With a natural curiosity toward everything dairy, a laser-focused drive and a love of problem-solving, Katelyn Packard, 2022 MMPA Outstanding Young Dairy Cooperator (OYDC), is a master of making change that allows everything else to fall in place.

On her family’s farm, in Manchester, Michigan, she manages 400 milking cows, expertly developing spreadsheets to find efficiencies, working with consultants to maximize profitability, and participating in research studies to improve herd health. She’s willing to seek out experts, consultants and researchers to learn more and implement change to leave a lasting legacy as the sixth generation on Horning Farms.

“When I first came back to the farm after college, my dad would give me a couple projects like managing our medicine inventory and ordering,” Packard said. “And then that grew from just the medicines to all the chemicals and now I manage most of the ordering. It’s just grown over time.”

The growth that she’s had on the farm is similar to the opportunities that they provide their employees as well and Packard attributes a lot of that to her dad, Jeff Horning.

“Our employees have been here longer than most other farms,” Packard said. “There’s not a lot of room to get promoted to senior vice president, but you can be in charge of more projects and more things. My dad is really good at recognizing what people’s skills and talents are and trying to keep them going in that direction. That kind of thing keeps people happy and makes them want to stay around.”

Full Reign to Leave a Legacy

For Packard, her dad has let her fall into place on the farm and given her full reign in the department of cow health and reproduction.

“I find cow reproduction really interesting. I would go to conferences and hear about trying new things and I’d dig into all of it,” Packard said. “Now I’m managing our artificial insemination schedule and breeding decisions. All of those responsibilities have grown.”

Packard implemented an activity monitoring system which was something she saw at a conference and brought back to the farm to improve their heat detection rate and conception rate. It was so successful that they’re now waiting longer to breed and they’ve seen improvement in other areas like animal health as well.

“On the mastitis side of things, a Michigan State University Extension study got me into culturing for mastitis management and pathogens,” Packard said. “I add milk to a plate and see if there’s any bacterial growth before making the decision if I’m actually intervening with antibiotics or not.”

The culturing has radically influenced their mastitis treatment plan. Packard has found that since they started the culturing program, only about half of the cows detected with mastitis have bacteria still present.

Katelyn and her family run a successful farm store where they sell beef and chicken, along with dairy products like cheese and ice cream. 

“Most of the time, the cow’s body is doing their job and their immune system is taking care of it,” Packard said. “Often, if they have a lot of garget and chunks in the milk, there won’t be any bacteria present. Historically I’d think it was a really bad case of mastitis and I have to use antibiotics, but I found now that that’s their immune system doing its job and in another three to five days, they’ll be totally clear without ever having to give antibiotics.”

This antibiotic stewardship is one of the many messages that Packard shares during the numerous farm tours and events that they put on. With her family’s help, Packard hosts monthly events on the farm and an annual neighborhood event, which all involve farm tours and education to tackle what Packard sees as the great challenge facing the industry.

“The greatest challenge facing the industry is public perception,” Packard said. “The negative perception that people have just because they don’t have any experience with dairy farming or understand what’s happening on farms and they hear negative views and take that as it is.”

Packard is doing her part though, hosting 5Ks, fun on the farms and virtual tours. “I love sharing about our farm and giving tours,” Packard said. “My favorite part is that we’re having events and tours and people are coming to our farm all the time.”

As part of the Horning Farm experience, visitors get to enjoy games and visit a farm shop featuring dairy products and meat. During the tours, Packard is an open and honest source about dairy farming and dairy products. She’s utilized the United Dairy Industry of Michigan resources to put the best foot forward for dairy in activities and messaging.

“Environmental sustainability is a huge topic right now, but why would I treat my land poorly so that in five years it’s not worth anything?” Packard asked. “Why would I treat my animals poorly when, if I treat them better, then they perform better? It’s like at a restaurant and if you give a customer terrible service, they’re not going to come back so you’re not going to make money.”

Calves on Horning Farms are a main attraction during the many dairy promotion events they host.

Everything Ties Together

The simplicity in sharing messages carries forward in how Horning Farms does business. Across the farm, Packard and her family believe, “In management, everything ties together. Just making the cows happy and comfortable, lets everything else fall into place.”

Falling into place is what led Packard to run for the MMPA OYDC program and go on to be recently named the 2022 OYDC by a panel of judges.

“The OYDC program is one of those things that my parents and grandparents did, so it’s something that felt really natural,” Packard said. “I’m looking forward to the chance to learn a little bit more about what goes on in the co-op and what is involved with being in one of those leadership positions.”

Packard’s experience with the co-op does run deep though. Along with her involvement as an MMPA Dairy Communicator in the Saline-Ann Arbor Local and participation in a variety of member services programs, Packard also interned with MMPA in college and went on to marry Joe Packard, MMPA member representative.

“I enjoyed the MMPA internship, but I learned that an office wasn’t for me,” Katelyn said. That’s an important realization for someone working full time on a dairy farm and excelling at it. “My favorite part of this job and why I enjoy it is because it’s a really good mix of being physically active and mentally active. I’m out moving around doing stuff physically each day and I’m problem solving all the time.”

The perk of being married to a field rep is that “I’ll ask Joe all kinds of questions because I see him every day. When it comes to my parlor performance or anything in general, I know that there’s somebody there that I can ask those questions when I don’t know those things.”

Katelyn’s willingness to listen to experts and make impactful changes is one of the many reasons she’s been so successful at letting everything fall into place – from improving heat detection rates to reducing antibiotic usage to being selected as 2022 MMPA OYDC.

This article was originally published in the September/October 2022 issue of the Milk MessengerSubscribe »

The MMPA Dairy Communicator program is an on-going effort of approximately 60 members in the Great Lakes region. Elected members of a local work diligently to speak out and communicate on behalf of dairy farmers in their local area. Dairy Communicators are involved in a wide variety of local promotion activities ranging from hosting farm tours, going to schools to present to classrooms and engaging with consumers on various social media platforms. The Dairy Communicators met on May 16 to swap promotion ideas and recognize service award winners. Thank you, MMPA Dairy Communicators, for your years of service to the dairy industry and your local communities.

