The one constant in today’s dairy industry is change. As the pace of change continues to increase with new technologies, research and market trends, the need for continuous education and professional development programs for dairy producers grows in tandem.
For 20 years, the Professional Dairy Producers Foundation, known as Dairy’s Foundation, has worked to nurture the next generation of dairy leaders, develop the skills of current dairy producers and strengthen the bond of public trust between consumers and producers. The foundation also awards grants twice a year to fund educational initiatives across the country.
“Dairy’s Foundation is important to us as dairy farmers because this is our livelihood, and anything we can do to help build more interest and professionalism in the dairy industry is a plus,” Dr. Jim Mlsna, dairy farmer and Dairy’s Foundation board member, says. “If we can teach other young adults better ways to farm, better ways to be environmentally strategic, better ways to manage finances and better ways to get along with our customers and consumers, we all benefit.”
Mlsna owns and operates Ocooch Dairy near Hillsboro, Wisconsin, along with his three children, and currently serves on the Dairy’s Foundation board of directors. He points to Cornerstone Academy as one of the most valuable training programs that impacts dairy producers, students and industry professionals at all stages of their career. The training program features three pillars of communication, servant leadership and management skills to equip attendees to be better stewards of their careers and professions. Investing in the foundation has become a part of Ocooch Dairy’s business plan.
Mlsna notes consumers consistently rank dairy farmers among the most-trusted professions and that farmers and the industry should take advantage of that position by continuing to pursue even higher levels of excellence for the environment, people, cows and themselves.
Dairy’s Foundation provides financial support to a variety of programs, including PDPW Financial Literacy for Dairy, Stride Youth Leadership Conference, Agricultural Community Engagement (ACE) Twilight Meetings and scholarships to Cornerstone Academy, as well as providing dozens of grants to organizations across the country to support dairy farmer education, youth leadership programs and consumer outreach initiatives.
Dairy’s Foundation is unique because it is led and funded primarily by dairy producers. The largest annual source of funding is the “Two Cents for Tomorrow” campaign, which provides a convenient, automated way for dairy farmers to contribute to the foundation 2 cents per hundredweight (cwt) of milk sold from their farm.
“The Two Cents for Tomorrow program is so important because it’s the heart of our foundation. It all starts on the farm, and having a base of farmers investing in themselves and the industry lifts up the whole community,” Natalie Glumm, director of development at Dairy’s Foundation, says. “When industry allies see that farmers care enough to invest in these programs, those industry partners know the investments they make in the foundation will be well spent.”
Glumm joined Dairy’s Foundation as director of development in January 2023, bringing a strong background in business, nonprofits and fundraising to the new role at the foundation.
“I’m really excited to serve the dairy sector and help ensure that the next generation of leaders are prepared for their roles,” Glumm says. “Things in the industry are moving so fast; if we don’t increase our efforts, we won’t be able to keep up.”
Logan Bower, third-generation dairy farmer from Blain, Pennsylvania, was a founding board member of Dairy’s Foundation and has been a supporter of the foundation and its programs over the past two decades, including contributing to the Two Cents for Tomorrow program.
“Two Cents for Tomorrow has been a deduction off my milk check for many years, and I see it as an investment that’s worth every penny,” he says. “Dairy’s Foundation supports so many incredible programs including the mentor program, youth leadership trainings and Cornerstone Academy that are designed expressly to build the next generation. Giving through the Two Cents for Tomorrow campaign is a great way to help secure the future of the dairy industry.”
Bower has attended a number of PDPW Business Conferences and Managers Academy programs over the years, and credits those events for helping build business management, negotiation and other skills to help his business succeed, as well as building relationships with other forward-thinking producers across the country.
“At the end of the day, investing in dairy education programs is part of doing business,” Bower says. “When times are tight, it is even more important to continue investing because we need educated people across the industry to make it through the tough times.”
Over the past 10 years, over 80 dairy producers have consistently donated 2 cents for each cwt of their milk.
“Two cents out of 20 dollars is not a lot of money,” Mlsna says. “Individually, what my farm contributes out of every milk check isn’t very much, but collectively over the years and in combination with other farms, it adds up to many thousands of dollars that have a tremendous impact in our dairy community.”
In addition to the Two Cents for Tomorrow program, Dairy’s Foundation provides a number of other giving opportunities, including one-time personal and corporate gifts, a silent auction held on-site at the PDPW Business Conference and various online campaigns throughout the year. The Plant-A-Seed campaign rallies donors around teams of foundation supporters competing against one another to raise funds. More details about giving opportunities can be found at the foundation's website or by contacting Natalie Glumm at (800) 947-7379.
“I believe the foundation is one of the best organizations to which you can give money to get a bang for your buck,” Mlsna says. “The foundation is run by dairy farmers – and I don’t know too many dairy farmers [who] waste their money.”
—Written by Professional Dairy Producers staff