Beginning last summer and extending into autumn, Progressive Dairy invited its readers to identify the people who were or continue to be influential within the dairy industry.

In the social media world, “influencer” has become a term used to describe someone who can sway a target audience, often measured by the number of their “followers.” We took a broader, perhaps “old-school” approach, seeking individuals who personally shape, engage, motivate and inspire others, creating a positive impact locally, regionally and/or nationally. 

When we extended the invitation, it was not meant to create an “award” program. Rather, it was meant to provide an opportunity for readers to publicly recognize those who helped shape their lives, careers and dairy farms. We asked for not only a brief description of “what” those influencers do, but also for personal reflections on the “why” that makes them so influential.

Our readers responded, recognizing teachers, advisers, entrepreneurs, innovators, advocates, other producers and family members. 

You may recognize several influencers from previous pages of Progressive Dairy, either through their articles highlighting research or features sharing their dairy management insights. Some are recognizable through their presentations at conferences or their organizational leadership. There are industry veterans and some representing a new generation of involvement. 


From these narratives, it’s obvious that dairy’s influencers combine both knowledge and passion, with their impact calculated not in numbers but measured in the effect they have in the personal and professional lives of others.

Here are brief tributes to dairy’s influencers (in alphabetical order) from those who nominated them. 


Austin Allred, Royal Dairy, Royal City, Washington

Austin Allred is trying to show that regenerative ag is possible on large-scale operations. He is also trying to show that a dairy operation, correctly managed, can be carbon-neutral. Austin’s approach is rooted in family – past, present and future generations – and he views sustainability as the right thing to do, as it will leave not only his animals in a better place, but his farm and the land in a better condition for his descendants. Through his public speaking, press and podcasts, I also find that Austin is showing the greater population what it means to farm, humanizing and explaining it in a way for those who have never been near a cow to come away with a greater understanding of this beautiful profession.

—Nominated by Eva Diaz and Matias Sjogren



Sherry Arnold, Busses Barron Acres, Barron, Wisconsin

Sherry Arnold entered the agriculture industry at a time when women were not taken seriously in ag, let alone as the owner of a farm or an authority on animal care. She set a standard of expectation for her employees, her animals and those who did business with her. Even though her operation did custom raising where the animals were not their own, calf comfort and performance were always number one on her list. Sherry has influenced countless fellow calf raisers, industry professionals, employees (including ones from other countries), students from various programs touring the farm and people from other nations through her travels, educational outreach and passion for better calf care, encouraging and motivating everyone, no matter what their role, to “do better.”

Nominated by Lorri Meister


Barry Bradford, Michigan State University

Barry Bradford is currently the Clint Meadows Endowed Chair at Michigan State University. In this role, he conducts research, mentors graduate students and serves an extension appointment actively serving and supporting Michigan dairy industry producers. His research is an expansion of his extension program, answering important questions producers are interested in learning throughout the industry. I have been blessed to be mentored by Barry in my graduate degree program and witness firsthand his passion for serving producers and investing in people. Personally, he has influenced my life by caring for me beyond being just another student. He deeply cares for me as a person and has allowed me to pursue a graduate degree while covering topics I am passionate about, empowering me to build connections with other industry professionals. Barry has helped countless graduate students reach their goals and be successful in every aspect of the industry. Barry will continue to be influential in the dairy industry through his research endeavors and connections he builds with industry professionals.

Nominated by Lynn Olthof, Kirby Krogstad, Mikayla, Katie Meier and Gail Carpenter 


Ann and David Buck, Buck’s Unlimited Dairy, Goodhue, Minnesota

With their sons, David and Ann Buck operate Buck’s Unlimited Dairy in Goodhue, Minnesota. Farming on two sites, milking 800 cows and supporting a custom manure application operation, they have worked hard on their dairy and their sustainability and community efforts. 

Dave has been an instrumental leader in the Minnesota Milk Producers Association, serving on the board for over eight years, including as president. He has been an advocate for legislation that makes sense and helped lead the charge to get the Dairy Assistance, Investment and Relief Initiative (DAIRI) program implemented in Minnesota, resulting in one of the highest Dairy Margin Coverage (DMC) participation rates in the country. He has been involved in researching Federal Milk Marketing Order reform, fair milk pricing and working across state lines.