2022 Dairy Communicator Service Awards

25 Years –
Jodi Hill, Livingston Charter Local

15 Years –
Patti Jandernoa, Mid-Michigan Local
Lynda Horning, Saline Ann Arbor Local

10 Years –
Ann Folkersma, Chippewa Local
Gertie van den Goor, Mid-Sanilac Local

5 Years –
Amy Bergdolt, Frankenmuth Local
Samantha Mamarow, Saline Ann Arbor Local


Jodi Hill

FARM: Clarinda Farms
HOMETOWN: Webberville, Michigan

What do you enjoy most about being part of the dairy community?
I love my dairy products – the one kind of food I’d never want to be without is my milk. I love my cows and I love communicating. We take our cows to the fair and when we are milking them there is an observation window. So many people come up and are so excited to hear about the cows and they will just stand there for a half an hour or an hour as we’re milking the cows and asking us questions and petting the cows. Being part of a farming community is everything. It’s been my whole life.

How has the MMPA Dairy Communicator program helped you promote dairy?
Dairy Communicators are always really supportive. Every time I’ve gone to the meetings, there’s lots of helpful information and the other communicators openly share their experiences. UDIM is such a good resource too. What I love about being a dairy communicator is the promotion part.

Share your favorite dairy promotion memory.
I’ve done Project Reds and showed kids what the milker is like putting their fingers in it. Giving out milk and ice cream at the fair. I passed out chocolate milk when my daughter ran cross country. All of that stuff! I couldn’t pick a particular favorite!

What advice would you share with someone just starting their dairy promotion journey?
Try anything. Any idea you can come up with as a way of promoting dairy – go for it! You never know if it will be successful, but most people are very receptive any time you hand out product. They love learning about cows. Dive into any community event you can get into and find an outlet for your promotion.

Patti Jandernoa

FARM: Dutch Meadows Dairy, LLC
HOMETOWN: Fowler, Michigan

What do you enjoy most about being part of the dairy community?
The dairy community is a wonderful community to be part of. Unlike other businesses or even other agriculture sectors, it’s amazing how dairy farmers are willing to share their successes and failures with each other. It truly is a community that wants to see everyone succeed.

How has the MMPA Dairy Communicator program helped you promote dairy?
The Dairy Communicator program is a great program. Communicators meet once a year and not only learn about what’s going on in our co-op, we also have a chance to talk about different promotion events that are held and opportunities for promotion. There’s nothing better than learning about promotion ideas from the people doing the promoting!

Share your favorite dairy promotion memory.
My favorite dairy promotion event that we’ve held was hosting Breakfast on the Farm (the first in Michigan) in 2009. There were so people that attended that had no idea about dairy and agriculture. It was a wonderful day of answering questions and most attendees were eager to learn about the industry and how a dairy farm operates.

What advice would you share with someone just starting their dairy promotion journey?
My advice would be that the little things turn into big things. You don’t have to hold a huge event, or stress over promotion. A conversation in a grocery store or with friends or family or the sharing or liking of a Facebook post can educate and promote the industry.

Lynda Horning

FARM: Horning Farms
HOMETOWN: Manchester, Michigan

What do you enjoy most about being part of the dairy community?
One thing I enjoy is seeing the family every day. I also enjoy educating people about dairy because when I married into it, I had no clue about what we did and what was involved. There are so many people who don’t know about dairy and it’s important to tell them what we do.

How has the MMPA Dairy Communicator program helped you promote dairy?
The Dairy Communicator program provides valuable resources. I don’t have the background in dairy, and I don’t keep up with industry news on my own. The workshops and information sent to us give us an opportunity to learn quickly and easily, rather than having me reading 50 different industry magazines. There are still things that I do not know and that’s why I like going to the meeting. I also get a lot out of the networking we do with others as far as sharing ideas. It’s nice to hear what others do and what has worked, or not worked, for them, and then turn around and fit it with our own community and what we want to do.

Share your favorite dairy promotion memory.
I would say when we started doing our annual neighbor open houses. It was such a success that we just had our 5th annual. Most of the attendees learn a lot about our operation and are surprised at the environmental sustainability of our dairy farm.

What advice would you share with someone just starting their dairy promotion journey?
Just go with what you think might work and take your passion for dairy and run with it! If you find something missing somewhere in the community, fill in the gap. Or try an event that is already established that doesn’t have a dairy presence. Plugging in with an event that already has their own audience is a great way to get started.

This article was originally published in the July/August 2022 issue of the Milk MessengerSubscribe »

MMPA leads the way in quality milk production and it all begins with member farms’ hard work and dedication to producing a wholesome product. MMPA members are committed to producing a quality, wholesome product while demonstrating high-quality care for their cows, the environment and their employees.

Behind every MMPA member is a team of dedicated member representatives who provide services and programs that equip MMPA members with leading management and production information. The variety of member services that the member representatives offer is designed to help members succeed and to maintain good standing with the National Dairy Farmers Assuring Responsible Management (FARM) program and with federal regulations.

MMPA members can take advantage of the wide breadth of available services indicated over the next few pages by contacting their member representative or calling the Novi office at 248-474-6672.

FDA Certified Milk Testing Laboratory


The MMPA laboratory, located at the Novi, Michigan office, operates six days a week, performing a variety of lab tests on milk samples. Samples tested are maintained at 32-40 degrees Fahrenheit at all times prior to testing. Members are notified immediately after lab tests are completed. Quality information is automatically updated as new tests are performed and members can receive notifications when new results are available through their preferred communication channel.

The laboratory is a critical piece of MMPA’s portfolio of member services to help members produce the highest quality milk possible. Through routine and special testing done at the lab, MMPA’s team of field representatives provide
an on-farm partnership that helps each member achieve milk quality and udder health goals. MMPA also offers a quality premium incentive for its members producing higher quality milk.

