In it for the People: Ben Chapin Named Michigan Fieldperson of the Year

Ben Chapin was just child when he first interacted with MMPA. Dragged along with his family to a MMPA Local Association meeting, Chapin listened to former MMPA General Manager Walt Wosje cycle through transparent sheets of complex graphs on an overhead projector.

Though Local Meetings only come around once per year, Chapin was ingrained in MMPA and dairy farming every day. Growing up on an MMPA member farm in Remus, Michigan, Chapin helped out with chores before school and watched his grandpa lead the cooperative as a member of the board of directors.

“I remember MMPA being a big deal at a big time,” Chapin said. “I grew up with MMPA in my blood and dairy farming in my blood.”

Fast forward a couple decades and Chapin is now working for MMPA as manager of field services, where he leads a team of 14 member representatives spread across the Great Lakes region. In recognition of his service to dairy producers, he was recently named the 2021 Michigan Fieldperson of the Year at the Michigan Dairy Industry Conference. The Michigan Dairy Industry Conference is an annual conference for dairy industry and regulatory professionals which features networking, education and award recognition.

After graduating from Northern Michigan University and trying out a career as a hunting guide, Chapin joined MMPA 11 years ago as a member representative.

“My first day was August 16, 2010,” he said. “I guess I have been pretty happy ever since. I get a lot of fulfilment out of it. I enjoy the people I work with, the staff and the ability to have relationships with members. I always remember who I work for and what I’m here for.”

Chapin points to a few mentors who helped him get to where he is today. “I looked up to Jack Stickler, Gerry Volz, Rick Fluegge and Tom Herremans. Those four were key people in my first years. They taught me how to get through challenges and be a better rep.”

In 2014, Chapin was promoted to area supervisor and assumed assumed his current position as manager of field services in 2017. His current role involves overseeing member representatives across the Great Lakes region and ensuring MMPA dairy farms are best equipped to produce high quality milk and provide excellent animal care.

“My job is a supportive role to staff and to help them align where we’re going as a co-op,” he said. He helps with equipment checks, quality issues and provides back up to member representatives as they work with members to improve their farms.

Ben Chapin
Ben Chapin

The day-to-day job varies based on the current needs of MMPA and the members. “I might be working with reps in Alpena one day and then be in Ohio the next. It’s the nature of the job.”

He is also active in the dairy industry through the Michigan Dairy Industry Conference and the National Conference on Interstate Milk Shipments. Chapin stays in tune with the evolving dairy industry and what things may impact dairy producers.

“We see the challenges coming down the road, and do our best to stay out in front of them. Currently, sustainability and dairy farm workforce are big topics,” he said. “Our job is to gain as much knowledge as we can and formulate plans for the membership so we can be a resource. I enjoy working through those challenges. I know these can be difficult topics for members, but we’re all part of a team to help them work through those challenges for the success of the co-op.”

Chapin says his favorite part is the people. “I would not be able to work some place where I’m not in contact with people. I enjoy bringing on new reps, seeing them grow and become comfortable and successful with their work. One of my favorite aspects is to see different regions of our co-op and learn from producers and other dairy professionals.”

Yet what’s the most challenging part of his job? “The people,” Chapin said with a chuckle. “Everyone has different personalities, you need to tune into what drives people—employees or producers—and know the best way to communicate with them. That’s ultimately the most challenging thing.”

MMPA has been entrenched in Chapin’s entire life and he hasn’t shied away from making his own positive impact on the cooperative. “I just enjoy doing what I do and working for the people I work for,” he said. “I want see MMPA successful.”

This article was originally published in the November/December 2021 issue of the Milk MessengerSubscribe »