Tomorrow’s dairy leaders need training and practice in soft skills and leadership, to network and develop perspective about the dairy industry.

They need a toolbox full of skills so they can feel confident in the role they play as they grow their dairy experience. Developing leaders takes opportunity, time and commitment as well as an investment from the dairy community.

Nick LuthNick Luth of Foremost Farms USA, a Cornerstone participant, and Wanda Emerich, dairy outreach coordinator for the W.H. Miner Agricultural Research Institute, shared their experiences about Cornerstone Dairy Academy, a program developed with the purpose of growing dairy industry leaders.

Luth: I grew up on a dairy that was home to 500 Jerseys and 3,500 custom-raised heifers in southern California. After farming in Hagerman, Idaho, I enrolled at UW – Platteville to further my education in dairy science.

After graduation, I accepted a position with Foremost Farms USA as a field representative in southeast Wisconsin. My supervisor received a flyer for the PDPW Cornerstone Dairy Academy and asked if I had an interest in attending. I was looking for opportunities to further my professional education and to make connections across the industry, so I applied.


Wanda EmerichEmerich: At the W.H. Miner Agricultural Research Institute in Chazy, New York, I plan dairy education programs involving college students, producers and agribusinesses.

I am a member of the scholarship committee for the Vermont Dairy Producers Conference that provides funding for students to travel to Cornerstone Dairy Academy.

Students need encouragement to apply to Cornerstone. As juniors or seniors in college, they are hesitant to apply, fearing they may not be accepted into the program or are nervous about traveling to Wisconsin from New York or Vermont. I guide them through the application process and make travel arrangements for them.

Cornerstone Dairy Academy, a product of Professional Dairy Producers (PDPW), underwritten by Professional Dairy Producers Foundation (PDPF), is a gateway to enhancing professionalism, communication and leadership skills needed for success in the 21st century workplace.

It is an in-depth leadership training, providing participants a strong foundation for leadership roles across the dairy community.

Luth: The Cornerstone program has strengthened my job skills and helped me to make connections across the industry. Cornerstone provided hands-on learning that helped me grow my communications and leadership skills.

It provided opportunities to build on goal setting, management practices and operating procedures. I have taken what I learned, and I am applying it to daily work life. Cornerstone also encouraged out-of-the-box thinking that helps with problem solving and other work duties.

The program was well-planned and organized, and the opportunity to network with others in the industry was invaluable.

Cornerstone Dairy AcademyI would like to connect more farmers to the educational opportunities offered by PDPW and PDPF. My work as a field representative allows me to network with many in our industry as well as our local 4-H and FFA, where I can promote the benefits of life-long learning and the importance of investing in oneself.

An investment in PDPF is an investment in the future. A donation to PDPF helps to defray the cost for dairy professionals to attend Cornerstone and supports other beneficial dairy programs.

Cornerstone is a great way to network with employers and dairy farmers. The professionals I had the chance to meet were very open and willing to share their dairy knowledge. Cornerstone gives participants a chance to discover careers in the dairy industry.

The educational programs offered provide real-time tools to meet the challenges of today’s dairy industry, including ones that focus on communication, leadership development, management assessment, and financial literacy and youth activities.

Emerich: The two-day Cornerstone Dairy Academy training provides our dairy students with the skills they need to lead with heightened purpose, character and integrity.

Our participants were energized by their Cornerstone experience. They returned excited about the opportunity to attend another year and to participate in the next pillar. They recognized the people they met will be part of their future as they assume a variety of roles in the dairy industry.

A lot of the opportunities we take advantage of with our students happen outside of the classroom, in our dairy barn, on other farms we are evaluating/touring and at meetings for dairy producers. I want to encourage and promote ideas and experiences that will prepare the next generation of dairy leaders.

A few years ago, some of our students were at Cornerstone Dairy Academy and learned about etiquette and table manners. At first they thought it was kind of silly, but they wanted to do well because they were representing themselves, Vermont Dairy Producers and Miner Institute. They tried hard to handle the forks, glasses and other utensils in the right order and follow the instructions.

A few weeks later, at a banquet, some dairy industry people joined our table and quickly engaged in conversation. The bread was served … our etiquette-trained students led the table in proper handling of the bread, butter and water glasses as the industry people followed the students’ lead. We laughed a lot, got to know the people who joined our table and looked professional in the process.

After spending 13 weeks with us at Miner Institute in the classroom, in the dairy barn, going on field trips and traveling to meetings, participating in the North American Intercollegiate Dairy Challenge Academy and the Cornerstone Dairy Academy, one of our students told me, “Wanda, this industry takes really good care of its young people.”  end mark

PHOTO: Courtesy photo.

The future of the dairy community depends on its ability to develop a new generation of leaders for the dairy industry. The Professional Dairy Producers Foundation (PDPF) awards dollars to educational programs that benefit the dairy community and build a professional, proactive and prepared dairy industry.