Ann is active in the community, serving on the local school board and leading the charge to serve chocolate milk to school athletes and adding breakfast carts and bulk milk to the school lunch programs.

Both are active on their local dairy promotion boards and have hosted the Goodhue County Breakfast on the Farm. As parents and now as grandparents, they are also great supporters of local schools and athletics. As innovative thinkers, they have showcased new technology and cover crop applications to help provide feedback to ensure common-sense legislation. 

Nominated by Shannon Watrin 


John de Jonge, president of Hydrogreen and interim CEO of Cubic Farms

John de Jonge is someone who has been a mentor to me, while also spreading his influence in the dairy industry across the globe. There are a few key takeaways from my years with John that I will never forget. First, he taught me that while the global dairy industry is large in scale, it is also very small: It is still an industry built on relationships and personal touches. John has used his knack for connecting people and ideas to build personal brand and following. The other key thing I learned from John is that there is still work to be done. There are two phrases you will hear John use a lot: “We need to the feed world,” and “The dairy farm of the future.” Both are guiding principles for how he approaches business. John fully understands the dairy industry is changing and needs to change to meet the demands of the ever-growing consumer population. He is always looking for new ways that allow the industry to be better than it was yesterday. By challenging the status quo, he always stresses the importance of thinking outside the box and asking tough questions.

Nominated by Dan Veeneman 



Joe Domecq, academic specialist, Michigan State University

Frankly, I may not be alive today if it weren’t for Joe Domecq. Coordinator, coach, colleague – those titles don’t begin to describe his positive impact. What Joe does is beyond measure, with thoughtfulness and persistence. He coined the phrase that every Michigan State University “Dairy Teacher” walks away remembering: “It depends.” I grew up participating in the Michigan 4-H Youth Dairy Days events and knew Joe as the guy zipping around on a scooter. My original career ambitions after high school didn’t involve dairy. However, I wound up at his office door and he made a place for me in his classes. That’s what Joe does best; he holds space for everyone. He has a way of seeing people sometimes better than themselves. He matches students to dairies for internships globally and visits each one. He pushes kids to be involved in judging, Dairy Challenge and Study Abroad trips. What Joe has built at MSU is a legacy of people. My biggest life role models are because of his programs, and I now see myself as a role model for others. It’s because of the confidence he instilled in me; the support and encouragement, sometimes unspoken, that’s helped me to thrive as a professional. The biggest unspoken lesson he’s taught me is to show up and do the work. Because of Joe, I plan to show up for the dairy industry endlessly.

Nominated by Allison Pung and 29 others



Bob Hagenow, Vita Plus Corporation

If you wrote down all the ways in which Bob Hagenow has served, worked in and led various facets of the dairy industry, your pen would likely run out of ink. For Bob, these activities have never been about boosting a resume or gaining recognition. He has a genuine love and passion for the cows and the people who make up the U.S. dairy industry. His personal and professional experiences are intricately woven, as he has invested his time and talent into serving farmers and developing new generations of dairy leaders. Bob grew up on a dairy farm in Manitowoc County, Wisconsin, participating in 4-H, FFA and dairy judging programs. He studied dairy science at UW – Madison and has been a Vita Plus employee owner for the past 35 years, currently working as a nutritionist and sales manager. Bob coached and mentored many dairy judging teams and youth programs. He continues to volunteer at numerous consumer-facing dairy promotion events and judges many local, state and national dairy shows. He also serves on the World Dairy Expo board of directors and volunteers in the show ring. Bob and his wife, Lisa, have raised two daughters who are embarking on their own futures in agriculture. Bob has an infamously strong handshake, looking everyone in the eye and offering a smile. No matter how full his schedule, he always returns a phone call and asks, “How can I help?” His spirited and warm personality quickly fills a room, but just as often, he can be spotted quietly encouraging others to develop their own skills, talents and confidence. Bob looks at the dairy industry with a long-term view. Rather than focusing on his own legacy, he constantly considers what he can do to help future leaders make a positive difference for the dairy industry.

