Seven members of distinction honored at Dairy Farmers of America annual meeting

April 1, 2009

Kansas City, Mo. - Dairy Farmers of America, Inc. (DFA) recognized seven member farms as 2009 Members of Distinction at the Cooperative’s 11th Annual Meeting held in Kansas City March 24-25. Honorees were selected as the best of the best among members in each of DFA’s seven regional Areas for their vision, leadership and innovation in the dairy industry.

The 2009 Members of Distinction are Gillins Dairy, Inc., Minersville, Utah; Koepke Farms, Inc., Oconomowoc, Wis.; Koster Dairy, Comanche, Texas; Lumbra Family Farm, Enosburg Falls, Vt.; Pine Tree Dairy, LTD, Rittman, Ohio; Tjaarda Dairy, Shafter, Calif.; and Tri-M-Valley Farm, LLC, Cane Hill, Ark.

“These farms set a high standard of leadership in the dairy industry,” said Tom Camerlo, chairman of DFA’s Board of Directors. “Their operational practices not only yield high quality milk, their sustainable practices serve as an example for others.”

All of the 2009 Members of Distinction are recognized as DFA Gold Standard Dairies, a quality assurance indicator that evaluates milk safety and quality, dairy animal care, environmental stewardship, pathogen management, personnel management, and dairy beef safety and quality. The 2009 honorees include:

Gillins Dairy, Inc., Minersville, Utah
At Gillins Dairy, taking excellent care of both cows and employees has resulted in annual milk quality that is ranked among the highest in the area. The 650-cow dairy, operated by Steve and Becky Gillins along with their son and his wife, Cory and Stefanie Gillins, also is internationally recognized for its breeding and embryo program. Beyond keeping the cows clean and comfortable, the Gillins’ success is directly tied to eight full-time employees and two part-timers who are integral to the operation. This year’s Mountain Area Members of Distinction and their employees know that excellence often means paying attention to the details.

Koepke Farms, Inc., Oconomowoc, Wis.
The owners of Koepke Farms are stewards of the land. Founded by Ruth and Harvey Koepke in 1936, the dairy is operated today by their sons and daughters-in-law: David and Linda, Jim and Mary Ann, and Alan and Mary Ellen, as well as Jim’s son John and his wife, Kim. These dairy farmers challenge themselves to increase profits and save time while protecting the environment. A phosphorus-based nutrient management plan, six-year crop rotation system and strip cropping are among other examples of environmental stewardship that is so important to this Central Area Member of Distinction family.

Koster Dairy, Comanche, Texas
For John Koster, milk quotas and exorbitant land prices in his home country of Holland made his dream of owning a dairy farm impossible. However, John was determined to succeed. Shortly after moving to America, John began working at a dairy where he was permitted to keep his first 20 cows. Today, John and his wife, Michelle, milk 822 cows on their 750-acre farm in Comanche, Texas, and operate on the philosophy that simple is best. For this Southwest Area Member of Distinction, America is the land of opportunity.

Lumbra Family Farm, Enosburg Falls, Vt.
Lloyd and Diane Lumbra, along with their son Brad and his wife, Kara, live by the motto, “Do it right and do it right the first time.” This family is meticulous about every aspect of the comfort of its 145 cows, earning this operation several quality awards. Vigilant maintenance prevents equipment breakdowns, and special details such as automatic manure scrapers and cow scratchers keep the farm clean and cows happy. The Lumbras have twice earned the honor Best Flavor Milk at the Vermont Farm Show. Attention to detail and true dedication are what makes the Lumbras DFA’s Northeast Area Members of Distinction.

Pine Tree Dairy, LTD, Rittman, Ohio
Started by Matt Steiner’s family 100 years ago, today Pine Tree Dairy is landlocked by single-family homes. Keeping a neat, clean farm allows the family to peacefully co-exist with residential neighbors, but perhaps stronger evidence of the dairy’s success is its ongoing evolution. The Steiners (Matt and Gail, Nate and Anita, Joel and Katrina, Luke and Pam, Aaron, Andrew, Ethan and Matthew) expanded to numerous sites, including a certified organic dairy in Ashland, 30 miles west of the original farm. The family also created a successful breeding program and a nationally-recognized herd and embryo transfer program. Whatever these Mideast Area Members of Distinction do, they pool their strength as a family to get the most out of dairying.

Tjaarda Dairy, Shafter, Calif.
When Perry and Pauline Tjaarda and his parents, Ed and Sharon Tjaarda, built their dairy 10 years ago, sustainability wasn’t the hot topic it is today. The Tjaarda Dairy was ahead of the curve. From variable speed drive pumps in the milking parlor and domestic water system to a 60-stall rotary parlor, the Tjaardas created systems that maximize energy and efficiency – ensuring an operation that will be there for the long run. For this Western Area Member of Distinction, success means embracing technology while sticking to the basics and staying involved in the industry.

Tri-M-Valley Farm, LLC, Cane Hill, Ark.
Despite a challenging economy, Tri-M-Valley Farm owners are finding resourceful ways to implement the latest techniques in dairying. John and Linda Munyon, son Jared and his wife, Anita, discovered that with a little innovation, they could invest in practices usually reserved for larger farms. A greenhouse calf barn, new composting process and on-farm culturing are all evidence of innovations in motion at Tri-M-Valley Farm. If the success experienced by these Southeast Area Members of Distinction is any indication, they will be innovative for years to come.