Udder Health Program and Milk Testing

Milk samples are tested regularly for components including butterfat, protein, other solids and somatic cell count (SCC). In addition, quality tests are run monthly for raw bacteria counts (RBC), pre-incubated count and lab pasteurized counts. MMPA offers bulk tank and individual cow cultures, along with somatic cell counts and coliform testing on bulk tank samples.

In addition to testing at the MMPA lab, MMPA has partnered with labs in the state to provide additional testing services like mycoplasma and bacteriology cultures, bovine viral diarrhea, Johne’s milk test, bovine leukosis test and milk pregnancy ELISA. Additional fees for these tests may apply.

All tests must be scheduled through your MMPA member representative or the laboratory for proper sample submission protocol. For a complete list of tests and fees, go to producers. mimilk.com and click on the MMPA Premiums and Testing Information document.

Calf Milk Pasteurizer Program

The MMPA Calf Milk Pasteurizer Program can help members evaluate and troubleshoot the effectiveness of on-farm pasteurizer processes. This program can help assess the cleanliness of milk harvesting, on-farm pasteurizing and milk storage equipment. If needed, the program could also be used to diagnose potential bacteria issues with automatic calf feeders. Samples can be submitted routinely or as needed to troubleshoot an issue with a calf feeding program.

Milking Systems Analysis 

MMPA member representatives are also trained to provide milk quality troubleshooting services on member farms. This includes vacuum analysis of milking systems which impact cow health and somatic cell counts as well as cleaning analysis of equipment which helps to identify potential causes of high bacteria counts and soiled milking equipment.


MMPA Member and Employee Training


Training keeps all animal caretakers on task and performing best practices. MMPA member representatives provide a variety of solutions to help ensure that members and employees understand the importance of their role and learn the science behind each step of the milking process in the parlor.

Dairy Care Academy

Dairy Care Academy is an MMPA animal care training program for farm owners and employees. Designed to help farms meet Farmers Assuring Responsible Management (FARM) program training requirements, it also educates employees and improves performance. Traditionally, the day-long training takes place across the state and includes three sessions: proper milking practices, stockmanship and calf care.

In addition to in person training, MMPA members have access to an on-demand, FARM program compliant online training platform. The resource covers the traditional Dairy Care Academy topics of milking practices, calf management and dairy stockmanship along with FARM program required training areas of euthanasia, non-ambulatory animal management and fitness to transport. This training resource is available year-round for unlimited use.

On-Farm Milker Training Schools

MMPA Milker Training Schools teach the best milking procedures to members and their employees to improve milk quality and increase production. The school takes place by-request, right on a member’s farm and is geared toward the member’s needs. After a short presentation, milkers practice the routine they learn in the parlor, reinforcing expectations while the member representatives provide guidance along the way.

Farm Supply Store


Started in the early 1970’s as the MMPA merchandise program, the Farm Supply Store was developed to give member farms a consistent and reliable source for everyday items on their farms. It has since grown to service the entire Great Lakes region offering a variety of product lines and options at affordable prices. As a cooperative resource, the Farm Supply Store returns all profits back to member-owners every February through cash patronage refunds. They are also able to leverage the collective power of member farms to negotiate competitive pricing on select products. The store offers direct delivery and cooperative stops, where farms can pool their orders with neighbors in their geographic area to deliver at a specified location.

Sustainability Program


throughout our entire supply chain. Sustainability is vital to MMPA’s transparency, growth and success for our members, employees, stakeholders and our communities.

U.S. Dairy Stewardship

MMPA has adopted the U.S. Dairy Stewardship Commitment, which is a demonstration of U.S. dairy’s long-standing values, and a pledge to uphold those values for today, tomorrow and the future. Through the commitment, MMPA follows a rigorous set of standards that demonstrate positive impact and contribute to U.S. dairy’s ability to track, aggregate and report on progress.

Farmer Sustainability Advisory Committee

MMPA’s Farmer Sustainability Advisory Committee formalizes member engagement in our sustainability program and fosters feedback and insights from members on farm sustainability efforts. MMPA partners with customers to develop programs like the Cover Crops Projects and MMPA’s field staff offers on-farm energy audits.

Cover Crops Project

The MMPA Cover Crop Project is a collaboration between MMPA, Unilever and Barry-Callebaut to demonstrate what farmers are doing for soil health and carbon sequestration through cover crops. In 2022, there are 30 member farms with a total of 3,200 acres participating in the program.


State Certified Member Representatives


This representative will work alongside members to help them produce high-quality milk and provide the best possible animal care. Member representatives can also help members verify environmental stewardships, provide training to their employees and consult MMPA farms on energy use, equipment and milking system analysis. Member representatives routinely visit farms, but also visit by request and to make special troubleshooting visits in the event of abnormal milk quality results. If a farm receives a pre-incubated count (PIC) over 75,000 or a raw bacteria count (RBC) over 30,000 the farm’s assigned member representative will provide on-the-ground guidance to help improve milk quality. Member representatives are a valuable resource to help members continually improve on their farms.


This article was originally published in the July/August 2022 issue of the Milk MessengerSubscribe »

Delegates recently elected Brian Preston to serve a three-year term on the MMPA board of directors. He joins the 12 other dairy farmers on the MMPA board of directors, helping guide the direction of the cooperative and setting strategic goals. Prior to being elected to the MMPA board of directors, he sat on the MMPA advisory committee and resolutions committee, along with serving as the Hillsdale/Litchfield local president and District 1 vice president. In 2014, Preston and his wife, Carrie, were named the MMPA Outstanding Young Dairy Cooperators and they served as the chair couple of the National Milk Producers Federation Young Cooperator Council. Together with his family, Preston operates Preston Dairy LLC, a 1,000-cow dairy in Quincy, Michigan. He has a bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University in agriscience with an emphasis in agriculture business management. He and Carrie have three children.