Nominated by Marjorie Stieve



Daphne and Lloyd Holterman, dairy farmers, Rosy-Lane Holsteins LLC

Over their dairy farming career of 40-plus years, Lloyd and Daphne Holterman have created a profitable farm business with globally recognized genetics and management strategies. Sought-after speakers, they have presented to and consulted dairy farmers and industry professionals around the world on topics such as management techniques, breeding strategies, farm transitions and more. Lloyd and Daphne have hosted numerous interns from across the U.S. and around the globe, many of whom still stay in close contact with them as mentors. They are always willing to take the time to help other dairy farmers and are especially passionate about supporting young people and encouraging them to take risks, think outside the box and do what is right for their goals and agricultural careers. Lloyd and Daphne go above and beyond – from the daily routine on the farm, doing every job right the first time and giving their time and talent to individuals or organizations. They share their knowledge, talents and resources with a variety of audiences including dairy farmers, community groups, industry professionals and students. The Holtermans have hosted countless tours, especially during World Dairy Expo, when thousands visit the farm in a short time. Draws to the farm include their willingness to speak honestly about their experiences, the impeccable farm appearance and unique cattle genetics. They are now phasing out of full-time dairy farming but remain active in farm consulting and management. Lloyd and Daphne have cultivated the atmosphere for other individuals to have an opportunity in farm leadership and ownership, setting the stage for Rosy-Lane to be successful for future generations.

Nominated by Lauren Brey and others



Mike Hutjens, professor emeritus, University of Illinois

Mike Hutjens is a dairy educator in the truest sense of the term. He has been a mentor and role model for countless numbers of students and colleagues for more than five decades. Raised on a Holstein farm in Wisconsin, he was active in both 4-H and FFA. His bachelor’s, master’s and Ph.D. degrees were earned at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. From 1971 to 1979, Mike was an extension dairy specialist at the University of Minnesota, where he coached the World Dairy Expo national champion team in 1978. Since 1979, he has been an extension dairy specialist member of the University of Illinois. He won the title of Extensionist of the Year, Outstanding Teacher in the United States, Most Influential Person in the American Dairy Industry and received the ADSA Honor Award. Many in the dairy industry feel like they have known Dr. Hutjens for decades now, educating the dairy industry through his numerous articles and columns in popular dairy magazines, as well as being extremely active on the dairy speaking circuit in the U.S. and globally. He has also received numerous teaching awards at the University of Illinois and was a pioneer in teaching dairy internet courses to the masses. He has a gift for taking complex research studies and translating them in a practical way to the dairy industry for field application.

Nominated by Clay Zimmerman



Gordie Jones, veterinarian, independent dairy consultant

It will be impossible to share all that Gordie Jones has done for individuals, families, businesses and the dairy industry. If not for Gordie, there is a good chance my family would not be farming today. He was our veterinarian when my wife, Pam, and I took over my parents' farm. We were milking 65 cows in a stanchion barn, struggling to generate the profit necessary to pay off our debts and be successful in the future. We went to the kitchen table with Gordie after herd check, and he drastically stretched our options to bring about positive change. He helped create a plan that included a TMR mixer and a new way of feeding cows that lowered cost and improved production. We began to drastically change how cows were managed with a strong focus on cow comfort. He helped us evaluate our milking system, which helped with production and milk quality. Then he pushed us out of our own comfort zone by sending us to Michigan to see naturally ventilated freestall barns. After our return, he told us to lay out our farm to one day have 1,000 cows. We told him he was nuts, but because of our trust in him, we listened and have one puzzle piece left to make our vision complete. Gordie has duplicated this process with thousands of other farms in our local community and across the world. Cows, farms, farm families and the entire dairy industry owe Gordie Jones a bunker full of gratitude.

Nominated by Hank Wagner



Mike Kelley, regional sales manager, Paul Mueller Company

Mike Kelley began his career as a dairy producer in Pennsylvania. He and his dad soon transitioned into a dairy equipment service and supply dealership. Mike found his true calling in helping other dairy families to improve their lives. Several years into this labor of love, Mike was recruited to Springfield, Missouri, by the folks at the Paul Mueller Company so that he could utilize his caring nature and dedication to task over a much wider audience. Mike has spent over 30 years investing virtually every minute of his days helping others solve their concerns for "cooling the world's milk." He has been instrumental in helping guide the industry regulations toward better milk quality. He has been a key voice in product enhancements and designs to improve the ease of operations or higher performance. He calls himself "Soapbox Kelley" for always being willing to stand up and be heard when calling out shortcomings and the need for action. His dedication to the task is legendary, as he is often still at his phone or computer late into the evenings following up on a promised response or solution. Most of all, Mike is a true friend to everyone in this industry. He respects the contributions of all, from the 4-H kids who needed support for their ice cream stand at the Canadian Dairy XPO to the dairy technician who can't get his cooler running, to the CEO of a multinational corporation. He exemplifies commitment and self-sacrifice to his chosen path. 

