HARRISBURG, Pa. — The Center for Dairy Excellence, Pennsylvania Dairymen’s Association, and the Professional Dairy Managers of Pennsylvania recognized five leaders who exemplify stewardship and excellence in Pennsylvania’s dairy industry at the 2017 Pennsylvania Dairy Summit in Lancaster.
Award recipients will be recognized with a place in the Dairy Hall of Fame at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex.
Distinguished Dairy Producer
The John Hess Family of JoBo Holstein Farm in Gettysburg, demonstrates superior management capabilities with their dairy business and provided outstanding leadership and service to the dairy industry.
The Hess family operates 1,000 acres of land and raises nearly 1,000 milk cows, plus 800 young stock. Together, the family has increased herd size and the rolling herd average with their management program.
John and Bonnie are active in many farm organizations including Farm Bureau, 4-H, Pennsylvania Dairymen’s Association board of directors, American Dairy Association North East’s Speakers Bureau and represent Land O’Lakes as delegates in addition to membership in many other community organizations.
The Hess family opens their farm to the public for agriculture education opportunities each year since 1978 when they began hosting field trips for nearby schools.
Distinguished Dairy Woman
Laura England, of North Wales in Montgomery County, has distinguished herself in her leadership and service to the dairy industry.
England grew up on the family dairy farm in Blair County. She worked for Atlantic Dairy Cooperative for 15 years — which later merged with Land O’Lakes — developing programs aimed at business leaders and industry partners for support and understanding of dairy-led initiatives.
More recently, she helped extended the Fill a Glass with Hope fresh milk program to all eight Feeding Pennsylvania food banks.
Currently England serves as the director of the Bureau of Market Development at the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture.
Jan Itle from Valewood Farms in Loretto, Cambria County, spent more than 40 years working with her seven brothers and extended family.
Itle and her family process and package the milk produced by their cows into a wide range of dairy products. They operate a retail store in addition to a home delivery service in a 50-mile radius of the farm.
Itle works as the herd manager directing nearly 50 employees and improving the health of 200 registered Holsteins.
Itle serves 4-H members as a long-time dairy club and livestock club leader and holds a seat on the county’s 4-H advisory board. She also volunteered as a leader for the county dairy princess and promotion committee and strongly supports the Ag in the Classroom initiative.
Additionally, she developed a “Moo to You” formal school tour program which reaches about 5,000 students each year in addition to other community events hosted on the farm.
Industry Service Award
James (Jim) and Rita Kennedy from Four Seasons Farm, in Valencia, both grew up on dairy farms in western Pennsylvania. Jim grew up raising Brown Swiss on his family’s farm and across the county, Rita owned Jerseys and Holsteins.
In 1968, Jim and Rita purchased his parent’s farm in Butler County milking 28 Brown Swiss cows on 75 acres. They have since increased the herd size to over 75 cows and purchased additional acreage to grow the farm to 700 acres.
Over the years, the Kennedys have accepted every leadership or volunteer opportunity that came their way.
Jim judged dairy cows at local, national and international shows, chartered the Butler County Dairy Promotion committee in 1973, served on the National Brown Swiss Cattle Breeders Association board and implemented the Agriculture Committee for County Commissioners of Pennsylvania.
He also served on the Pennsylvania Dairy Task Force and served on the Center for Dairy Excellence board of directors as the first president, and member of Dairy Policy Action Coalition.
He volunteered at the All-American Dairy Show and has been a member of the Grange for more than 50 years.
Rita served as director and coordinator for Pennsylvania Dairy Princess and Promotion Services, Inc., on the county dairy princess committee and as a 4-H club leader with Jim.
Rita also served as a board member for the Pennsylvania Dairy Promotion Program and on the Pennsylvania Dairymen’s Association board of directors, holding offices on both boards.
She led the Pennsylvania Dairy Industry and Allied Association Board from 1992-2016 as Vice President and President to plan the All-American Dairy Show.
She has served on the National Dairy Board and national Brown Swiss Board of directors in addition to establishing the National Dairy Shrine scholarships.
‘Golden Milkshake’ Honorary Service Award
David Smith is a fourth generation dairy farmer, who grew up helping raise and care for his family’s Guernsey herd in Annville.
Now owner of the family farm, Smith co-manages the operation with his son, Joel. They raise approximately 140 head of cattle and farm nearly 400 acres including the 175 acres on the home farm.
Smith is active in the local Young Farmer’s group, served as the leader of the county 4-H dairy club and dairy judging team coach, and was a board member of the Lebanon County Farm Bureau and a member of the Pennsylvania Guernsey Breeders’ Association.
Smith became the executive director for the Dairymen’s Association in 1995 and manages the daily operations of the organization, overseeing the Association’s milkshakes and dairy foods business at the Pennsylvania Farm Show.
Through expansion and new product introduction, gross sales have been increased approximately 500 percent in 15 years allowing for $1 million in grants to be distributed to dairy and agriculture programs focusing on next generation development.
One of his most recent achievements has been building the relationship between the Central Pennsylvania Food bank and Feeding Pennsylvania to raise money for the Fill a Glass with Hope program.
Smith is paving the way for the Calving Corner, Pennsylvania’s Dairy Cow Birthing Center, to launch at the 2018 Pennsylvania Farm Show.