For over two decades, the mission of Dairy's Foundation has been to give back to the dairy industry. Founded as the charitable arm of Professional Dairy Producers (PDP) in 2002, the foundation has since evolved into a publicly held national foundation that supports education and initiatives across the entire dairy food chain.

"The dairy industry is built on a legacy of learning, and the pace of that learning has increased over the years as new research, innovations and technologies change how we care for our cows and land," says Brian Forrest, owner of Maple Ridge Dairy in Stratford, Wisconsin, and chair of the Dairy’s Foundation board of directors. "Now more than ever, America needs a vibrant, sustainable dairy community, and it’s up to all of us to make it happen."

Dairy's Foundation provides financial support for programs that foster the next generation of dairy leaders, enhances the skills of current dairy producers and strengthens the bond of trust between consumers and producers.

"When we come together to support, it multiplies many times over," Forrest says. "The foundation has grown and evolved from a concept to supporting projects across the country and funding new programs that change our dairy producers and the next generation of leaders."

Support from Dairy's Foundation has been crucial in the development and implementation of programs that meet real and pressing needs of current and future dairy professionals. After identifying emerging educational needs in the dairy industry, the foundation helps fill gaps in funding for new or innovative programs. The process of identifying and supporting is ongoing and continual, ensuring relevant training and information is consistently available.


Brian Forrest. Photo courtesy of Professional Dairy Producers.

Examples include the development of Financial Literacy for Dairy, Cornerstone Dairy Academy and Stride Youth Leadership Conference. The foundation's grants are available for organizations around the country to fund critical educational and outreach programs.

In 2023, Dairy's Foundation awarded funds to upgrade the animal lab at a Wisconsin high school, supported a speaker at the National 4-H Dairy Conference and funded the Dairy Cattle Evaluation and Management Career Development Event for the Tennessee FFA Foundation. Grants were also awarded to museums and exhibits, including the Farm Veterinarian School program through Little Medical School in St. Louis, Missouri and the Our Agriculture Legacies exhibit at the Waukesha County, Wisconsin, Historical Society and Museum.

"Dairy's Foundation is unique because it is driven by fellow dairy farmers with a firsthand perspective of what their sector and rural communities need. They understand their role in producing food; educating themselves and the public they serve; as well as caring for the land, animals and people around them," Forrest says. "Over the years, many have mentored me and blessed me with the gifts of their time, care and leadership. I see Dairy’s Foundation as a place where I can give back along with others, as well as share with generations to come. Some call it paying it forward. I believe supporting Dairy’s Foundation is about sharing and encouraging the next generation.”

Specific to mentorship and incoming generations, the PDP Mentor Program provides opportunities for students in four-year universities, technical schools and short courses to experience modern dairy production systems and stimulate career planning with production agriculture as an option.


Shelly Mayer. Photo courtesy of Professional Dairy Producers. 

Shelly Mayer, dairy farmer from Slinger, Wisconsin, and executive director of PDP, notes that Forrest is an example of living this commitment in the dairy industry and his personal life. Forrest has served as chair of Dairy's Foundation since 2021, in addition to several other leadership roles in the dairy industry and his community. He is a dairy producer and owner with Ken Hein at Maple Ridge Dairy. In 2019, the dairy earned platinum recognition in the National Mastitis Council's National Dairy Quality Awards program. Forrest previously served in a leadership role on the PDP board and is a longtime supporter of the foundation's Two Cents for Tomorrow program.

Sharing is a common act for Forrest. He has demonstrated his selflessness in serving as a living organ donor – on two separate occasions. In 2019, he donated part of his liver to a cousin. In 2023, he donated a kidney to an anonymous recipient when the national donor-registry program determined he was a match for someone who needed a transplant.

More information about Dairy's Foundation can be found at their website, including opportunities to donate as well as grant application information for organizations across the country.

"As dairy farmers and other leaders involved in the dairy community, we've been given a gift and the great responsibility to grow, nurture and share,” Mayer says. “Dairy’s Foundation is a place where we can work together and give back, as well as pay forward.”

–Written by Professional Dairy Producers staff

The above update is provided by the Professional Dairy Producers Foundation (PDPF), which raises funds nationwide and awards grants and sponsorships for educational programs and initiatives that benefit the U.S. dairy community. PDPF is committed to uniting the dairy community on issues of common concern to achieve its vision of a professional, proactive and prepared dairy community.