Nominated by Rick McClenning, Mike Jensen, Jordan Blunt, Adam Sharp, Eric Schmeling and Kevin Bartholomaus



Mike McCloskey, dairy farmer, veterinarian and CEO

Mike McCloskey is a force of nature. He has tirelessly served on numerous industry boards and committees. Mike’s fingerprints are on virtually every program and policy in the industry today. His belief that we as an industry can do better has helped make the U.S. dairy community better prepared for the future. Mike was instrumental in the development of the FARM program and its wide acceptance among dairy processors – not a small task. He is passionate in his belief that the dairy community should be viewed as an environmental solution, not a problem. Mike’s work as chair of the environmental committee at the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy led to the formation of Newtrient. Mike has testified before congressional committees and has met with the head of EPA to promote policies that help dairy farmers be sustainable and profitable.

Mike and his wife, Sue, dairy in Indiana and are very involved in agritourism, with about 600,000 people visiting their farm annually. They run their fleet of milk trucks on the gas produced in their methane digester. In their spare time, they pioneered the process of ultra-filtering milk and produced fairlife. Mike is also the founder and long-time CEO of Select Milk Producers, a leading co-op.

Nominated by Jim Werkhoven 



Sheila McGuirk, veterinarian, professor emeritus, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Wisconsin

As a veterinarian and publisher of a calf health scoring guide and application, as well as numerous other publications on calf, heifer and cow health, Dr. McGuirk’s contributions to large-animal veterinary medicine and the agriculture industry are far-reaching and have re-shaped how we care for and raise animals. She was also a pioneer for women in the veterinary field at a time when female veterinarians were not the “norm,” a mentor and role model for hundreds of veterinary students and an educator for all in the industry.

Nominated by Lorrie Meister



Frank Mitloehner, professor and air quality specialist, University of California – Davis

We will be discussing the contributions Frank Mitloehner has made to the dairy sector for decades to come. His research has helped set the pathway for the sector to go from being in the throes of climate blame to a potential solution provider on a scale no other sector has come to match. The work carried out by his lab at UC – Davis and the producers he works with is absolutely critical to ensuring farmers and ranchers continue to provide essential foods for the world, while making sure we don’t harm it or the animals we depend on. Furthermore, the effort he puts into teaching and mentoring animal scientists will provide dividends for generations. The same rigor in which he approaches scientific questions in the dairy sector is passed on to those who come through his lab and will continue to influence dairy production across the world for many years. Enough can’t be said about his ability to communicate. He is fearless in his task to share with the world the value dairy production has and its ability to operate with the highest environmental standards in mind. It is difficult to convey how tough of a job that is, but Frank does it with deftness and grace. Above all, Frank is a tremendous person. He is someone I look up to because of his compassion and strength.

Nominated by Joe Proudman



Cheryl Mohn, Udder Tech Inc.

Cheryl Mohn started Udder Tech Inc. out of her mobile home on their dairy farm. At the time, she was farming with her husband and three young children, serving as the main milker for morning and evening milkings, and working off the farm during the day. The Towel Tote was her first product, designed to help her get through morning milkings quicker and to help do a better job. Having everything around her waist, she was faster and more likely to use that second towel to make sure the cows were really clean. She has continued to create and design many products over the past 28 years. As the industry moved from udder wash and a bucket of sanitizer to paper towels and teat dip cups, to cloth towels and now to robots, she’s added items to help with each of those transitions. She is always listening to customers and collaborating with others to help fix an issue or fill a need. The milking sleeve with a thumbhole was designed for a dairy producer out West who was desperate to keep his best milker, but her arm would get a rash from the teat dip. She has been an influential part of the dairy industry as both a dairy producer for 30 years and business owner for 28. She served on boards and volunteered as a producer. As a business owner, she has impacted the industry not only by supplying products but by sponsoring, supporting and mentoring many people along the way. She has encouraged and mentored many young individuals to join or to become more involved in the dairy industry and has helped them to succeed in their careers as adults.

