Young Cooperators

MMPA dairy farms are crucial components of vibrant, thriving rural communities throughout the Great Lakes region. The MMPA young cooperator program strives to develop future leaders on those farms in order to equip young dairy farmers with the knowledge and skills they need to supply higher-quality milk fueled by a forward-thinking mindset.

As part of the young cooperator program, the Outstanding Young Dairy Cooperator (OYDC) program identifies and promotes current leaders amongst young dairy farmers. Industry leaders annually select winning and runners-up OYDCs to represent their peers at local and national events throughout the year. The opportunities provide networking and leadership training, strengthening their ability to govern the future of the cooperative.

Young Cooperator Education and Networking

MMPA hosts events and social gatherings for young cooperators, including an annual tour or conference. Young Cooperator activities are planned by the winning and runner-up OYDC’s from the current and prior years.

MMPA keeps young cooperators up to date with regular email communication. To be added to the list, please contact


2023 Outstanding Young Dairy Cooperator

Ryan Benthem of McBain, Michigan, was selected as the winning 2023 MMPA Outstanding Young Dairy Cooperator (OYDC) by a panel of judges represented by leaders in the Great Lakes dairy industry. BJ and Autumn Benkovsky of Eaton Rapids, Michigan, were selected as the runner-up young cooperators.

Outstanding Young Dairy Cooperator Program

As part of the young cooperator program, MMPA has been identifying future leaders through the Outstanding Young Dairy Cooperator (OYDC) program since 1950.  The purpose of the program is to strengthen leadership abilities in young farmers, broaden young farmers’ knowledge of milk marketing and MMPA, and recognize the abilities and stewardship of our young dairy farmers. Industry leaders annually select winning and runners-up OYDCs to represent their peers at local and national events throughout the year. The opportunities provide networking and leadership training, strengthening their ability to govern the future of the cooperative.

OYDC Application Process:

1. Young cooperators can self-nominate to be an OYDC finalist. In addition to being endorsed and nominated at a local meeting, MMPA members and employees of members under the age of 41 can now nominate themselves by completing an application.

2. More than one young cooperator from each district can apply. Districts are not limited in the number of OYDC nominees they endorse, and more than one OYDC can self-nominate from one district. In the event of more than 10 OYDC applicants, the MMPA Nominating Committee will review applications to select the top 10 and may consider geographical diversity of candidates.

3. The OYDC application can be completed online. The OYDC application is now digital, but remains available in PDF format for OYDC applicants to print, complete and mail/email in.

Outstanding Young Dairy Cooperators
Younger members (under 41 years of age) can increase their involvement with the cooperative through the Outstanding Young Dairy Cooperator (OYDC) program. Each year, MMPA selects a couple or individual to represent the cooperative in the dairy industry. The winning and runners-up OYDC are selected every August at the OYDC conference. The two-day long conference welcomes the OYDC finalists to the MMPA headquarters. The conference also offers the opportunity for members to gain a broader understanding of various dairy industry and association issues.

After selection, OYDCs:

  • Invited to attend National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) Annual Meeting, held in different locations across the county.
  • Invited to serve on the MMPA YC Conference planning committee.
  • Designated as honorary members of the MMPA Advisory Committee.
  • Opportunity to serve on the NMPF Young Cooperator Advisory Council and visit Washington, D.C.


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Following the application process, up to 10 OYDC finalists are selected and they gather for a conference where they learn more about MMPA and milk marketing, and complete interviews with a set of judges. Judges evaluate the OYDCs on their establishment in farming and progress made, dairy program, leadership abilities and personal data.

2021Kip and Rochelle Siegler of Imlay City, MichiganNolan Wieber of Pompeii, Michigan
2020Brent and Emily Simon of Westphalia, MichiganDrew and Beth Rupprecht of Vassar, Michigan
2019James Weber of Vassar, MichiganBrad and Nicole Wren of Prescott, Michigan
2018Paul and Nancy Pyle of Zeeland, MichiganJeremy and Deanna Beebe of Alger, Michigan
2017Nate and Jenny Elzinga of Zeeland, MichiganJarris and Rebekah Rubingh of Ellsworth, Michigan
2016 Darrin and Barbara Siemen of Harbor Beach, MichiganDave and Gretchen Tolan of Ossineke, Michigan
2015 Shawn and Beth VanDrie of Lake City, MichiganDarren and Regina Coffey of Allegan, Michigan
2014Brian and Carrie Preston of Quincy, MichiganKen and Kristen Sparks of Cassopolis, Michigan
2013Mike and Jordan Noll of Croswell, MichiganJeff and Chriss Carmichael of Hersey, Michigan
2012Kris and Carla Wardin of St. Johns, MichiganJosh and Lesley Lott of Mason, Michigan
2011Jeremy and Jody Sharrard of Peck, MichiganChris and Michele Daniels of Whittemore, Michigan
2010Burke and Lisa Larsen of Scottville, MichiganScott and Alissa Ferry of Litchfield, Michigan
2009Jeremy and Summer Werth of Alpena, MichiganTom and Heather Wing of Bellevue, Michigan
2008Brad and Tonia Ritter of Byron, MichiganScott and Kristie Lamb of Jeddo, Michigan
2007Aaron and Andrea Gasper of Lowell, MichiganBrad and Monica Crandall of Battle Creek, Michigan
2006Tom and Diane Cook of Pewamo, MichiganDoeke and Melissa Prins of Lakeview, Michigan

What is the OYDC Program?

The Outstanding Young Dairy Cooperator (OYDC) program strengthens leadership abilities and recognizes outstanding Young Cooperators. Each year, MMPA selects winning and runners-up OYDC to represent the co-op at local and national events.

Who can participate?

Anyone between the ages of 21 and 40 who is a member or affiliated with a member farm is eligible to participate in the program. Nominees do not have to be “on the contract” or a voting member to be considered.

How are OYDCs selected?

OYDCs can be either nominated by their districts or independently apply. All applicants are reviewed and selected finalists are invited to the OYDC conference in August. During the conference, a panel of judges reviews each applicant while the finalists learn more about MMPA and milk marketing.

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Can OYDCs be nominated or apply more than once?

OYDCs can participate multiple times in the program as long as they still meet eligibility requirements and have not been chosen as the winning OYDC.