How has MMPA impacted your farm?
MMPA has given us a reliable and consistent market. We’ve never had to worry about where our milk was going. MMPA has also given our farm a sense of community with neighbors and fellow dairy farmers.

What do you value most about MMPA?
I value the co-op structure and being able to be a member-owner. Being a part of a cooperative allows us to join together and own the marketing and processing assets. Together, with other dairy farmers, we have bargaining power in the marketplace to help control how our milk is marketed.

Why did you want to join the board of directors?
I wanted to be more involved in the co-op. I wanted to better understand the direction that the co-op was moving in, while also helping influence that direction. I’d like to see our co-op own more processing assets while moving closer to the consumer and having more direct product on shelves for consumers to purchase. Commodities are always going to be a part of our business, and I think they should be part of our business, but I’d like to see us increasingly move up the supply chain to the customer.

What are your goals and vision while serving on the board of directors?
The primary purpose of the board is to hire and evaluate the CEO, so my first goal is to make sure we have the right management in place and to have a plan for our management for the future. Beyond that, to a certain degree, you have to let the management and employees do
their job. It’s not my goal to be a micromanager or to have to know every detail, but I want to make sure we have the right people working for us at the co-op – and I think we do. The greatest strength of our co-op is the people who work for us.

What would you tell members looking to become more active within the cooperative?
I would encourage them to attend their local meetings, to reach out and talk to their board representatives and attend the Annual Meeting, even if they aren’t a delegate, attend as a member. I’d also encourage them to talk to our management. Go and do and show up!

This article was originally published in the July/August 2022 issue of the Milk MessengerSubscribe »

MMPA is committed to cooperative social responsibility and sustainable business practices throughout our entire supply chain. At the farm level, MMPA members are also on a sustainability journey. We’re checking in with a handful of member farmers leading the charge with this sustainability spotlight series. 

Efficiency is the name of the game for Brian DeMann at Clearview Dairy Farm in Martin, Michigan. With their 560-cow milking herd, DeMann and his family continuously seek additional efficiencies. They’ve found that many sustainable practices work hand-in-hand with achieving their goals.

“I think a lot of efficiency is gained through some of these sustainable practices,” DeMann said. “A lot of these farms did many of these practices forever, but now that there’s more focus on them, we’re really figuring them out and fine tuning.”

An area where DeMann has recently been fine tuning on the farm is with new precision agriculture equipment that gives him access to data beyond what he has had before and allows for site-specific crop management.

“I think on the cropping side of it, we’re having to purchase less commercial fertilizers because we’re really keying in on where we put our nutrients to where it counts,” DeMann said. “We’re able to know nutrient removal on every acre, so we’re specific in fertilizer application and not just applying to the whole field.”

DeMann’s new equipment also includes a chopper that can cover 300 to 400 acres in two days. The new equipment is not only precise, but also larger, which has had many unexpected benefits according to DeMann.

“We’re kind of a smaller farm, in a lot of aspects, but having that equipment matched to Michigan’s weather has been really favorable,” DeMann said. “We also have a happier crew because we are only going to chop eight hours a day versus twelve hours a day, but we’re doing the same amount of work in the eight hours. We’re able to balance life and work all through that machine.”

Precision agriculture is only the tip of the sustainability iceberg though for DeMann. He focuses not only on the environment, but also in ensuring that his daughter Kinsler has the opportunity to take over the farm one day.

“We always think environment right away when it comes to sustainability, but it’s also from a business model,” DeMann said. “You have to be financially sound and to be financially sound, you have to have business practices that allow that in a really volatile market. Sustainability is just having a financially sound business and a good business plan.”

For Clearview Dairy Farm, a good business plan means making a living, being willing to change and seeking to continuously improve. Sustainability is at the root of that.

“If we weren’t so worried about improving, or just didn’t worry about it whatsoever and just did how we were taught or how it always was, we wouldn’t be a lasting business from both the financial standpoint or from a consumer standpoint,” DeMann said. “I can tell you through practicing sustainability, we’ve become more efficient and really a cleaner farm.”

In his efforts to be more sustainable, DeMann has found that very few of the changes he’s made he’s regretted or had to go back on. He recommends to all farmers, “Don’t be afraid of change. Embrace it. We can always be comfortable, but you have to push yourself outside of that comfort zone, especially as things continue to evolve.”

When looking back at the evolution overtime, DeMann recalls the pushback for implementing forage cover crops on the farm. “I heard, ‘Oh, that’s just going to take us all the longer.’ But because we started using them, we’ve had 50 percent or better of our heifer feed made by cover crops in years we really needed it.”

Clearview Dairy Farm has been ahead of the curve on many of the practices deemed sustainable today, simply because of their drive to improve and willingness to change. As a result, DeMann is proud of his farm and excited for the future.

“We’re farming in a responsible way and we’re able to continue to do so and build upon that and improve,” DeMann said. “Sustainability is an everyday, 24 hours a day, seven days a week effort that we’re always doing. We’re always working on improving animal care, air quality, water quality and those kinds of things.”

Put simply, DeMann said, “Sustainability is that constant push to always improve. That little bit of a push makes you want to look for your efficiencies and look to get better because that makes you a better business.”

Clearview Dairy Farm is on a mission to be a better business for a better world.


Precision Agriculture: Precision agriculture, or site-specific crop management (SSM), uses a variety of technologies such as sensing, information technologies, and mechanical systems to manage different parts of a field separately.

Site-Specific Crop Management (SSM): Uses a variety of technologies to manage different parts of a field separately. Natural, inherent variability within fields means that mechanized farming could traditionally apply only crop treatments for “average” soil, nutrient, moisture, weed, and growth conditions.

