Center honors leaders with Pacesetter Award

The Center for Dairy Excellence presented three Pacesetter Awards at the Pennsylvania Dairy Summit today in State College. The awards were presented to N. Sally and Alan Bair of Columbia, Lehigh Valley Dairy Farms of Lansdale and Kurtland Farms of Elverson.

The Pacesetter Award recognizes individuals or organizations that work to build a positive image of the Pennsylvania dairy industry to create a prosperous, marketable future for producers and supporting industries. The awards were presented by center board members Gary Heckman and Jennifer Heltzel.

N. Alan and Sally Bair have been long-time advocates and leaders within the dairy industry. Their latest accomplishment is a three-year project for the Pennsylvania Holstein Association that resulted in the 252-page history book entitled “Cows, Farms and Families – 100 Years of the Pennsylvania Holstein Association.”

According to Ken Raney, executive director of the Holstein Association, the book would not have happened if it were not for Alan and Sally’s leadership and commitment to the project. “It was their understanding of the dairy industry, their ability to work with a diverse group of people, and their complimentary talents that enabled them to capture in words and pictures 100 years of Pennsylvania Holstein history,” he said.

Sally Brown Bair was raised on a Holstein dairy farm in Adams County and served as press secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture before being named as chief of staff for Pennsylvania’s First Ladies Michele Ridge and Kathry Schweiker. Currently, Sally continues her passion for writing as a freelance writer, working primarily for the Penn State Department of Animal Sciences and a few other clients.

Since retiring as facilitator for the Pennsylvania Dairy Stakeholders, Alan has been active in agriculture development across the globe, working through the ACDI/VOCA organization and the CNFA, both  private, non-profit international development organizations. Alan has worked in Hungary, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Malawi, Mozambique and Uganda, working with farmers to teach the basic principles of working together through farmer associations and cooperatives.

The second Pacesetter Award winner was awarded to Lehigh Valley Dairy Farms.

This dairy based in Lansdale, Pa., began in 1922 as the Martin Century Farms. In addition to being the division headquarters, the Lansdale facility is home to a staff of more than 350 dedicated employees working together to provide top quality dairy products to a diverse customer base, including supermarket chains, general wholesalers, healthcare facilities, convenience stores, right on down to the corner stores in communities throughout the Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Virginia and West Virginia markets. 

Lehigh Valley Dairy Farms has a second processing facility in Schuylkill Haven, Pennsylvania, and distribution centers in Allentown, Harrington, Delaware, Springfield, Virginia, Hagerstown, Maryland, and Wildwood, New Jersey. In 1998, Lehigh Valley Dairy Farms became part of the Dean Foods Dairy Group, with the Lansdale location currently running as their third largest fluid dairy manufacturing facility nationwide. 

Frank Mariello, general manager at Lehigh, along with employees John Pierce, Paul McGee and their team, were instrumental in helping Giant Foods LLC create a store brand PA Preferred milk last year. The team worked closely with suppliers, cooperatives and many other stakeholders to make sure Giant was able to fulfill on their goal of offering the only store-brand PA Preferred milk available in Pennsylvania in their nearly 200 grocery stores. The Lehigh Valley Dairy team coordinated the process from procurement to the label design to helping with the press conference in June.

According to Bob Schupper, who nominated Lehigh for this award, the Lehigh example should serve as a model of how producers, processors and retailers can come together for a common goal.

The final Pacesetter Award was awarded Kurtland Dairy Farms. Kurtland Dairy Farms is owned and operated by Tim and Debra Kurtz and their family.  Kurtland Farms has been in the Kurtz family since 1920, with Tim serving as the third generation on the farm. In 1984, Tim and Debra Kurtz took over the farm from Tim’s father Calvin and purchased their first farm tract in 1996, purchasing adjacent properties in 2000 and 2011. In 1996, Tim and his wife Debra purchased their first farm tract from Tim’s father, purchasing adjacent properties in 2000 and 2011. Today, the farm consists of 425 Holstein milking cows, 300 heifers and more than 300 acres of farmland. The majority of the cows are milked in a newly-constructed robotic milking facility, while the remainder of the herd is milked on a satellite dairy on a neighboring farm.

In 2005, Tim and Debra took a hard look at their operation and knew something had to change. They recognized the need for outside resources and guidance, and so they underwent an intense business planning process which they say provided the ability to Dream, Team and Plan! As a result of that planning process, an expansion plan for Kurtland Farms began to take shape in 2010, and the Kurtz became as one of ten “Transformation Teams,” working with the Center for Dairy Excellence to chronicle their transformation process. As Tim says, working with the team brought clarity, collaboration and accountability to their expansion process.

Throughout their journey, the Kurtz family have kept an open mind to change and have readily adopted recommendations they received from their Transformation Team. They have also stayed focused on their dream and remained persistent despite significant challenges and set-backs along the way. That focus paid off when they moved into the robotic milking facility in late 2012 after three years of working through the planning process. The new facility also includes a manure separation system that allows the farm to recycle manure for bedding and to be more environmentally responsible.

For more information, contact Jayne Sebright at the center at 717-346-0849 or visit www.centerfordairyexcellence.org.