Nominated by Dana Casto


Randy Mooney, dairy farmer, head of NMPF and DFA, Rogersville, Missouri

Randy Mooney is a unique combination of intelligence, competence, empathy and humility. He is a genuine dairy farmer, clearly connected to his farm and cows, and able to operate effectively in the corporate world. He has earned the trust of his fellow dairy farmer leaders and used the confidence of his colleagues to be elected to a position where he can exert leadership and direction to the biggest dairy farmer cooperative in the country as well as the national organization of cooperatives. From that position, he has been hugely influential in bringing the producer side of the dairy industry together for the purpose of actively advocating for farmer interests. The National Milk Producers Federation has been able to expand its footprint far beyond the historic milk pricing/policy issues into many less obvious but just as important issue areas that impact the long-term viability of dairy farmers. Obviously, Randy did not do it by himself, but he set the tone and shaped the direction of a couple of the most important organizations in the U.S. dairy industry. 

Randy was engaged as we brought California into the Federal Milk Marketing Order (FMMO) system. He took his lead from his California producers instead of imposing his own will. We have collaborated on efficiencies in our industry to benefit all producers. Randy truly cares for the dairy industry and has given an immense amount of his own time to our industry, even though his favorite place to be is home on the dairy with his wife and family.

Nominated by Simon Vander Woude and Geoffrey Vandenheuvel 



Dan Natzke, Wayside Dairy, Greenleaf, Wisconsin

My sister and I were 11 and 12 years old and struggling showing our farm’s cattle at our county fair. Someone told us we should each buy a registered calf and suggested we go and talk to Dan Natzke at Wayside Dairy in Greenleaf, Wisconsin. We set up an appointment and were immediately blown away. Dan was and is a class act. He took time to show two young kids around his farm and explain how and why his family did things. He was proud of his farm and proud to be a dairy farmer, and that had a big impact on me. He opened my eyes to bigger opportunities as a dairy farmer. He has a love for dairy farming but also loves people, treating all with respect, and that has also worn off on our family and our business. It was also Dan who pushed me to run for a position on the Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin board, which turned out to be one of the biggest growth opportunities of my life. Dan has unselfishly helped many individuals and farm businesses. He has also served on many boards and committees in his community and throughout our industry. I have traveled with Dan to other countries and witnessed his servant leadership and desire to help others. Dan started out with selling me a calf but has been a great role model, mentor, adviser and friend.

Nominated by Hank Wagner


Jerry Olson, retired veterinarian, Denver, Colorado

Jerry Olson’s influential reach in the dairy industry has been truly personal, local, regional and national. I was fortunate to meet Jerry at industry meetings and became his work colleague at Pharmacia/UpJohn. He was the “go-to” resource for the dairy reproductive revolution that started in 2000. He was a leading specialist in the science of fresh cow management and care, with impeccable research knowledge that allowed everyone to speak to the science that benefited dairy operations every day. Jerry was on the academic staff at both Colorado State University and University of Minnesota, and there are countless numbers of veterinarians who fondly and humorously remember being trained by him in theriogenology and bovine health. He laid the professional foundations for many veterinarians to provide dedicated service to the dairy industry. Jerry was a highly regarded influencer in the Pacific Northwest and Western dairy industry, directly working with dairy producers and veterinarians. He didn’t step onto an operation without performing in-depth reproductive analyses, health assessments and walk-throughs. Jerry’s focus was all about the operational health of each individual dairy he worked with, and it is not a stretch to suggest that Jerry has had a key influence on the reproductive and health progress that the dairy industry has made in the last 20 years. Like his students, I owe him a great personal debt, as he was willing to actively mentor me in the 16 years we were able to work together. 

Nominated by Mark Kirkpatrick


Tom Overton, chair of the Animal Science Department, Cornell University

Tom Overton has spent much of his career in extension, educating dairy farmers and nutritionists in the northeastern U.S. He is a respected scientist and gifted communicator, and his platform in extension has provided him the opportunity to significantly impact and influence the dairy industry in New York and beyond. His research and the research of those he mentors has had a large impact in dairy cattle nutrition, especially in the area of transition cows. His leadership in the PRO-DAIRY program has been instrumental in its growth, going beyond dairy cattle nutrition to include labor issues, herd health, finances, sustainability and more. As a professor at Cornell, he provides exceptional leadership to his students by planning and executing international trips and farm tours, all related to dairy.

