Maryland & Virginia Milk Producers Cooperative honored two farm families as Producers of the Year and two families as Producer of the Year Finalists at its 99th Annual Meeting during the Member Recognition Luncheons held this week in Hickory, North Carolina, and York, Pennsylvania.
The Producer of the Year award is a new recognition for the cooperative. According to First Vice President Kevin Satterwhite, “We have created this top honor to recognize members who not only achieve high quality milk, but who go above and beyond and demonstrate outstanding overall farm management, environmental sustainability and community engagement.”
Producer of the Year for Federal Orders 1 & 33:
Red Sunset Farm, Dave and Marie Graybill
Dave and Marie Graybill operate Red Sunset Farm in Mifflintown, Pennsylvania. They milk 58 cows and farm 400 acres, 375 acres of which are crop land and the rest is pasture. The Graybills are first generation farmers and they started their dairying adventure 19 years ago on the rented farm.
“One of the reasons I wanted to farm was the lifestyle, to introduce our children to hard work and responsibility,” said Marie Graybill. The Graybills have two adult children, daughter Heidi and son Corey.
The Graybills give credit to their employees Brad Diffenderfer who works full time on the farm and part-time milker Kathy Burns, for maintaining a consistent milking routine and keeping the animals well-cared for.
“We are about sustainability on our operation. We want healthy plants, healthy animals and we want clean water,” said Dave. The Graybills implement all no-till farming, use cover crops and have a voluntary Act 38 nutrient management plan which has been in place since 2011. They installed a manure pit with a leak detection system, a compost facility and buffer strips. To improve groundwater, the Graybills also put in a barnyard runoff system. The Graybills also keep 16 honey bee colonies.
Dave’s passion for environmental stewardship goes beyond his farm gate. He is active with the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau and is the chair of the state Farm Bureau’s Natural and Environment Resources Committee. “This allows me to be at the forefront of understanding what’s going on with keeping clean water clean in the Chesapeake Bay,” said Dave.
Producer of the Year for Federal Orders 5 & 7:
Winding River Farms, Wes Kent
Weyers Cave, Virginia
Wes Kent, who is a first-generation dairy farmer, started his operation, Winding River Farms in Weyers Cave, Virginia, in 2000. His diversified farm consists of 110 dairy cows that are milked by Lely robotic milkers. Wes also has two poultry houses and raises about 100,000 turkeys each year and an Angus cow-calf herd along with a small feedlot. Wes farms 650 acres of owned and rented ground of corn, alfalfa and hay.
“The robotic milkers allow us to have a very stress-free dairy herd and the cows are able to get milked on their own terms and have their own schedule,” said Wes. Cows are housed in a composted bedded pack barn. “I like the bedded pack for cow comfort reasons, the cows have more freedom and comfort where they lay down,” said Wes.
He and his employees, Annie Cekada and Rob Abbot, all make animal care a top priority on the farm. “I'm lucky enough to have the best employees I’ve had in 18 years right now.”
Wes’ farm is in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, and caring for the land and water is very important. The farm has an enhanced nutrient management plan, and Wes uses mostly no-till and plants for cover crops. He makes sure waterways are fenced off and pastures have automatic waterers for the animals.
“Ever since I was little, I’ve always wanted to farm,” said Wes. From routinely shipping quality milk, to focusing on cow care and environmental stewardship, Wes has found the perfect occupation.
Producer of the Year Finalist for Federal Orders 1 & 33:
Steam Valley Farms, The Steel Family
John and Paula Steel of Dover, Ohio, operate Steam Valley Farms. They are the third generation to till the land since John’s grandfather purchased the farm in 1939.
Today John and Paula farm with their two adult sons, Nathan and Clinton. Nathan and Clinton are the fourth generation on the farm. Nathan and his wife Megan have three daughters and Clinton and his wife Kameron have two daughters.
“There is nothing better than to get to work with your children and grandchildren. It makes it all worthwhile,” Paula said.
The Steels milk 140 cows in a double seven parlor. They farm 250 acres of cropland on which they grow corn, soybeans, alfalfa and grass hay and some wheat for straw. Paula is the primary milker seven days a week. Nathan is the herdsman and oversees the herd health, vet checks, and genetic work. Clinton handles the feeding, crop management and mechanical maintenance.
“One of the things I’m proud of is the improvements we made in cow comfort,” said John. The Steels took out the rubber mats and went to deep bedded sand and have found they’ve improved production and cow health as a result from the cow bedding.
“Farmers need to be transparent so that people who are consuming our products learn about what we do and why we do it.” said John. “We would like consumers to know we produce one of nature’s most healthy products and that we do a good job. We are caretakers of what we have been entrusted and we want to be good stewards,” he added.
Producer of the Year Finalist for Federal Orders 5 & 7:
North Point Farm, The Phillips Family
The Phillips Family operate North Point Farm, which consists of three dairies, in Waynesboro, Virginia.
Today four generations are involved in the farm, which has been owned by the family since the 1800s. The Phillips have milked cows for 75 years and have shipped milk to Maryland & Virginia for 55 of those years.
Kevin Phillips along with his three brothers Daniel, Wilmer, Winston own the farm. Kevin’s niece cares for the calves and his nephew oversees the cow feeding, his son manages the crops and helps feed. “I’m proud that it’s still one family running the farm and we are lucky to have multiple working here together,” said Kevin Phillips.
Caring for the environment is critical to ensuring the farm’s future, so the Phillips have a long history of implementing sustainable practices. Since the late 1960s, they have used no-till farming. They closely follow their nutrient management plan and have fenced off most streams.
North Point milks a total of 1,200 cows and farms 3,500 acres. To keep the herd management consistent, they have one manager to oversee all three farms. And the milking protocol is the exact same for all three operations to ensure milk quality.
“A cow has no clue what the price of milk is, so if you take care of her, she’ll take care of you so make her happy at all times,” said Kevin.
Congratulations to these outstanding dairy producers.
“Each of these four farms has demonstrated a commitment to continuous improvement and to advancing dairy sustainability,” said Kevin Satterwhite during the award presentation.
Go to Maryland & Virginia’s website at www.mdvamilk.com to view videos featuring these award-winning farms.
Maryland & Virginia Milk Producers Cooperative is a community of dairy farm families passionate about cultivating dairy goodness and bottling fresh Maola brand milk and dairy products. Founded in 1920, the cooperative’s farmers produce three billion pounds of milk a year for consumers and manufacturers worldwide. Our dairy farm families take pride in creating dairy products people crave, operating with passion and integrity, responsibly caring for our resources and providing a rewarding livelihood for our farmers and employees.