Seizing opportunity pays offSeizing opportunity pays off

June 1, 2011

When John and Kelly VanGundy see an opportunity, they take advantage of it. Whether it is something new for their dairy, community or Cooperative, if it is a good idea, they will use it.

Four years ago, John was working as a production supervisor at Kalmbach Swine Management, which he still does, and also as a relief milker for Sylvia Zimmerman, a former Dairy Farmers of America, Inc. member. When Zimmerman decided to stop milking, the VanGundys saw an opportunity to step in.

“It eventually grew to the point that we had half of the herd,” Kelly says. “When she decided she was ready to retire, we bought her part of the herd out completely.”

John and Kelly are now first-generation dairy farmers and milk 50 Jersey cows at VanGundy Family Dairy in Prospect, Ohio. One year before the VanGundys took over the operation, a field representative dropped off a flyer about DFA’s Young Cooperator (YC) program. The VanGundys saw another good opportunity.

“The Mideast Area YC Conference kind of got us intrigued and excited,” Kelly says. “The information that we have been able to obtain as YCs has really helped John and I focus on where we want to go. We are so happy we got involved.”

To say the VanGundys are involved is an understatement. Both John and Kelly work jobs off of the dairy; they also serve on the Mideast Area YC Advisory Council, attend various industry-wide conferences and have participated as YC liaisons for the Mideast Area Council. They say the positive impact from their experiences is worth their sometimes hectic schedules.

“Just being involved makes you feel like a valued part of the Cooperative,” Kelly says. “Serving as YC liaisons for the Mideast Area Council was really beneficial, because the market had just plummeted and seeing how DFA worked for us was really helpful. I can honestly say there were moments when we were wondering whether we would hang on, and the encouragement the Cooperative gave to us is the reason we stuck with it.”

Beyond the Cooperative, the VanGundys are actively involved in their community. They volunteered with the BackSnack Program at Harvesters Community Food Network Volunteer Outreach Center in Kansas City, Mo., as a part of their DFA Annual Meeting experience in March. As soon as they returned home, they started working on implementing a similar program at Community Christian Fellowship food pantry in Prospect, Ohio.

The program is scheduled to run every Friday starting in September at Elgin South Elementary where it will provide nutritious meals to 140 underprivileged students.

Kelly also assisted in starting a Clothing Closet at her church, where donated clothes are displayed once a month. Families in need can take the clothes at no cost. This is just one of the many ideas the VanGundys have brought into their community.

“We try very hard at our church to have a big amount of community involvement and outreach. People probably look at us as more of a mission,” Kelly says. “You can’t be proud of your community or have a quality community if you don’t have people in it who care.”

The VanGundys care about their operation, community and Cooperative. And they care enough to act.

“I know everybody is different with their level of involvement,” Kelly says. “John and I are thankful for our opportunities to get involved in leadership, but at the same time we have been willing to get involved.”