2012 Members of Distinction Named at DFA Annual Meeting

March 21, 2012

Dairy Farmers of America, Inc.’s (DFA) members inspired the Cooperative’s core values – integrity, innovation, passion, accountability, quality and community – and live by them every day. The Members of Distinction program honors members who embody these values, excelling on their operations, in their communities and in the industry.

Each year, seven exceptional dairy farm families from across the nation are honored during the Annual Banquet at DFA’s Annual Meeting. These producers, one family from each of DFA’s seven regional Areas, inspire through their through vision, dedication and drive.

The 2012 Members of Distinction are:

Central Area
Miller Family, Miller Dairy – Hutchinson, Kan.
Fourth-generation dairy farmers Orville and Mary Jane Miller take pride in finding ways to give back to their community. Since 2006, the family has hired paroled inmates from surrounding prisons to work on the farm. Over the years, their employees have become more than just workers – they have become family. The Millers credit much of their success and more than 25 years in the industry to their faith and family. The couple’s youngest son, Brian, recently returned to the farm to follow in his parents’ footsteps.

Mideast Area
Colson Family, Alpine Hills Swiss Farm – Dry Ridge, Ky.
To help educate consumers about the benefits of milk, Dean and Debbie Colson, along with their children Melissa, Daniel and Matt and daughter-in-law Shelley, began hosting farm tours in 2010. Last year they welcomed more than 2,000 visitors to their dairy. The tours are designed to give guests a positive experience on a real family farm and a firsthand look at modern agriculture. The Colsons enjoy talking with consumers about their commitment to their animals, the environment and their dedication to producing safe, quality milk.

Mountain Area
Morgan Family, Morgan Ranches – Circleville, Utah
After expanding gradually from eight cows to 2,300 over the course of more than 60 years, the Morgan family is continuously progressing. Their most recent expansion came in 2008 when they built their current operation, Morgan Ranches, in Circleville, Utah. Paul Morgan and his sons, McKay, Lynn and Marty, designed and built the facility themselves, taking an unconventional approach for their area by choosing to install a 60-cow rotary parlor and cross-vent barn.

Northeast Area
Bell Family, R.A. Bell & Sons Dairy – Hampstead, Md.
When Ryan and Ruth Bell bought R.A. Bell & Sons Dairy in 2008, they had no idea what was to come. After the price drop of 2009, the family, including sons Ross and Robbie, stuck together to not only survive the down price cycle, but actually improve their herd’s performance. By focusing on cow comfort and nutrition, the family increased production and milk quality.

Southeast Area
Fletcher Family, Edgewood Dairy – Purdy, Mo.
Charles Fletcher was one of the first dairymen in Missouri to convert his family’s conventional dairy to the New Zealand grazing platform in 2007. By monitoring the farm’s forages, Charles, along with his wife, Melissa, and children Tyler and Mikala, doubled their herd size and cut the herd’s feed and veterinary costs by half. The Fletchers are passionate about sharing their success of management-intensive grazing with others on and off the farm. Each year, hundreds of producers visit their operation to view one of the most productive and profitable Ozark grazing dairies.

Southwest Area
Hanson Family, El Dorado Dairy – Clovis, N.M.
When designing their dairy in Clovis, N.M., Steve Hanson, along with his sons, Derrell, Darren and Devin, paid careful attention to the effect the barn and parlor would have on cow comfort and employees’ work environment. The result is an engaging place to work for employees and higher quality milk from their herd. The family, including Steve’s wife, Cheri, is active in the industry and give back to an orphanage in Juarez, Mexico, by making regular trips with food, supplies and cash donations.

Western Area
Bylsma Family, W&J Bylsma Dairy – Oakdale, Calif.
A pioneer in the field of cross-breeding, Willie Bylsma has been using innovation throughout his 42-year dairy career to grow his operation and mentor young dairy producers. One of the first in his area to experiment with cross-breeding, Bylsma now welcomes other producers onto his operations in Oakdale, Calif., to show them firsthand how he is achieving improved health and higher quality milk from his herd. Bylsma credits his farms’ success to the support of his family — his wife, Jolene, sons Wes and Brian, and daughters Colleen and Laura.