The Dairy Experience and Agricultural Leadership Program (DEAL) had its first meeting of 2022, where 13 out of the 15 DEAL members had the opportunity to meet in the Dairy Block of downtown Denver, CO, this past February. DEAL is an 18-month program that provides an opportunity for dairy farmers ages 40 and younger to gain a deeper understanding of the dairy checkoff, network with their peers and others in the industry, and learn valuable skills. This includes the training and tools to help them better engage with consumers and conduct media interviews so they can successfully tell their story. The 2022-2023 class was hand-selected from applications across the Midwest Dairy region, including participants from Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Kansas, Nebraska, and South Dakota.
The DEAL Program is made up of three phases with in-person meetings and local assignments like meeting their local leadership and being a part of consumer events. The first phase focused on diving into dairy checkoff and discovering each participant’s strengths and how to use them within and outside the industry successfully. The meeting kicked off by learning more about each person’s color personality and the characteristics and strengths of each color. Throughout the presentation, participants learned how to apply their color learning to leverage personal strengths, improve leadership and collaboration skills, and support their personal and professional well-being. By learning more about themselves, our DEAL class can have confidence in themselves and better leverage their industry knowledge with consumers and peers.
On the second day, Bob Lefebvre, Vice President of Ag Affairs for Midwest Dairy, led a discussion about Midwest Dairy’s history, mission, and strategic plan. We also heard from Bill Keating, Senior Director of Industry Image and Relations for Dairy MAX, who shared more about dairying in Colorado and Dairy MAX. It was interesting to hear more about what other regional checkoffs are doing and gain a better understanding of how our industry varies in other states. Later, Angela Tuxhorn, Senior Manager of Food Safety and Supply Assurance with Leprino Foods, provided a presentation about Leprino Foods, headquartered in Denver, CO. The group then ventured to Top Golf for an ice breaker activity during the afternoon. The group handled the single-digit weather with grace and had fun getting to know their new peers.
On the third and final day, two Dairy Management Inc (DMI) speakers joined our group. Kristiana Alexander, Director of Knowledge and Insights for DMI, dove into consumer insights. Highlights included explaining the impacts of changing U.S. demographics and household composition and consumer needs and trends relating to food, beverage, and nutrition. The group was also pleased to hear from Stan Erwine, Senior Vice President of Farmer Relations for DMI, as he spoke about the history and purpose of both dairy promotion and DMI. He also discussed DMI’s collaborative relationship with Midwest Dairy and how this relationship is so important to making the checkoff dollar go further. The group thoroughly enjoyed the content and conversations on this day and felt they better understood dairy checkoff.
DEAL members were asked to complete a survey following the first meeting, and Midwest Dairy is pleased that phase one received a 9 out of 10 rating. One farmer commented, “I really enjoyed getting to know the teachers and other class participants. The materials discussed were very educational. The energy from the group was also fun and I cannot wait to meet up again.” Midwest Dairy is excited for the new DEAL farmers we have joining the program this year and look forward, as many of those participants, to the many events happening in 2022.