Nominated by Scott Sorrell and others



Chuck Schwab, professor emeritus, University of New Hampshire

Without a doubt, a key influencer in the area of dairy cattle nutrition was Chuck Schwab. To ruminant nutritionists, Chuck’s contributions in the area of amino acid nutrition for lactating dairy cows are legend. His long research career shaped our understanding of the protein and amino acid needs of the cow and her ability to make milk. The recommendations we use today are based in no small part on the many studies conducted by Chuck and his teams throughout the years. However, Chuck's influence goes far beyond his research abilities. His friendly demeanor and genuine concern for “his people” made it a joy to work with him. Never one for self-aggrandizement, Chuck preferred to point his students in the right direction, give them the tools to accomplish their goals, and then he got out of the way and let you thrive. Chuck was always ready with thoughtful suggestions and comments and was truly dedicated to the science. It was an honor to be associated with Dr. Schwab. I’m a better person for his acquaintance.

Nominated by James D. Quigley



Jayne Sebright, executive director, Pennsylvania Center for Dairy Excellence

Jayne Sebright’s official title is executive director at the Center for Dairy Excellence (CDE), but at heart she is a dairy farmer, mother and writer. All of these roles – different but interconnected – make her even more influential. In her CDE leadership role, Jayne and her staff provide resources and programs to strengthen dairy farm families and processors, leveraging Commonwealth of Pennsylvania funds to provide grants to cover consulting services and resources to assist with business planning, decision-making and transitions, and offering seed money to fund low-cost improvements directly impacting cow comfort, on-farm productivity and reinvestment in processing. She is constantly looking for ways to serve the real-time needs of dairy farm families. Jayne is also a strong communicator, hosting a Cow-Side Conversations podcast and writing weekly and monthly columns in dairy industry publications. Authentic and sincere, she has the unique ability to connect with most people and express her thoughts in a refreshingly articulate way. She is creative and strategic and has helped drive the growth of CDE Foundation programs, supporting students and young people passionate about dairy careers. On a personal level, Jayne has served as one of the most influential mentors I have ever worked with in the communications field. I didn’t grow up in the dairy industry, but Jayne has never questioned my intellect. She is open-minded and always willing to teach me what she knows in a compassionate, down-to-earth way.

Nominated by Emily Barge and Walt Moore



Justin Stewart, Arizona Dairy, Mesa, Arizona

I have had the pleasure of having Arizona Dairy Company as a client. Over the past three years, I would consider Justin Stewart to have become a friend. In fact, I think the way Justin welcomes people into his life as friends is the reason behind his impact within the dairy industry. It is a personality trait that not only opens doors for influence but creates the unique ability to connect with people in a deep and meaningful way. Whether it is a fellow dairy producer, an international genetics trainee, UPS delivery driver, a college student interning on the dairy, a new dairy employee with a language barrier, a mother living in the suburbs of Phoenix concerned about nutrition or misinformed consumers at a county fair, Justin makes them part of the family, which creates a sphere of influence. They trust his opinion and are not afraid to ask him vulnerable questions about dairying. He is building on a strong platform of transparency, personal experience and direct connection that is fantastic for the dairy industry in so many facets. Our industry is fortunate to have such a personable advocate on our team.

Nominated by Mandy Brazil



Mike Van Amburgh, animal science professor, Cornell University

I have known Mike since his days in grad school at Cornell, when he was doing groundbreaking research in dairy calf growth and development. His work has changed how we feed dairy calves and grow dairy heifers in this country. I believe this is one of his great contributions to our industry. Mike has also been involved with the Cornell Nutrition Model (CNCPS) since its early days. He now is managing the program that does the research and updates the model as needed. This software is used by many (if not the majority) of nutritionists feeding dairy cows in this county. Due to his calf and heifer work and the CNCPS work, he is a popular speaker at conferences around the country with the ability to talk to academics and to farmers. He also runs the Dairy Fellows program at Cornell and coaches the Dairy Challenge team, influencing many students. When I look at land-grant dairy academic programs, there are a handful of people who have made a significant impact on the dairy industry with their research, teaching or extension work. Mike Van Amburgh is in that group. The U.S. dairy industry is better for his being here.

