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Dairy farmers work every day to ensure their cows receive the highest quality care. On any given day, they might find themself holding any number of responsibilities. Fixing a broken manure pump, chopping corn silage, treating a sick cow; you name it, they’ve done it.

Yet, there are those select few who not only excel at running their farms but actively engage their local communities. They serve as leaders for multiple organizations and work hard to promote dairy daily. These champions showcase dairy and all the great work done to provide us with the milk and dairy products we love.

Every year, the Dairy Business Association presents its annual Advocate of the Year award to a farmer who exemplifies that advocacy spirit.

Jim DiGangi of Darlington Ridge Farms was honored Wednesday night as a champion for the dairy community. DiGangi started his farm in 2008, which has grown to include 2,800 milking cows and over 2,000 acres of cropland.

“I was not expecting this at all,” DiGangi told an audience that filled a banquet hall at the Monona Terrace during DBA’s Dairy Strong conference. “Thank you to my lovely wife. We are very passionate about our cows and doing the right thing for our industry.”

DiGangi, who farms in Lafayette County, is an active member of DBA and his local farmer-led watershed group, the Lafayette Ag Stewardship Alliance. LASA has received national awards for their farmers’ work building a more sustainable food supply.

“It’s farmers like Jim that drive dairy forward,” said Tim Trotter, DBA’s chief executive officer. “His leadership on the local level with his local farmer-led watershed group is exactly what our community needs in today’s changing marketplace. Jim is shaping the positive narrative of dairy through his work beyond the farm.”

Jim farms alongside his wife, Katie, and their daughter, Mila. He firmly believes in exploring conservation practices, such as cover crops. The farm even recently participated in a cutting-edge project evaluating genomic impacts on sustainability.

Several years ago, Jim and his family coordinated with three other dairies in their area to start an annual “Day at the Dairy,” inviting local students to spend time on the farm. While on the dairy, youth can see firsthand a working milking parlor, learn about how cattle are cared for and fed, sample different types of cheese and understand how milk can play an essential part in a nutritious diet.

“Advocacy extends far beyond adopting innovative practices,” said Matt Gabler of Vita Plus, who presented the award. “Jim knows a consumer that understands farming and where their food comes from will not hesitate to grab that next gallon of milk or block of cheese the next time they are in the store.”