SOURCE: USDA National Agriculture Library, USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture


Clearview Dairy Farm LLC
Martin, Michigan


560 milking


 1,400 acres of corn, alfalfa, soybeans and wheat


MMPA Sustainability Survey, Nutrient Management Plan, FARM* Animal Care,
FARM* Environmental Stewardship

This article was originally published in the July/August 2022 issue of the Milk MessengerSubscribe »

By Dean Letter, MMPA Member Services Director

The focus of the member services team continues to evolve to meet the needs of the marketplace. Historically, the member services team focused on improving milk quality on member farms and helping them maintain compliance with the Grade A dairy law. For the last several years, MMPA has been well represented among the National Dairy Quality Award program awardees and we’re known in the marketplace for producing high quality milk. While these two areas continue to be important for milk marketing, the focus has broadened to include sustainability or regenerative agriculture.

Our focus began to expand over ten years ago with the adoption of the Farmers Assuring Responsible Management Animal Care (FARM AC) program. FARM AC was a voluntary program initially but transitioned into a mandatory program in response to food company requirements. Videos posted on social media highlighted the need for a very robust animal care program.

MMPA animal care evaluators work with members and their veterinarians to develop and maintain herd health plans and write animal care standard operating procedures. The animal care program stresses continuous training for the employee and continuing education for the farm owner. To aid in this animal care requirement, MMPA staff began providing Dairy Care Academy trainings hosted across the region every spring. The training was a day-long, interactive workshop where participants learned about calf care, best milking practices and dairy herdsmanship.

In 2020, the member services team developed an online Dairy Care Academy that provides the same quality training, but available year-round. By scanning a QR code, members and their employees can access training videos for various animal care tasks. After viewing the videos and passing a post-video test, you can receive a certificate indicating satisfactory completion of the training module.

Today, the focus for most companies, and probably all publicly traded companies, is greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction. MMPA member services have been tracking GHG emissions from member farms for the last several years using the FARM Environmental Stewardship (ES) tool. Currently, MMPA can estimate farm GHG emissions using a stratified random sampling protocol which means that a good estimate could be made without needing to visit every member farm. The aggregated GHG intensity of our member farms (pounds of carbon dioxide equivalent gas (GHG) released per pound of milk produced) can be shared with interested customers.

This expansion of the member services team provides opportunities for farmer-led sustainability initiatives through arrangements with MMPA customers. The Farmer Sustainability Advisory Council is regularly reviewing customer projects that aim to further reduce GHG emissions, improve soil health and resiliency, reduce water use and/or increase its reuse, and demonstrate that workers work in a safe work environment while making a reasonable wage.

MMPA member services will continue to partner and engage with members and MMPA customers to assure that we can continue to market MMPA members’ milk to the greatest advantage possible.

This article was originally published in the July/August 2022 issue of the Milk MessengerSubscribe »

By Brad Parks, MMPA Director of Business Development

Michigan Milk Producers Association (MMPA) acquired Superior Dairy at the end of last year and together we have continued to transition plant operations while strengthening the synergies between the two organizations. As MMPA’s new Director of Business Development, and former president of Creative Edge Design Group, a subsidiary of LEL Operating Company along with Superior Dairy, I wanted to introduce myself and share more about MMPA’s new Canton, Ohio plant.

I grew up in and around the dairy industry. My grandfather worked as a dairy herdsman
in Sparta, Michigan, and my father, Delton Parks, had a long successful career in the dairy industry in Michigan. He grew Country Fresh from a single plant in Grand Rapids, Michigan, to over seven operations regionally.

Many of my family members worked at Country Fresh Dairy in various positions as we were needed, including myself. I started working for Country Fresh during my college years and then began my professional career as a plant controller in the Livonia, Michigan plant before transferring to the McDonald plant in Flint, Michigan, which was a former MMPA plant acquired by Country Fresh.

As the plant controller, I learned all facets of the dairy business and eventually went on to become general manager, overseeing the operation for 10 years. I helped transformed the business, adding extended shelf-life technology. It was at that plant, and the others that I went on to work for, where I gained appreciation for the value of the high-quality milk supplied by MMPA. The quality of the products the plant produces starts with the milk.

I started at Superior Dairy in 2013 as president of the Creative Edge Design Group. In this role, I helped redesign the caseless bottle, secured other manufacturing licenses and worked with regional and national customers to form strategic partnerships. At Creative Edge, we focus on innovation and technology that keeps pace with the everchanging consumer. While the caseless bottle continues to be a major success, we are continuing to look at areas where we can innovate the packaging and technology required to satisfy evolving consumer diets. We are working to meet consumers’ needs for dairy products that have a longer shelf life and are higher in protein, while adding more value to milk.

At Superior Dairy, we predominantly co-pack private label for customer brands. We bottle fluid milk and manufacture cottage cheese, sour cream, ice cream mixes, five-quart pails of ice cream and ice cream cakes. Our products are distributed to 45 states, and we are known for our innovative packaging and processing concepts.

A few examples of Superior Dairy products include Sam’s Club and Costco milk, Sam’s Club five-quart pails of ice cream and Aldi’s cottage cheese and sour cream. Our plant code is 39-13, so be sure to look for that on the side of your favorite dairy products to see if it was manufactured in Canton, Ohio.

Now as the Director of Business Development for MMPA, I will continue to simplify the complex dairy industry issues while working with customers to provide nutritious food products to consumers and their families. I have been successful in leading consumer product manufacturers to record levels of sales and profits, consistently exceeding goals in turnaround situations, and transforming poorly performing plants, organizations and personnel into top performing organizations. I’m excited to bring that experience to MMPA.

This article was originally published in the May/June 2022 issue of the Milk MessengerSubscribe »

MMPA is committed to cooperative social responsibility and sustainable business practices throughout our entire supply chain. At the farm level, MMPA members are also on a sustainability journey. We’re checking in with a handful of member farmers leading the charge with this sustainability spotlight series. 

Like many other farms, sustainability on Ladine Dairy Farm begins out of necessity and desire to pass the farm on through generations. “If I’m not sustaining, I’m not going to be here, and I want to pass it onto the next generation like my grandpa has to my uncle,” Parker Bivens (District 2, Bellevue, MI), owner of Ladine Dairy Farm said.

