It all starts with the dairy farmer – our members are a passionate and bright group of forward-thinking servant leaders. They work diligently to learn, engage and collaborate on key issues that directly affect our industry's future.
Our dairy farm members tell us what they need, and we work to connect with the world's renowned experts. Together, we create best-in-class programs that train and develop dairy producers, stakeholders, consumers and other industry influencers.
Our friends call us PDPW. We also go by Professional Dairy Producers®.
Founded a quarter century ago as "Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin" (PDPW), today our membership has outgrown our name as we represent dozens of states. To honor our heritage, the "W" in our logo remains, but our future is focused on impacting members' lives coast to coast and country to country.
PDPW's nine-member Board of Directors are elected by active PDPW dairy farm members. Each director – also an active dairy producer - can serve two three-year terms. Equipped with the leadership skills and vision to serve, PDPW board members actively shape PDPW's educational calendar, create the organization's plan of work and serve on other industry action committees throughout the dairy sector and beyond.
When PDPW celebrated 25 years as an organization in 2017, we were faced with the challenges of accurately and adequately documenting and presenting that history.
We can attempt to engrave the names of people and important dates and events on paper or digital "headstones," but with each step we are reminded again and again that PDPW is a living, breathing thing.
So, while we may collect remnants of PDPW's first quarter century from minutes of meetings, newspapers, notes on the backs of envelopes, photographs, videos and sometimes-frail memories, we've come to the realization that the interpretation, influence and legacy of the organization's history is more profoundly written and stored in the hearts and minds of the people who have and continue to live it.
For that reason, this story is less about PDPW's chronology – although there is some of that – and more about the visionary actions, shared through words from the people who created the organization and direct it into a second quarter century and beyond.
Learn more about the beginning, the vision, the mission and the people behind it all by viewing the "25 Years of Leadership" documentary.
Ben Brancel, former Secretary, Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, recalls the mindset that would serve as the dawn of a new era: "In the early 1990s, members of the next generation were starting to hear about how many farms we'd lost, that there wasn't opportunity in dairying and that they had to find something else to do with their lives. And yet there were those people out there who were still positive, still saw a bright future, and really believed in the young people and the opportunities available to them."
In 1991, Terry Smith, director of University of Wisconsin-Extension Center for Dairy Profitability, established a subcommittee to explore the need for a dairy producer-led organization to address their professional development needs. The conclusion: the idea was worth pursuing, and it'd probably work best if dairy farmers addressed their challenges by working together.
"The organization needed to be a place where dairy businesses of all shapes and sizes across Wisconsin could benefit from interaction. For this to be successful and sustainable, it had to be grassroots … run by dairy producers. We believed it would not only benefit individual businesses, but more importantly, it would benefit the dairy industry's viability and sustainability."
PDPW founded by dairy farmers1992
First PDPW Business Conference
First PDPW Board of Directors elected1993
Released video recordings of speakers from in-person programs1995
Formed Youth Educational committee
Launched PDPW Mentor Program
Released Heifer Growers List
Formed Public Policy ad hoc committee
Increased communication with state agencies1997
Held first "Committee Days" for dairy farmers to share ideas for programming
Took first political position to stop livestock ordinance prohibiting growth1998
Advocated for creation of UW Discovery Farm
Began meeting regularly with University of Wisconsin System leaders to position Wisconsin as a long-term global leader in dairy
Launched first Environmental Conference, named "Public Policy Summit"
Began Dairy's Bottom Line print publication1999
PDPW Board issued first white paper: State of the Wisconsin Dairy Industry
Launched the Enhanced Internship Program2000
PDPW Board hired first staff member, now Executive Director, Shelly Mayer
Formed Public Relations committee
Launched industry's first Effective Communications Training, now known as "Dairy's Visible Voice®"
Founded Professional Dairy Producers Foundation, serving as Dairy's Foundation
Provided 50 grants to dairy farms with first nutrient management plans
Charter member of the WLIC (Wisconsin Livestock Identification Consortium)2002
Placed international students from Mexico in Enhanced Internship Program
Founded Agricultural Community Engagement® (ACE), in partnership with Wisconsin Towns Association and Wisconsin Counties Associations
Introduced first Mission Sponsor, Badgerland Financial, now known as Compeer Financial
Launched dairy's first national executive training – Managers Academy for Dairy Professionals®
Presented first Youth Leadership Derby®
Developed and led the National Dairy Animal Well-Being Initiative, developed principles and guidelines
Voted "Top 10 Companies/People Most Influential in Agriculture"
Leader in stakeholder workgroup for Livestock Siting (ATCP 51)2005
Charter member of Center for Food Integrity (CFI)2006
Developed Dairy Connect Speaker's Bureau2007
Founded the Wisconsin Dairy Industry Crisis Preparedness Plan (WDICPP), in partnership with Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin2008
Held first ACE On-the-Farm Twilight Meeting
Launched World Class Webinars, online video training series with Dr. David Kohl as speaker
Launched food system initiative to connect food companies and allied industry professionals with modern farming practices
Developed Agricultural Professional Partnerships® (APPs) curriculum for non-farm professionals
Developed "What Matters" initiative with the WVMA (Wisconsin Veterinary Medical Association), now called Food Armor®
Began providing continuing education (CE) credits (i.e. UW-SVM, ARPAS and CCA)
Launched the National Dairy Leaders Coalition2012
Launched international dairy leadership program, Cornerstone Dairy Academy™
Held first International Dairy Tour, traveling to New Zealand2016
Launched DairyAdvanCE.org, first online one-stop shop for continuing education
Launched first Financial Literacy for Dairy curriculum
Celebrated 25th Anniversary
PDPW proudly established the Professional Dairy Producers Foundation in 2002 and is dairy's foundation. As a stand-alone charitable organization, their leadership serves the industry to raise funds and award grants for PDPW and PDPW-like educational and public trust initiatives.
Their reach serves all dairy stakeholders, from farm to consumer, throughout dairy communities in the United States.