Eighteen Michigan Dairy Ambassadors prep for year of dairy promotion

Eighteen Michigan youth were named Michigan Dairy Ambassadors after gathering at the 2017 Great Lakes Regional Dairy Conference (GLRDC) for leadership training, commencing a year of dairy promotion and outreach in Michigan. The program welcomes students in high school and college to hone in on their skills and learn how to communicate about their passion in dairy.

“The 2017 Michigan Dairy Ambassador program gives youth with a special interest in dairy the opportunity to connect with consumers and share their ‘dairy story,’” said Jessica Welch, a member of the Dairy Ambassador planning team and MMPA member relations coordinator. “Our goal is to equip each Michigan Dairy Ambassador with the communication skills and tools to represent the dairy community and industry in a positive way.”

The Dairy Ambassadors began their year with a day-long leadership training and the opportunity to earn a scholarship on Feb. 3 in Frankenmuth, Michigan. Throughout the day, ambassadors took part in dairy promotion brainstorming, learned about United Dairy Industry of Michigan (UDIM) promotion resources from UDIM’s Jolene Griffin and harnessed their “Youth Voice” with Sara Keinath from MSU Extension.


Welch and Griffin lead the ambassadors throughout the day, guiding them through engagement activities and challenging them to try new things such as starting conversations with new people. Kristen Burkhardt, 2016 Junior Dairy Ambassador Representative, and Charlene McAlvey, 2016 Senior Dairy Ambassador also at the leadership training to embrace the next class of dairy ambassadors.

Ambassadors will take part in further trainings and represent the dairy industry at promotional and outreach events throughout the year. Next up for the ambassadors is a communications training at UDIM in March and representation at industry events throughout the year, including Dairy Day at the Capitol, Michigan Livestock Expo Sale‐abration, Michigan 4‐H Dairy Days Awards Banquet, Breakfast on the Farm and the MMPA Leaders’ Conference.

“Through various dairy events and speaking seminars my greatest asset I attained through the Dairy Ambassador program is public speaking skills, and more specifically speaking to those who come from a non-dairy background. Volunteering at dairy events across the state was a huge part of the Dairy Ambassador program,” Charlene McAlvey, 2016 Senior Dairy Ambassador Representative, explained.

“My favorite event this past year was helping at a ‘Family Fun at the Farm’ event. I was with the calves during the day—my favorite place on a farm—to teach the community about the hard work that goes into calf management,” McAlvey continued. “Even though farmers have a lot on their plates, hosting these kinds of events is very important for consumers to be able to see the integrity and wholesomeness of our dairy community.”

The ambassadors and representatives were announced the evening following the ambassador training at the GLRDC’s Michigan Dairy Industry Recognition Night on Feb. 3. The Michigan Dairy Ambassador program is administered by the GLRDC.

“I strongly recommend high school and college aged kids to apply for this program,” McAlvey attested.  “Being involved in this program leads to connections for young people looking to start their careers in the dairy world, meeting other young people with the same passions and upholding the reputation of our industry to dairy consumers.”

Looking onward to the rest of the year, the newly minted Dairy Ambassadors are prepped for the activities and promotion opportunities ahead.

“This is a year-long program, starting at the GLRDC, where a junior and senior will be selected as Dairy Ambassador Representatives and receive a scholarship. The 2017 Michigan Dairy Ambassador Leadership and Scholarship conference was a great success and we look forward to the year ahead,” Welch concluded.

Junior Dairy Ambassadors

Addy Battel of Cass City, Morgan Mrozinski of Sterling, Jessie Nash of Elsie, Miriah Dershem of St. Johns, Connor Nugent of Clarksville, Chrissy Polzin of Saline, Elysa Zimmerlee of Bellevue, Ashton Geutink of Zeeland and Jessica Parrish of Caledonia.

Senior Dairy Ambassadors

Steven Wilkinson of Kingston, Riley Smith of St. Louis, Lindsey Sharrard of Peck, Alex Taylor of St. Johns, Allison Schafer of Westphalia, Hope McAvley of Lansing, Mason Horning of Manchester, Julia Chamberlain of Okemos and Lindsay Larsen of Scottville.

Dairy Ambassador Representatives

In addition to training, two scholarships recipients were selected on Feb. 3. Candidates were evaluated on their interview, application and pick-a-question answer. The junior and senior representatives will receive a $1,000 and $1,500 scholarship, respectively, after their year of service as dairy ambassadors.

Junior: Jessie Nash

Hometown: Elsie, Michigan

Education: Nash is a junior at Ovid-Elsie High School

Agriculture and Dairy Involvement: Nash has been involved in her family dairy farm, the Michigan State Dairy days, the National Dairy Conference, the North American International Livestock Expo Dairy Quizbowl Contest, the Clinton County fair, the Shiawassee County Fair, the Michigan Dairy Conference and the All-American Dairy Show Management Contest.

Goals: After high school, Nash intends to go to college and pursue a career as a ruminant nutritionist. She aspires to eventually return to her family farm.

Senior: Lindsay Larsen

Hometown: Scottville, Michigan

Education: Larsen is a junior at Siena Heights University pursuing a degree in biology.

Agriculture and Dairy Involvement: Larsen is a manager at her family farm and was involved in 4-H since 2002, winning various awards such as 5-time Grand Champion Supreme Milk Cow, multiple first place awards in showmanship and breed classes and 3-time Dairy Showperson of the Day Legacy Award. Larsen was a Breakfast on the Farm Committee Member and Volunteer at Stakenas Farms, she also managed Western Michigan Fair Milk Booth and participated in 4-H Veterinary Science Kettunen Center Teen and Adult Leader Workshop. Larsen leads the Siena Heights University Beta Beta Beta Biological Honors Club and Greenlight Club.

Goals: After graduating from Siena Heights University, Larsen plans on either attending Veterinary Medicine School or finding a job in the dairy industry. A long-term goal is to return to her family’s farm and continue the family legacy. She envisions growth on the farm not only in the number of cows and pounds of milk but also in public weekly farm tours, a new parlor, an on-site processing plant and a farm store.


 The article originally appeared in the March issue of the Michigan Milk Messenger.