For Bivens, sustainability is at the root of his efforts to automate his operation. What started as a love of technology, coupled with the recognized labor challenges they were facing, turned into installing technology in all facets of their farm.

“I had to talk my dad into installing robot milkers, but he’s looking closer to retirement so it was once he realized how easy it would get, he was on board,” Bivens said. “Now, he’s glad that we did it because installing the robots helped us deal with labor, employees, and now one of us can do it all day long or even for a couple of days straight with no problem.”

Ladine Dairy Farm transitioned to robot milkers in February 2021. While it was a rough first few weeks, they have since seen significant improvements in their herd’s health.

“The biggest gain we’ve gotten from the robots is the labor savings and cow health and longevity just from not being on their feet for so long waiting to get into the parlor,” Bivens said. “We have seen a huge increase in conception rates, too. We were averaging probably 35-40% conception rate and now some months will be up to 60%. That’s something too that will just keep getting better over time.”

In addition to the robot milkers, Ladine Dairy Farm also utilizes automatic calf feeders which ensure that every calf receives the proper amount of nutrients for their age, and a robot feed pusher that helps provide cows consistent access to a well-balanced diet. The robots have created an ecosystem of technology on the farm, simplifying the transition for heifers.

“A big correlation with the heifers when they calve in is the technology they’re exposed to when they are younger. They do really well because we’ve been setting up for it over the last four years,” Bivens said. The forward-thinking nature also allows Bivens to recognize that the “technology is a decade of investment, but over a long period of time we will have healthier cows as a result.”

The technology on Ladine Dairy Farm also allows Bivens to monitor metrics that evaluate a cow’s health without just relying on visible signals.

“I’ve been able to catch sick cows faster,” Bivens said. “Usually when rumination begins to drop, I try to see what’s wrong with them. The software shows us which cows are suspected for ketosis and it takes into account rumination and activity while using protein and fat as an inversion as well. It’s all in there.”

For Bivens, the technology is also a way to ease his worries when it comes to carrying for his cattle. “I don’t sleep at night when I have a calf that isn’t doing as well as what it should. I worry about every animal’s health and stress when I have sick animals.”

Parker’s automation efforts underscore his desire to provide the best quality care for his cattle, all while sustainably approaching his smart farming practices. Perhaps fittingly, when asked what his definition of sustainability is, he recommended, “Ask Google.”

At the end of the day, Parker’s goal on his farm is to “be more successful with what we’ve been given” and that’s what sustainability is all about.


Smart Farming: A broad range of new technologies that provide data to guide on-farm decisions and planning. This could include sensors for almost any variable of interest; everything from soil moisture sensors for irrigation control to electronic monitors for livestock health. Driving this revolution is the Internet of Things, an ever-growing network of sensors and devices with internet and machine-to-machine connectivity.


Ladine Dairy Farm LLP
Bellevue, Michigan


120 milking


380 acres of alfalfa, corn,
soybeans, rye and wheat


MMPA Sustainability Survey, Nutrient Management Plan, Farmers Assuring Responsible Management Animal Care, MAEAP Verified in Livestock and Farmstead Systems

This article was originally published in the May/June 2022 issue of the Milk MessengerSubscribe »

Michigan Milk Producers Association’s (MMPA’s) partnership with the Food Bank Council of Michigan (FBCM) helps provide all 83 counties in Michigan with a supply of nutritious dairy products for those struggling with food insecurity. Kath Clark, Director of Food Programs at FBCM answered a few commonly asked questions:

What is the Food Bank Council of Michigan and what is your relationship with member food banks?
The Food Bank Council of Michigan (FBCM) was founded in 1984 through the cooperative efforts of the state’s regional food banks. FBCM purchases food and distributes it to member food banks who service a specific geographical region and provide food and resources to pantries in their communities. Food pantries can “shop” the regional food bank to acquire food that meets the needs for their own community programs and services.

How did the COVID-19 pandemic affect your organization?
We distributed almost 50 percent more food than any other time we ever have. We went from using brick and mortar pantries to doing mobile distributions, a safer and more efficient model for our older, higher-risk volunteers. The shutdown happened so quickly that many people were not prepared, and we all remember how bare the shelves at grocery stores were. It was hard to find food and we had a lot of people utilizing our services for the first time in their lives.

What challenges are you facing today?
The supply chain challenges are hitting us hard, and inflation is staggering. We all see the effects of those challenges when we go to the grocery store and buy our own family’s groceries. When we are buying a truckload of groceries at a time and see the prices go up the same way, our food banks are telling us that they are easily 25 percent over budget for food purchases. Within the last month with gas prices skyrocketing, we are beginning to see an increase in the number of people visiting food pantries again, all at a time when our capacity to purchase had decreased because of inflation.

What is your relationship with MMPA?
MMPA is the organization that taught us how to handle milk in our food banks. Milk has always been the most requested item at food pantries, and it used to be that the milk that we received, more often than not, was milk near expiration donated by local grocers or retail outlets. Obviously that milk didn’t have a long shelf life and we would just get it out as fast as we could to the places we could. Having fresh milk donated by MMPA that had time on it and that we could properly distribute to everyone who needed it was a luxury we never had before. MMPA is the cornerstone of our milk program and it’s now one of the great examples that Feeding America showcases at a national level. Our relationship with MMPA is special.

How can someone help donate milk to their food bank?
Someone looking to donate dairy to the Food Bank Council of Michigan can buy gallons of milk online at https://vfd.fbcmich.org/shopping/. You can also contact your regional food bank to make a donation designated for purchasing dairy products.

Journey from the Farm to the Food Insecure

Supplying fresh milk to all 83 counties in Michigan requires extensive reliance on numerous industry partners and precise transportation logistics. The unique partnership between MMPA, the Food Bank Council of Michigan (FBCM) and Kroger’s Michigan Dairy makes what was once an improbable feat of supplying those in need in all corners of Michigan with fresh dairy, into a well-oiled machine providing a mainstay product that those who are food insecure can rely on today. The donation model that MMPA helped establish with FBCM and Michigan Dairy, has since been replicated in other states in the country. Take a look at the journey milk takes from MMPA member farms to the food insecure in your local communities.

