2017 Members of Distinction

March 22, 2017

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 2017 Members of Distinction are:

Central Area
Haverkamp Family, Kelly Hills Dairy – Seneca, Kan.
Brian Haverkamp has never been happy with the status quo. Since 2002, Brian and his wife, Kristina, have grown the family dairy from 200 to 550 cows, with the addition of a new freestall barn, renovated milking parlor and flushing system. As they look to the future, the Haverkamps are working to grow their operation for the next generation. Along with his daughter and her husband, the Haverkamps are planning another expansion, with the hopes of expanding a freestall barn and adding additional technology, like a robotic milking system.

Mideast Area
Comp Family, Comp Dairy Farm – Dorset, Ohio
When Jim Comp returned home from the Army in 1957, he was greeted by two heifers, who were ready to calve. While it’s been a slow expansion over many years, today, Jim milks 1,200 cows with his son, Jerry, and granddaughter, Elisha Gozzard, who was also recently joined on the operation by her brother, Brice, and husband, Todd. The three-generation farm family credits their focus on cow care and high-quality milk as key reasons for the dairy’s success, as well as the dedication and commitment of many long-term employees.

Mountain Area
Burnett Family, Burnett Enterprises, Inc. – Carpenter, Wyo.
By relying on the family’s motto, ‘average goes broke,’ Jeff and Kim Burnett, along with Jeff’s brother, Jay and his wife, Lisa, have learned together to strive for excellence in running their operation. In 2004, the Burnett family started with a rented 200-cow operation. They have since expanded to milking 3,000 cows through the use of an innovative calf facility, an onsite feed mill that allows them to cut costs and more efficiently control rations and a separator that recycles manure as bedding for the freestall barns.

Northeast Area
Learned Family, Valley View Dairy – North Stonington, Conn.
Growing up on a farm, agriculture was always part of life for brothers Tim and Ben Learned. Yet, when the boys went to college, they pursued other careers, until a neighbor’s dairy farm came up for sale and the brothers decided to return to their family’s roots in agriculture. Starting with fewer than 10 cows, the brothers have expanded to milking 60 cows, while also making improvements such as expanding the freestall barn and purchasing new feed mixing equipment. In the future, Tim and Ben hope to explore purchasing a larger farm in the area and transitioning Valley View Dairy to become a heifer facility.

Southeast Area
Flory Family, Hillside Farm – Dublin, Va.
The Flory family – Dale and Janet, along with their son, Scott, and his wife, Laura – is all about embracing technology on their 240-cow dairy farm. Since 2014, the family has used a robotic milking system, which has helped them save not only time and labor, but also provides increased flexibility for milking. The family also uses the power of the internet to reach consumers by participating in a web series produced by Dairy Management Inc., called “Acres and Avenues,” which gives consumers an inside look at what happens on dairy farms today.

Southwest Area
Vanderlei Family, Five Star Dairy Texas and Milk Harvest Dairy – Amherst, Texas
For Case Vanderlei, an internship on a dairy in East Texas transformed into a passion for not only the industry, but for business. Along with his wife, Piertsje and their children, the family owns two facilities, where they not only milk cows, but also raise heifers. Between the two locations, the Vanderlei family milks more than 6,200 cows while also raising their own forages and grain as well as operating their own hauling business, which transports manure from each facility to their fields, ensuring sustainability from start to finish.

Western Area
Ken DeVries and Dale Ruisch, Hinkley Dairy – Hinkley, Calif.
Like many 1,300 cow dairies, Hinkley Dairy needs a tight-knit group to ensure its success. Unlike many dairies, that group extends across the country as Ken and Sherrie DeVries, along with Sherrie’s parents, Dale and Nellie Ruisch, live in California while Sherrie’s brother, Rob Ruisch, lives with his family in Iowa. The family credits evolving technology, like tractor geo-positioning and camera systems, with helping make this partnership work state-to-state. Additionally, smart financial decisions have helped Hinkley Dairy thrive in good years and meet challenges during slower ones.