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Foundation Watch: Dairy’s foundation continues to impact dairy community

Contributed by Janet Keller Published on 18 October 2019

America’s dairy producers are an important part of our rural communities and local economies. Dairy producers established the Professional Dairy Producers Foundation, an educational foundation, in 2002 to ensure our family dairy farms remain viable and socially responsible for generations to come.

The following is an overview of the foundation’s recent activities and impact.

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Dairy producers saw the need to take control of their own destinies on issues that affect their livelihood, their families and their communities. The Professional Dairy Producers Foundation (PDPF) was established by Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin in 2002 as a vehicle to raise funds and award grants for educational programs and initiatives. The foundation is a charitable, 501(c)(3) organization.

A review of the 2018-19 fiscal year shows the foundation currently relies on six major pools of support. Dairy producers continue to be the leading driver by providing the majority of the monies through Two Cents for Tomorrow, a voluntary milk assignment. The I Believe campaign, which connects individuals and industry to the foundation, provided a substantial portion of support.

The silent auction, the annual fun event held each spring at the PDPW annual business conference, raised more than 8 percent of the total income. Incoming grants awarded to PDPF provided a needed infusion of funding for three programs. Memorials and honorariums were also received at the foundation. Thanks to the generous gifts from producers, industry partners and individuals, the total revenue increased more than 10 percent during the last fiscal year.

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The foundation’s impact reaches across the U.S. to fill gaps in needed funding for education and is key to healthy and vibrant dairy communities. The organization supports programs, sponsorships and grants consistent with the foundation’s strategic vision.

During the last year, the foundation sponsored the PDPW Cornerstone Academy that enhances professionalism, communication and leadership skills needed for success in a 21st century workplace. Last year’s Cornerstone Academy impacted 76 young dairy leaders. The PDPF also sponsors the PDPW mentor program that connects young aspiring dairy students with established dairy producers for on-farm dairy career awareness. PDPF was a major supporter for the 2019 PDPW Youth Leadership Derby designed to create leadership and dairy education to high school students. Additional PDPW program support by the foundation included visible voice training, food and policy summit, water tours, financial literacy and ACE twilight meetings.

The other method the PDPF uses to support the dairy community is through the awarding of grants twice each year. The foundation supports programs consistent with our strategic vision of a professional, proactive and prepared dairy community. The foundation focuses on three key areas: raising up the next generation of dairy producers, growing and maintaining public trust in our people and products, and building the skills of our dairy producers. The strategy is to fill funding and networking gaps and to help launch new initiatives where possible.

During the last year, seven PDPF grants were awarded from as far away as Pennsylvania, Iowa and North Carolina. One grant supported The Calving Corner through the Center for Dairy Excellence, Pennsylvania. Another grant, for a Farm Safety for Children video, was awarded to CESA 7, Wisconsin. The Iowa State University Extension and Outreach held a Boots in the Barn skill event for dairywomen and a farm couple get-away with the assistance of PDPF grants. And the North Carolina Association for Dairy Stabilization & Growth held an on-farm processing symposium, supported by the foundation. Kiel FFA Alumni hosted an Agricultural Career Awareness Day. The final grant was awarded to Madison County Cornell University Extension to conduct training with regional law enforcement agencies through the Empowering Law Enforcement Animal Welfare program.

PDPF has also provided partnership funding to the University of Wisconsin for a Wisconsin dairy farming research project. The organization has a deep history of working alongside academia for the benefit of the dairy community.

Grant awards up to $5,000 are available through the competitive selection process and are selected by a committee of professional dairy producers and industry partners. The PDPF Grants application details and applications are available on the dairyfoundation.org website. Dairy groups are invited to submit applications for the next period, which are due Dec. 1, 2019.

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The continuing challenge moving into the future will be to broaden the PDPF network and engage additional dairy producers and industry friends. At a recent foundation board meeting, the question was asked, “What should be the annual fundraising goal of the PDPF?” Perhaps a more important question is: “What initiatives and projects could PDPF support, and what funds will be needed into the future?”

The PDPF mission is to share ideas, resources and experiences about important issues surrounding the dairy industry through educational opportunities for dairy producers and the public. The vision is a professional, proactive and prepared dairy community, united through educational initiatives. We serve all dairy stakeholders, from farm to consumer, including local communities that are home to our dairy farms, plants and retailers. PDPF is committed to uniting the dairy community on issues of common concern in order to achieve our vision.

America’s dairy farmers are dedicated to providing safe, high-quality milk and dairy products. Our commitment to quality also means caring for our animals, land and people. Investing in the future of the dairy community through producer-led initiatives will create a lasting legacy.  end mark

Janet Keller is the executive director of Professional Dairy Producers Foundation.

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