1. MMPA Member Farm
Every donation of milk begins on member farms. Dairy farms are critical components of their local communities and caring for those in need comes second nature. For nearly a decade now, MMPA has worked with their member owners to facilitate their generous donation of fresh, wholesome milk. Since 2015, MMPA has donated nearly 342,000 gallons of milk.

2. Processor
After donated milk is picked up from the farm, it is brought to Michigan Dairy, a Kroger plant in Livonia, Michigan. At the plant, the milk is unloaded and is pasteurized and bottled into gallon jugs that are ready for consumers. Michigan Dairy generously donates the use of their plant and the milk’s processing and packaging.

3. Food Bank
From Michigan Dairy, the gallons of milk are distributed to the seven food banks in Michigan based on the orders they place to the FBCM. Each food bank is allocated a certain amount of milk determined by Feeding America and based on the number of people who are food insecure in the region. The allocation process ensures that milk is distributed fairly based on communities’ needs.

4a. Food Pantries
The 2,800 brick-and-mortar food pantries that the FBCM partners with can then place their order online with their region’s food bank to either pick up their milk or have it delivered. A challenge with supplying food pantries with dairy is their infrastructure and access to keep milk safely in a cooler. The FBCM’s partnership with the United Dairy Industry of Michigan looked to overcome that by supplying food pantries grant opportunities to receive a milk cooler.

4b. Mobile Distribution Centers
Milk can also be distributed via mobile distribution centers. The nearly 3,000 distribution sites were a major success during the COVID-19 pandemic because they allowed volunteers to distribute food outdoors. The distribution center orders food online from the food bank, just like the brick-and-mortar food pantries. After receiving their shipment, the milk is held in a large, refrigerated truck and cars line up to receive a box of food filled with fresh produce, dairy products and other goods.

5. The Food Insecure
Finally, from the food pantry and mobile distribution center, the gallons of milk end up in the hands of those in need, supplying the nine essential nutrients and helping round out a healthy diet. Today, approximately 1.9 million Michiganders are food insecure and with the current economic climate, the number is predicted to continue to grow. MMPA, FBCM and Michigan Dairy are committed to continue fighting hunger and providing dairy to those in need.

This article was originally published in the May/June 2022 issue of the Milk MessengerSubscribe »

Adam and Charlie Freis

Local, District: U.P. West Central Local, District 4
Number of Milk Cows: 230
Total Acres Operated: 500

Adam and Charlie are the definition of a true team. On their family’s farm, Freis Dairy LLC, Adam milks, feeds and does the field work, while Charlie cares for the calves, manages the breeding program and is responsible for the herd’s health. Together, they’re also raising six-year-old Rylyn who loves every part of the dairy farm! Adam and Charlie are high achievers with both of them receiving Menominee County Farm Bureau Young Farmer Achievement Awards.


Q: What’s your favorite season on the farm? Why?
Adam: Spring. Who doesn’t like chisel plowing?
Charlie: Summer because everything is easier when it’s warm.

Q: What do you love about being a farmer?
Adam: Everything but the bills.
Charlie: The lifestyle.

Q: Ultimate cow? Sired by who? Average production?
Adam: Any HoJo sired by an excellent JUI bull. Production… infinite.
Charlie: 189 sired by Lazarith. Peak production at 127 lbs.

Q: Why do you milk cows?
Charlie: It all started from a hobby.

Q: Farm management style in three words.
Adam: Work in progress

Q: If you were given $1 million dollars to invest in your farm, what would you do with it?
Adam and Charlie: Pay it off

Q: What are you known for on the farm?
Adam: Muscle. My wife’s the brain.

On their farm:

If you visit their farm in the western U.P., you’ll directly see the impact of Adam and Charlie’s forward-thinking nature. They recognize the challenges facing the dairy industry today and are proactively managing potential risks by breeding the majority of their herd to A2A2 sires in the event that the A2 milk market reaches them. In the future, they’d like to grow their farm and build a heifer facility.

This article was originally published in the May/June 2022 issue of the Milk MessengerSubscribe »

Life rarely follows a linear path. It often seems more like an approach with three steps forward and one step backwards that ends up with you leaving a zigzagging trail behind you. Regardless of the path though, the moments where you change direction are pivotal, and for Cheri Chapin, the recipient of the Excellence in Dairy Promotion award presented by the United Dairy Industry of Michigan, those moments changed her entire life.

“I was raised in the Detroit area. My brother and I both went up to Michigan State University for college and it ended up that my brother and Doug were thrown together as roommates,” Chapin said about meeting her now husband, Doug Chapin, a dairy farmer. “That’s how I met Doug. I never would have met a farmer otherwise. That doesn’t happen in the college of business.”

And now here she is, an owner of Chapin Family Farms in Remus, Michigan. Together, along with her husband and current MMPA Board Chairman, Doug Chapin; her son, Sam; and her daughter-in-law, Micah, they milk over 700 cows in a double-18 parlor.

“Who would have thought I’d end up on a dairy farm?” Chapin said. “Honestly even in my wildest dreams, I never would’ve thought.”

A Dream Unimagined

Chapin’s original plans with her business degree were to go into travel, either becoming an interpreter or a travel agent. Now, she’s utilizing that passion to promote dairy on international missions.

“Now I get to travel as much I want to,” Chapin said. “When I was on the National Dairy Board, I got to go to Tokyo and Hong Kong on a dairy mission trip. We were promoting American cheese.”

The mission trips are filled with receptions with key stakeholders, visits to markets that promote dairy products, and trips to area culinary schools. For Chapin, the trip was “six days of non-stop” promoting. “We’d start first thing in the morning and go until whatever reception or dinner was in the evening. It was great.”

