Forty-three young adults from the U.S., Canada, Mexico and Italy were the latest class to graduate from the Holstein Foundation’s cornerstone program, Young Dairy Leaders Institute (YDLI). The group completed the final phase of the three-phase leadership and communication skills development program with a conference March 1-3 in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Building on the skills they learned during their first meeting last spring, along with what they have practiced and accomplished over the past twelve months, the class participated in workshops covering topics such as advanced media relations skills, conflict management and the public policy process.

“YDLI was truly was a life-changing experience for me,” said Andy Birch, YDLI graduate from Vermont. “It is good to know that there are so many talented and energetic young leaders in the dairy industry and I am sure the connections we made will help us for the rest of our lives.”

Featured speakers on the “All-Star Leadership” roster included:

  • Joan Horbiak and David Pelzer: mastering interviews with the media and speaking with consumers
  • Pete Kappelman, YDLI Class 1 alum and current chairman of the Land O’Lakes board of directors: accomplishing leadership objectives
  • Wes Jamison of Palm Beach Atlantic University: conflict management and resolution
  • Jamison also moderated a debate about the animal rights movement between Gene Baur, co-founder of Farm Sanctuary, and Wesley J. Smith, a lawyer and pro-animal agriculture author
  • Bonnie Burr, YDLI Class 1 alum: understanding public policy
  • Ty Bennett: closing keynote speaker

Also during the conference, each class member reported on their personal advocacy projects and presentations made in their home communities during Phase II, which has taken place over the past year. Through their combined efforts, the class reached thousands of consumers, spreading dairy’s positive message.


Katie Hohmann, of Illinois, worked with her local YMCA and a running club to educate people about the benefits of chocolate milk as a recovery drink. Bryce Bonow, Minnesota, put together a dairy activity day for school-age children, taking them through several stations that covered various aspects of life on a farm, and getting them excited about the dairy industry. The five Canadian YDLI participants, recognizing a need for a consumer-oriented online dairy resource in their country, joined together to create the Canadian Dairy Advocacy Group (CDAG) web site, where they regularly blog about dairy-related information, geared towards the general public. These are just a few examples of the wide range of projects that class members planned and executed.

For more information about YDLI, visit With questions, or to request information about being a part of the next class of YDLI, contact Jodi Hoynoski, Holstein Foundation programs manager, at (800) 952-5200, ext. 4261, or PD

—From Holstein Foundation news release