2017 Pennsylvania Dairy Industry Award Winners

The Pennsylvania Dairymen’s Association, Center for Dairy Excellence and the Professional Dairy Managers of Pennsylvania joined together to recognize four individuals at the 2017 Pennsylvania Dairy Summit through an industry-wide awards program that showcases leadership, stewardship, and excellence in Pennsylvania’s dairy industry. This year marks the first time these three organizations have joined together to present these awards.

Award winners included:

Pennsylvania Distinguished Dairy Producer — The John Hess Family of JoBo Holstein Farm in Gettysburg, Pa., who have a 1,000-cow, 1,000 acre operation in Gettysburg, Pa.  John and Bonnie, along with their children and grandchildren, are active in many farm organizations including Adams County Farm Bureau, 4-H, Pa. Dairymen’s Association board of directors, American Dairy Association North East’s Speakers Bureau and they also represent their cooperative, 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. They strive to connect students, along with teachers and parents, with the farmers that produce their food. Additionally, about 300 community members enjoy a picnic hosted at the farm each September.

Pennsylvania Distinguished Dairy Woman — Laura England, of North Wales in Montgomery County, whose  career in the dairy industry and agriculture was set in motion when she milked her first cow at the age of 10 on her family’s dairy farm in Blair County. Since then, she has dedicated her time, energy and passion to promoting the dairy industry and its positive impact on health and wellness, local communities and the state’s economy.

Throughout her career, Laura has directed communications and marketing programs to
promote and build connections with consumers of dairy products. She spent 15 years working with Land O’Lakes and its predecessor Atlantic Dairy Cooperative to serve members and business partners. She also spent 16 years with American Dairy Association North East and its predecessor Mid-Atlantic Dairy Association, leading consumer awareness campaigns on behalf of dairy. Most recently, Laura serves as the director of the Bureau of Market Development at the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture.

Pennsylvania Dairy Innovator Award — Jan Itle from Valewood Farms in Loretto, Cambria County, who has provided tremendous innovation to progress Pennsylvania’s dairy industry toward a brighter future, by advancing the marketplace and creating new opportunities for innovation on her family’s dairy farm. She has also held several leadership roles across the dairy industry.

Itle has spent more than 40 years working with her seven brothers and extended family. From the barn to the milk delivery truck, 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. The Valewood commitment to quality milk begins with Jan’s management programs in the barn. She works as the herd manager directing nearly 50 employees. She focuses on improving herd health and under Itle’s oversight, the Valewood herd of 200 registered Holsteins produces high quality milk for their customers. She believes good tasting milk begins with healthy cows.

Pennsylvania Dairy Innovation Award — James (Jim) and Rita Kennedy from Four Seasons Farm in Valencia have distinguished themselves in serving the greater interest of Pennsylvania’s dairy industry and its individual dairy farms. 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 Pa. Dairy Task Force and served on the Center for Dairy Excellence board of directors as the 1st president, and member of Dairy Policy Action Coalition. He has 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 Pa. Dairy Princess and Promotion Services, Inc. and on the county dairy princess committee and as a 4-H club leader with Jim. Rita has 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 to 2016 in the positions of 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 for college students.