“Hong Kong was really cool because that’s the kind of place where I never thought I’d go,” Chapin said. “We went to the top of this huge skyscraper and to look out and see nothing but people and realize how dense their population is, it was very overwhelming to think of how many people they have to feed and how American dairy can be a part of that.”

For Chapin though, her initial interest in promoting dairy and seeing it as a solution to markets hungry for dairy, like what she experienced in Hong Kong, began on her own farm with MMPA’s Dairy Communicator program.

The World of Dairy Promotion

“Doug was an officer for the Alma Local and they had to put someone’s name down on the ballot as Dairy Communicator,” Chapin said. “They wanted to add one more name, so he said, ‘I put your name down.’ And I said, ‘Oh really? What do I have to do?’”
From there, Chapin jumped headfirst into the world of dairy promotion, realizing that she had the background to make a significant difference.

“Because I didn’t have a farm background, I was aware of misconceptions that the general public has, and I thought it was important that we get the right story out,” Chapin said. “I knew what people wanted to know. I knew what kind of questions they had. For example, how many teats does a cow have? Do they all have the same? You know, it sounds like a stupid question, but it’s not. There are no dumb questions.”
Seeing things through consumers’ eyes, Chapin and her sister-in-law began working with schools to do farm tours.

Her sister-in-law would do an ag in the classroom presentation and then Chapin would help her conduct the farm tour.

“We formulated our own stations for the farm tours,” Chapin said. “We had a show cow that we’d bring out so the kids could come up close and touch, we’d have cows in the parlor so that they could actually strip a cow out, and then at the end of the tour everybody got an ice cream bar.”

Their farm tours made a lasting difference in their community. “I’ll talk to people who are adults with their own kids now and say, I still remember going to your farm when I was a kid,” Chapin said. Her promotion work extends beyond farm tours as well, including donating milk to local 5Ks, organizing grocery store dairy sampling and more.

A Story to Tell

For Chapin, every moment can be used to promote dairy. When Chapin Family Farm was hit with a tornado last summer that destroyed a barn and injured animals, she used the commotion from the press to make lasting relationships with news reporters. Those relationships have since made her their contact of choice when it comes to any dairy related stories, and she ensured that she invited them back out after the barn was rebuilt to help share a positive story about dairy, showcasing recovery from the natural disaster and a dairy farm doing what they do best, caring for animals in the best way possible.

While media attention is something that most farmers shy away from, Chapin embraced it. She went from someone who knew nearly nothing about dairy when she first married Doug, to now promoting it around the world. Her success and aptitude for promoting dairy, wouldn’t have been possible without relying on the advice she had received from others over the years.

Cheri Chapin (center) with Sharon Toth, past CEO of United Dairy Industry of Michigan (left) and Corby Werth, UDIM president (right).

“I was told right from the get-go, if you ever have a question that you don’t know the answer to, you say, ‘I can’t answer that, but I can find it out for you. Let me get your name and number and I will call the right people.’” Chapin said about the advice she received in the Dairy Diplomat program, a former UDIM program that served as a local outreach arm. “I’ve relied on that a lot of times. I’ve done some research for people when I haven’t known an answer.”

Chapin’s willingness to learn and share what she’s learned with consumers is what earned her the Excellence in Dairy Promotion award announced from the United Dairy Industry of Michigan during the Great Lakes Regional Dairy Conference in early 2022.

“I enjoy it when I can share information that really surprises people. When you can tell them a fact about dairy and they say, ‘Really? I did not know that.” Chapin said. “That makes it all worthwhile. Dairy has a great story, we just have to share it.”

This article was originally published in the May/June 2022 issue of the Milk MessengerSubscribe »

As long-time members of MMPA, 35- and 50-year members’ experiences overcoming the changes in markets, regulations and leadership within the industry over the past many years serve as evidence that moving forward is possible. The knowledge and wisdom that they share within their community ensures the success of the dairy industry and MMPA for many years to come. Our cooperative wouldn’t be the same today without their presence and leadership. Thank you, 35- and 50-year members for your dedication and service to MMPA.

35 Year Members:

  • Everett William Bone
  • Duane G Cumper
  • John W Cumper
  • Brian Eldred
  • Jack D Fisk
  • Martin C Fox
  • Fred Heinze
  • James A Huggett
  • Peter Kurncz
  • Bruce Litwiller
  • Jane Sias Mamarrow
  • Michael J Rasmussen
  • Gary Schultz
  • Iris R Stout
  • Carol Baker
  • David Klamer
  • Edward Adamic

50 Year Members:

  • Richard Fettig
  • Wayne Hecksel
  • Richard Heyboer
  • Donald Judge
  • Kenneth Van Polen


Donald Judge

Hometown: Shepherd, Michigan
Contract Date: March 1972
Number of Generations on the Farm: 4
Milking Herd Size: 475

How was your farm started?
My dad bought it in 1936. He milked 13 cows by hand for the first two or three years and then got a milk machine and it grew from there.

What do you enjoy most about being a dairy farmer?
The cows and calves.

Where do you think the future of the industry is heading?
Well, it’s pretty decent. It’s a lot of up and down stuff all the time.

How has MMPA helped your farm succeed?
Got a good market for our milk.

What words of wisdom would you like to share with fellow members?
Just keep up the good work.


Dick Fettig

Hometown: Petoskey, Michigan
Contract Date: February 1972
Number of Generations on the Farm: 3
Milking Herd Size: 200

How was your farm started?
My dad started it with a stall barn milking about 30 cows in the 50s.

Where do you think the future of the industry is heading?
Looks like it’s getting bigger and bigger farms.

How has MMPA helped your farm succeed?
The milk truck is there every other day! For a long time, I had a 1,300-gallon tank and I filled it and they came every day for 30 years. I just put a new tank in.

What’s made you remain an MMPA member for so long?
Well I’ve been a delegate for the last 25 years.

What words of wisdom would you like to share with fellow members?
I would say take care of the younger ones because they are the generation that’s coming up. Pass the farms on if you can.

This article was originally published in the May/June 2022 issue of the Milk MessengerSubscribe »