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Progressive Events: Pennsylvania Dairy Summit inspires collaboration, communication and sustainability

Emily Barge for Progressive Dairy Published on 11 March 2020
Pennsylvania Dairy Summit

More than 400 dairy producers and indutry professionals reignited their commitment to dairy at the 2020 Pennsylvania Dairy Summit in State College, Pennsylvania, on Feb. 5-6.

With four keynote sessions and more than 15 in-depth breakout sessions, attendees learned how to successfully serve consumers and maintain profitability using proven techniques from experts across the industry.

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Influencing consumers

Ty Bennett

During the first keynote session, Ty Bennett, founder of Leadership Inc., opened the event by empowering the audience to lead through storytelling. Bennett’s communication techniques have helped professionals from all industries control the narrative, inspire their audiences, combat negativity by sharing positive stories and build credibility.

“Stories are the most influential form of communication because they bring emotion into the experience. If we want to be influential and move people to action, we need to communicate with emotion. Stories are one of the best ways to do that,” Bennett shared.

Bennett reminded dairy professionals to focus on their audience and ask themselves questions such as, “How can you add value?” or “How can you inspire consumers?” Attendees learned how to find balance and find their voices when communicating with consumers. This includes being open about the industry’s challenges while framing a positive vision for the future.

“A real story requires vulnerability and reality. It requires us to talk about our struggles and then the solutions. We want to see the transformational process,” Bennett explained. “Solution doesn’t have to be positional – it can be directional. Explain the struggles and where you’re going. It’s how you cast a vision.”

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Dave McCarty

In the Dairy Business Showcase, Dave McCarty from McCarty Family Farms LLC described one of the farm’s new initiatives that allows them to breathe new life into storytelling.

With four brothers, five dairy farms, 200 team members, 3,200 acres and 22,000 cows, the McCarty family has experienced significant growth over the last 20 years, including a partnership with one of the nation’s leading yogurt companies, Dannon. The partnership has allowed the McCartys to establish a cost-plus pricing structure for their milk, which has enabled them to expand to four dairy farm locations and one processing facility within the Kansas and Ohio regions.

In 2019, after partnering with another multigeneration farm family, the VanTilburgs, they formed MVP Dairy LLC and opened a Dairy Learning Center. To illustrate the process of dairy production and processing, the center includes 15,000 square feet of interactive displays to share their story.

“How do we show people what we do, what we care about, and what’s important to us? The Learning Center exemplifies all of that. Our ultimate goal is to share the story of what the farmer does, from the soil to the cow to our final end product: the cup of yogurt,” McCarty shared.

Through the Dairy Learning Center, MVP Dairy has leveraged storytelling to be a voice for the entire dairy community and help change consumers’ perceptions.

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Raising the bar in sustainability

At Fair Oaks Farms in Fair Oaks, Indiana, their focus has been on increasing sustainability through packaging, production and farming. During her keynote session at the Pennsylvania Dairy Summit, Sue McCloskey discussed how the next step for dairy innovation is the Net Zero initiative. Net Zero is a partnership of dairy cooperatives collaborating with different technologies to help dairy producers and processors eventually achieve a zero carbon footprint.

Sue McCloskey

“There is a collection of different technologies that we’re supporting in order to help dairy farmers and processors become net zero,” McCloskey said. “That’s what we have to chase. It’s the future of innovation for our industry. We are driving innovation into lowering greenhouse gas emissions.”

McCloskey predicted that the future of dairy in the U.S. includes helping to feed 10 billion people, a 20% national herd size decrease, a 60% increase in national annual milk production, a more than 80% decrease in carbon footprint and clean waterways.

McCarty also reinforced the importance of water conservation during his session. With a deep commitment to animal welfare, environmental stewardship and a holistic approach to sustainability, he shared how they have conserved 25% to 30% of water on acres where they have used soil moisture probes.

He also gave a glimpse inside their state-of-the-art processing plant and described the impacts it has made on the environment.

“The environmental impact we can make through our processing plant has been huge,” McCarty said. “In our condensing plant, we have had 20.7 million gallons of water for reuse on our Rexford farm. We have also removed 75 percent of the trucks that would take the raw milk to processing facilities.”

Building strong partnerships

In addition to innovation, sustainability and storytelling, the Dairy Summit speakers encouraged the audience to identify areas where partnerships can help fuel new solutions.

McCloskey described the process of developing fairlife, a new dairy product that aligns with consumer trends, including high protein, low sugar and full fat. Despite developing a differentiated proposition that delivered what consumers wanted, McCloskey reflected on the challenges they faced with distribution. That’s where their partnership with Coca-Cola made a real impact on the success of the product and the dairy industry as a whole.

“One of the most iconic companies in the world being invested in milk is a good thing for us as an industry,” McCloskey shared. “It says the real business people understand there is still room for innovation in milk.”

McCarty also highlighted the importance of strong partnerships. While the McCartys’ partnership with the VanTilburgs to form MVP Dairy has been a learning curve, he said the benefits have outweighed the challenges. From understanding the permitting process and environmental impacts, along with making the necessary investments into their new facilities, McCarty said having partners was a necessity.

“For us individually, it was very new to have a partnership. We had always been a farm family,” he said. “The investment to some of these facilities was hard to do on our own. We had to have partners. Fortunately, we have found like-minded people. Their interests are our interests.”

With an atmosphere of positivity and rejuvenation, the 2020 PA Dairy Summit helped dairy professionals come together to capture their stories, innovate to meet changing demands, and achieve successful and sustainable growth.  end mark

PHOTO 1: More than 400 dairy producers and industry professionals attended the 2020 Pennsylvania Dairy Summit in State College, Pennsylvania, on Feb. 5-6.

PHOTO 2: Ty Bennett, founder of Leadership Inc., empowered the crowd to positively influence consumers through storytelling.

PHOTO 3: Dave McCarty of McCarty Family Farms LLC and MVP Dairy led the Dairy Business Showcase and discussed MVP’s new Dairy Learning Center.

PHOTO 4: Sue McCloskey, creative director at Fair Oaks Farm, shared how her operation is raising the bar in sustainability. Photos courtesy Center for Dairy Excellence.

Emily Barge is the communications and marketing manager for Pennsylvania’s Center for Dairy Excellence.

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