If you are looking for an opportunity to grow your network, sharpen your skills and broaden your opportunities, you’ll find it at the 2015 Pennsylvania Dairy Summit, planned for Wednesday and Thursday, Feb. 4-5, at the Lancaster Marriott on Penn Square in downtown Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The summit is hosted annually by the Professional Dairy Managers of Pennsylvania and the Center for Dairy Excellence and is considered the premier dairy event in Pennsylvania, typically drawing more than 500 people.

Sebright jayne
Executive Director / Center for Dairy Excellence / Center for Dairy Excellence Foundation of Pennsylvania

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Pennsylvania Dairy Summit, with the event having been initiated in 2005 when the Pennsylvania Dairy Stakeholders and PDMP merged their annual conferences into one all-encompassing event. Over the years, the event has grown to include multifaceted breakout sessions, a full-scale trade show with more than 70 exhibitors and the Pennsylvania Forage Analysis Competition, which drew more than 100 entries in its first year.

Each year, we begin planning the dairy summit in March, bringing together a committee of dairy producers and industry leaders to identify the speakers and topics that will resonate with the growing base of summit-goers. It is always exciting to watch the program evolve over the next 12 months as it takes shape with input from the committee and others who have their fingers on the pulse of the latest dairy issues.

Business showcases are a hallmark of the dairy summit, and this year’s program features three of them.

Jennifer Podhajsky

Jennifer Podhajsky, vice president and general manager of U.S. Chocolate for the Hershey Company, will share a business showcase and to look at Hershey’s best management practices in the marketplace. Hershey is the global leader in the market for confectionary sugars, employs 13,000 people around the world and has been dedicated to delivering high-quality products with excellence for the past 120 years.


David Masser

David Masser from Masser Potatoes will share a showcase of Sterman Masser Inc., a family-owned potato farming company based in Sacramento, Pennsylvania. Masser Potato Farms combines eight generations of potato farming experience with today’s newest potato farming technology to meet the demands of the modern marketplace.

Brian Houin

Brian Houin will provide the third business showcase at the summit, sharing the story of Homestead Dairy, located in Plymouth, Indiana. The Houin family established the original dairy in 1945 and have since purchased two other operations. Today, the three dairy facilities include about 2,700 milking cows, along with more than 3,000 replacement heifers. Brian and his father will also facilitate “Side Serving” discussion groups on satellite dairies and dairy technology during the trade-show portion of the program.

This year’s trade show has been expanded to host luncheons on both days with cafeteria-style seating, the “Side Serving” discussion groups and special demonstration areas. The “Side Servings” will be 30-minute to 40-minute discussions focused on specific topics such as ruminant activity monitors and EPA permitting.

Breakout sessions this year will cover best management practices from farm to fork, with transition cows, cow mortality, balance sheets, robotic milking, no-till and manure application, grass forage mixes, generational transition and consumer codes all discussed. The breakout, “Why Cows Die,” presented by Franklyn Garry from Colorado State, will investigate specific causes of mortality on the farm and how to prevent against future losses. Lonnie Wells’ breakout session on “Bulletproofing Your Balance Sheet” will help participants identify and leverage the key financial benchmarks that influence a farm’s success.

Charlie Arnot

Keynote speakers at this year’s summit include Charlie Arnot with the Center for Food Integrity and Mark Thomas, seven-time International Hot Rod Association champion and Ohio dairy producer. As chief executive officer of the Center for Food Integrity, Charlie is committed to building consumer trust and confidence in today’s food system. He will open this year’s event with a discussion on “Building Trust in Today’s Dairy.”

  • Mark Thomas, who is a retired Top Alcohol Funny Car driver, will keep the engine revving during the evening program, sharing his thoughts on teamwork. Mark is a seven-time IHRA champion and hadn’t missed an event in 20 years when he won the IHRA’s prestigious Don Carlton Memorial Award. But, in 2008, he left it all behind to return to his crop and dairy farm in the Midwest. He has been invited to share his thoughts on the racing experience, his return to dairy and how teamwork is critical both in racing and on the farm.

The evening session will also include a live auction benefitting the Center for Dairy Excellence Foundation of Pennsylvania. Last year, more than $5,000 was raised through the auction to support youth activities, including the Dairy Leaders of Tomorrow educational program. High-value items are now being donated for this year’s auction.

The dairy summit qualifies for continuing education credits through several initiatives. The American Registry of Animal Scientists and Practitioners have approved the summit for 12 CEUs, while the program has been approved by AgChoice Farm Credit to qualify for four SmartStart Credits. The “Why Cows Die” breakout has been submitted to qualify for 1.0 CEU through the Pennsylvania State Board of Veterinary Science, pending approval.

Registration for the dairy summit is now open and available online. Click on “Register Now” to access the registration. Discounted rates for dairy producers, managers and employees are available, thanks to grants provided by PDMP, the center and center foundation. The full price for agribusiness representatives to register is $225, with producer registrations discounted to $125 per person. One-day rates and multiple-person discounts are available.

On behalf of the Pennsylvania Dairy Summit planning committee and staff, I would like to extend an invitation to anyone looking to gain insight and get inspired to consider joining us at this year’s dairy summit. It’s been an event 10 years in the making, and we are excited to share this showcase of Pennsylvania’s dairy industry with you. For more information, visit the Pennsylvania Dairy Summit website or call the Summit Business Office at (814) 355-2467. PD

Jayne Sebright is communications director for the Center for Dairy Excellence.