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Pennsylvania Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding speaks to Maryland & Virginia Milk Producers Cooperative members during the 2023 Annual Meeting in Hershey, Pennsylvania on March 30, 2023.

Maryland & Virginia Milk Producers Cooperative Association (MDVA) members gathered for the cooperative’s 103rd Annual Meeting in Hershey, Pennsylvania last week. Members joined cooperative staff and leadership to engage in cooperative business, as well as learn from outside experts. Pennsylvania Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding served as the meeting’s keynote speaker.

MDVA CEO Jay Bryant spoke on the headwinds and tailwinds the cooperative faced in 2022 and discussed plans for success in 2023.

“Our dairy business faced many headwinds in 2022,” said Bryant. “Despite those headwinds, opportunity seems to knock at every corner. As we further establish ourselves as the local, sustainable choice for dairy, we can test historical norms and seasons in the U.S. dairy business with strong sales and record-breaking processing efficiencies.”

MDVA also recognized members for significant contributions to the business.

Valley Ho Farm of Middletown, Maryland was named the 2023 Producer of the Year for MDVA. The farm is owned and operated by Chris and Jamie Derr. They milk 70 cows on 200 acres and have recently updated their facilities with cow comfort as the guiding principle for design.

The Derr Family of Valley Ho Farm in Middletown, Maryland earned the 2023 Producer of the Year award from the Maryland & Virginia Milk Producers Cooperative at its annual meeting on March 31, 2023. Pictured L to R: Jay Bryant, MDVA CEO, Jamie Derr, Zach D

“Producer of the Year is MDVA’s way of recognizing our members who look beyond quality milk,” said Kevin Satterwhite, MDVA President. “Valley Ho Farm is an embodiment of how our dairy farmers seek continuous improvement in stewarding the health of their animals, their environment, and their surrounding community.”

“Being recognized as Producer of the Year is an absolute honor for us,” Jamie said. “It’s a dream come true for us to do something we are both passionate about and have our children grow up in the same lifestyle.”

Thomas French of Woodstock, Virginia was named the 2023 Outstanding Young Cooperator (YC). A 6th generation dairy farmer, French manages the dairy herd for his family’s 100-cow herd. As Outstanding YC, Thomas will represent the cooperative at national-level meetings focused on the next generation of U.S. dairy farming.

“I’m looking forward to serving my fellow young cooperators in this leadership role,” Thomas said. “I appreciate the trust our members have placed in me as I learn about our cooperative business and represent MDVA in national dairy events in the coming year. There’s no doubt these experiences will come home to the farm with me.”

French and his family also celebrated 50 years of membership during the Annual Meeting. French Brothers Dairy has been a supplier of fresh milk to MDVA since 1973. The farm is owned and operated by Billy, Martin, and Timmy French as well as their children. The farm has 100 milking cows in a freestall barn and have free-choice pasture to go to at their leisure. The family installed two robots in 2016, which has helped the family focus on other farm tasks as well as other parts of their extremely diversified operation, which includes a beef operation, broiler chickens, a custom spraying business and crops.

“One of the things I am most proud of is that we’re a family farm,” said Timmy French. “We learned generational knowledge from our father, which we now have the privilege to share with our children as they take more responsibility at the dairy. It’s a real blessing to be in a family situation.”

Also celebrating 50 years of membership is the Benedict family of Ben-Akers Farm in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. Amos, his wife Ellen, and their five children operate the farm by milking 100 cows and raising their own replacements.

For more information about the Young Cooperator program, the Producer of the Year award, or our families celebrating 50 years of membership, visit the Maryland & Virginia website at

Maryland & Virginia Milk Producers Cooperative Association is a community of more than 900 dairy farm families in 11 states passionate about cultivating dairy goodness and bottling fresh Maola brand milk and dairy products. Our farmer-owned cooperative owns five dairy processing plants that process more than three billion pounds of milk annually. Our diverse portfolio of dairy products are then distributed to consumers in the United States and ingredients customers worldwide. Our cooperative is a leader in sustainability, partnering across the supply chain to deliver sustainable solutions to our member farms. We take pride in supporting the educational and nutritional needs of the communities in our milkshed through our MDVA Fund. For more information about Maryland & Virginia, visit