenard Kresge and MDVA member Matt Brake, all shared their perspectives on how the next Farm Bill can work better for dairy sustainability.

Maryland & Virginia was especially well-positioned to showcase this to the five House of Representatives members that attended:

  • House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Glenn “GT” Thompson (R-PA)
  • House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis Ranking Member Garret Graves (R-LA)
  • Representative John Rose (R-TN)
  • Representative John Joyce, M.D. (R-PA)
  • Representative David Valadao (R-CA)

The rarity of having so many influencers in one place to listen to our members was not lost on those who attended. We appreciated the time these Members of Congress took to listen to our members and tour a working dairy farm.

How did Congress pick the Burkholder’s for this event? It’s because of our collective hard work to share dairy’s story as an environmental solution. Our cooperative’s sustainability efforts are well-documented, putting our dairy farmers in a leading role when it comes to offering solutions that can be replicated across the country. On behalf of our members, our sustainability team has worked to secure more than $19 million for environmental stewardship practices to be implemented on-the-ground and make a real difference to our members and their communities.

But it wasn’t just external audiences we worked with in July.

Our Young Cooperator group met for the first time in two years for YC Summer Break to engage in learning and fellowship on a series of Maryland farms. You could tell the group was excited to be back together.

Our younger members, who have established friendships through the years, came together at Teabow Farms for an opening evening dinner and conversation with Dr. Richard Doak of Mid-Maryland Vets. Doak spoke about the FARM program and how the upcoming version is set to have plenty of farmer feedback before going live. YCs then toured Teabow farms and learned about the Stup family’s dedication to dairy on their farm.

On the second day of Summer Break, three Maryland farms hosted the group of more than 100 people and 22 different MDVA families. At each stop, YCs got a chance to see different farming practices in motion and were able to share notes with one another. A stop at the Union Mills Homestead for lunch and Adventure Park USA for dinner and family fun rounded out the successful event.

Our YC program and specifically the Summer Break event are both important outreach efforts we have to cultivate the next generation of leaders in our cooperative. Just looking around the YC Summer Break crowd, it’s easy to tell that the members are excited to reconnect with friends and take a relaxing time away from the farm – even if for just a short time. We are proud to offer our members this opportunity.

It’s MDVA’s charge to maximize value to our members, our employees, and our customers. By sharing our sustainable dairy story through stakeholder engagement, we’re influencing change that will accomplish just that.

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Note:
If you are a MDVA member or farm employee aged 18 through 45 and are interested in being more involved in your cooperative and networking with other members, please contact Daniela Roland at droland@mdvamilk.com.