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Foundation Watch: Have a great idea? Look to Dairy’s Foundation to help build the future of dairy

Contributed by Janet Keller Published on 20 September 2021
Dairy's Foundation in 2020 award

We’ve all been there. You have an idea – one that’ll boost professionalism in our industry, help producers improve their operations or strengthen connections with consumers.

The idea came to you in the milking parlor, on a tractor or in conversations with other dairy farmers at a meeting. Perhaps you’ve even shared your idea with other producers or local organizations and you want to take the next steps to make it a reality. But how do you pay for it?



For nearly 20 years, Professional Dairy Producers Foundation, also known as Dairy’s Foundation, has worked with groups across the country to bring your great ideas to life. From on-site field days, producer workshops and calving centers staged at widely attended consumer events to educational videos and farm-couple getaways, our financial grants support dairy initiatives and organizations seeking to fill gaps in the industry. By developing programs that build producer professionalism and reinforce public trust, Dairy’s Foundation educates and engages the dairy community and the public on common ground.

Dairy’s Foundation is unique because it is funded primarily by dairy producers for dairy producers while also receiving support from out-of-industry stakeholders and allied industry members. Collectively, those who are passionate about dairy help make impactful projects happen for the good of current and future generations. Committed to the future of our industry, our farms and our families, foundation donors understand the importance of raising up the next generation of professional dairy producers, growing and maintaining public trust in dairy’s people and products, and building the skills of our dairy producers. And they’re willing to invest in programs that accomplish those goals all around the country.

“About 65 percent of the foundation’s funding comes from dairy producers, so our primary goal is to ensure those gifts are used wisely in support of producer-driven education initiatives, both locally and nationally,” says John Kappelman, board chairman of Dairy’s Foundation. “We serve all dairy stakeholders, from farmer to consumer, as well as the local communities that are home to our dairy farms, plants and retailers.”

To highlight the diversity of programs Dairy’s Foundation has supported over the years, here’s a look at a few of the grants awarded in 2020:

• The Center for Dairy Excellence Foundation was awarded a grant to create an activity for STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) Day at the Calving Corner at the Pennsylvania Farm Show in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Conducted virtually in 2020, three interactive educational STEM experiments were held throughout the week. More than 475 STEM kits were sent to Pennsylvania educators to create distance-learning opportunities for over 6,250 students. In addition to a bookmark listing dairy facts, each kit included the book Milk: From Cow to Carton by Aliki. Many classrooms received an additional book: either Out and About at the Dairy Farm or Louis Pasteur and Pasteurization. This grant is just one example of how Dairy’s Foundation educates urban students about the dairy industry.


“Building and fostering positive relationships with consumers is our ongoing goal,” says Miriam Kelly Miller, project manager of The Calving Corner. “Thanks to the incredible support of the Professional Dairy Producers Foundation, we have developed dairy-based educational and interactive learning opportunities to enrich the impact of the Calving Corner in Pennsylvania. Creating an event that encourages dairy personnel and the public to interact in an open and respectful manner is wonderful.”

Dairy Strong Sustainability Alliance received funding in 2020-21 for a pilot milkshed project with the Lafayette Ag Stewardship Alliance and other partners. The project focuses on creating and applying a replicable framework for establishing sustainability projects. The funding enabled the group to create an easy-to-use handbook for documenting conservation impacts, assessments of on-farm metrics to help farmers determine what is most useful for their operation and how to use available sustainability assessment tools and financial analysis. The project applied the framework with 12 farms of the Lafayette Ag Stewardship Alliance to demonstrate efficacy and impact; it was the first one to be implemented as part of U.S. Dairy’s Net Zero Initiative, under the “Collective Impact” pillar being directed by the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy and Dairy Management Inc.

The Wisconsin Livestock Identification Consortium was granted funding to create a video for livestock producers and consumers that communicates the importance of premises registration and individual animal identification as well as examples of how traceability will bring added product value to producers while also boosting consumer confidence. The 11-minute video launched during the COVID-19 pandemic – an auspicious time to address consumer questions about animal diseases, their transmission and potential impacts on the food supply.

Since 2010, Dairy’s Foundation has awarded $288,000 in grants to organizations around the country.

Aside from the programming and stakeholders it supports, another attribute that sets the foundation apart is our application process for grants. Our goal is to make great ideas a reality without creating time-consuming work that generates heaps of paperwork. Grant proposal applications should outline the description of the submitting organization, describe the perceived industry need and outline how the proposed program will address the need. The applicant should also describe its capacity to facilitate the proposed program and include a timeline and budget. Other details and a grant application guide can be found at Click on “Grant Seekers” for full information.

Up to $5,000 per grant will be awarded to selected applicants twice a year – June 1 and Dec. 1. Applying organizations must be nonprofit, and the application must propose to meet a dairy industry need not already being met by another program or group. end mark


PHOTO: Dairy’s Foundation in 2020 awarded a grant to the Wisconsin Livestock Identification Consortium (WLIC) to highlight the importance of premises registration and individual animal identification. Released during the COVID-19 pandemic, the 11-minute video shares examples of how this work serves producers, veterinarians and consumers across the dairy cattle, goat and pork industries. Courtesy image.

Janet Keller
  • Janet Keller

  • Executive Director
  • Professional Dairy Producers Foundation