Nominated by Brian Troyer



Annaliese Wegner, Modern Day Farm Chick, Ettrick, Wisconsin

Annaliese Wegner (aka Modern Day Farm Chick) farms with her husband, Tom, their rambunctious twins and Tom's parents on Wegnerlann Dairy. Their daily tasks keep them busy, yet Annaliese has carved a special niche in her life to build a very robust social media community where she shares her farm stories to connect people to their food and farmers. Besides educating her followers about animal care, production and farm life, she also gives them an inside peek into a farm family's daily shenanigans, sharing funny stories, personal heartbreaks, wins and losses, and great healthy recipes. Her passion is not only sharing her story but encouraging others to share theirs to remove some of the farming myths that exist and connect consumers to farmers. She is helping other farm gals and guys by offering courses, e-books and in-person speaking engagements geared toward giving others the tools needed to open up to their communities and consumers. Modern Day Farm Chick has over 41,000 Instagram followers, 122,000 Facebook followers and 4,000 email subscribers. That impact is evident by the questions she consistently receives from people wanting to "know more" about agriculture. I am in awe of the way she can be "real" and yet connect with her audience.

Nominated by Liz Doornink


Mike Yager, Road View Dairy in Mineral Point, Wisconsin

Mike Yager; his wife, Sherri; son Chad and daughter-in-law Whitney are the owners of Road View Dairy, situated on 336 acres of rolling hills in southeast Iowa County, Wisconsin. The best leaders I know are those who positively influence those in their corner of the world. Having known and worked with Mike for the better part of two decades, I think the main way he impacts the dairy industry is that he is a humble teacher. People with whom he interacts leave the encounter with a broader knowledge of the dairy industry and crucial insights into running a family dairy farm. I have witnessed this in his mentoring and developing long-lasting relationships with young people on five different continents through involvement with Communicating for Agricultural Exchange Programs (CEAP), exposing them to all aspects of dairy farms and allied businesses to help them learn about the U.S. dairy industry.

I’ve seen Mike’s influence in how he teaches his five grandkids about life, death, how to treat animals, how to treat people, how to win and how to lose. Mike has spent hours with politicians to inform them about dairy issues and how to actually impact dairy farms. None of these things directly benefit Mike, but he does them. That is the nature of someone who is a leader, who influences where it really matters. When I think of Mike, I think of influential, dedicated, compassionate, family-oriented and respectful. He is one of the humblest dairy farmers I know, but also not afraid to speak up for dairy farmers.

Nominated by Whitney Yager


Honorable mention

Heather Anfang, senior vice president, Land O’Lakes Dairy Foods    

Lauren Brey, managing director of Farmers for Sustainable Food

Katie Coyne, New York, editor of Progressive Dairy – Canada

 Laura Daniels, farmer, coach, consultant and agriculture advocate, founder of Dairy Girl Network

Michael Etchebarne, California dairy nutritionist

Tim and Marlene Haverkamp and Darrin and Cheryl Deters, dairy producers, Baileyville, Kansas

Joshua Hoffman, Americas regional sales manager for Genos, the farmer cooperative breeding organization for Norwegian Red cattle

Ron, Pam, Allan, Katie, Aaron and Melanie Kutz, Kutz Dairy LLC, innovators, Jefferson, Wisconsin

Sam Leadley, large-animal veterinarian, blogger, statistician, global contributor and influencer (in memory)

Maurice Loehmer, dairy and grain producer, Loehmer Dairy LLC, Monterey, Indiana

Tom Pemberton, farmer and YouTuber, United Kingdom

Amy Penterman, Wisconsin dairy producer and president of the Dairy Business Association

Arthur Charles "Chuck" Rogers III, founder, Blue Diamond Dairy Service

Brody Stapel, Wisconsin dairy producer and president of Edge Dairy Farmer Cooperative

Tim Trotter, CEO of Dairy Business Association, Edge Dairy Farmer Cooperative and Farmers for Sustainable Food

 Inga Witscher, farmer, Osseo, Wisconsin and host of Around the Farm Table on Wisconsin PBS.