2016 Members of Distinction

March 22, 2016

Dairy Farmers of America’s Members of Distinction program honors members who embody the Cooperative’s core values and excel on their operations, in their communities and in the industry. Each year, one member farm from each of DFA’s seven regional Areas is honored during the Annual Banquet at DFA’s Annual Meeting. The 2016 Members of Distinction are:

Central Area
Hanke family, Hanke Farms Inc. — Sheboygan Falls, Wis.
Founded in 1919, twin brothers Jack and Jim Hanke have persevered through disasters including a massive silo collapse, personal tragedy, a barn fire and a changing dairy industry to build a thriving, family and community-centered business. Together with Jack’s wife, Dorene, and Jim’s wife, Bonnie, the Hanke family milks 800 Holsteins and grow corn, alfalfa, wheat and soybeans on their 875-acre farm. With their grown children now also involved in the dairy, Hanke Farms has helped keep the family together, even in the most difficult times.

Mideast Area
Thomas family, Thomas Farms of Stark County — Louisville, Ohio
Mark Thomas has lived most of his life in the fast lane. He spent 25 years on the International Hot Rod Association (IHRA) circuit, where he was a seven-time IHRA Funny Car champion. All the while, he was also his father’s partner on their 400-cow dairy farm. Mark now runs the farm with his wife, Chris, where duplicating the team atmosphere that led to Mark’s successful racing career now ensures the dairy’s herd is well cared for and producing the highest-quality milk possible.

Mountain Area
Ketterling family, TLK Dairy — Mountain Home, Idaho
Terry Ketterling had a vision of a vertically integrated farm – where he would grow the crops that fed the cows that make the milk that was sold to then be used to feed families. Starting with a 700-cow dairy farm, Ketterling’s farm now milks 10,500 cows between three barns, growing wheat and alfalfa that goes back to the dairy to feed the herd. Working alongside his wife, Linda, their son, Tony, and their daughter, Launa Fowler, and their 150 employees, Terry is focused on keeping his operation sustainable for future generations.

Northeast Area
Robbins family, North Harbor Dairy — Sackets Harbor, N.Y.
For three generations, North Harbor Dairy was a 100-cow dairy. But as the industry, communications and consumers have changed, the dairy has also evolved. Today, Ron and Nancy Robbins milk 1,000 cows in addition to operating a milk and grain hauling business and an agri-tourism business called Old McDonald’s Farm. They also farm 7,000 acres of corn, soybean, wheat, alfalfa, grass and hay. They use social media to bring consumers to Old McDonald’s Farm where they help rebuild the connection between people and food, featuring 250 animals and dairy farm tours, among many other attractions.

Southeast Area
Coble family, Harmony Grove Dairy — Waynesboro, Ga.
Edward Coble dreamed of owning a dairy with 125 cows. Yet as opportunities presented themselves to grow operations and make room for the family’s future generations, Coble took advantage and doubled his herd size not once, but twice. Today, he and his wife, Lana, and sons James and Joel, now milk 2,500 cows. The family credits strong relationships with their employees among the reasons why the dairy consistently has high production and strong milk quality.

Southwest Area
Wolf family, Scot-Tex Dairy — Scotland, Texas
Keeping cows healthy and comfortable is a priority for Frank Wolf, who purchased the dairy he grew up on from his father in 1990. Along with his wife, Joyce, Frank milks 130 cows, and has a beef herd of 100 cows and farms 500 acres of wheat. Growing up showing registered Holsteins, Frank still breeds his herd for longevity, among other attributes. To accomplish longevity, the dairy pays close attention to nutrition, cleanliness and milking procedures, grazing the herd as much as possible.

Western Area
Alderson family, Alderson Family Dairy — Gerber, Calif.
Running a sustainable, environmentally responsible operation has always been a priority for the Alderson family. It all began with Mark Alderson’s father, Raymond, who began the family dairy with 25 cows grazing on the property’s rich forage. Today, 250 cows graze on the farm’s 250 acres under Mark’s watchful eye. Growing up, Mark worked as a relief milker for 22 neighboring dairies, giving him the know-how to join the family business alongside his father when Mark was just 17. Today, he and his wife, Brenda, and their son, Ben, milk their herd on two dairies and remain passionate about grazing and the health and comfort of their animals.