A conference room of people sitting at round tables, with a person speaking on stage
Laura Ginsburg presents on the NE-DBIC’s impact

On April 2-3, 2024, over 220 dairy farmers, processors, service providers, policy makers, and industry stakeholders from across the Northeast gathered in Albany, NY to dig into the future of regional dairy. With session tracks on workforce development, dairy farm innovation, processing expansion, and goat & sheep dairy, we asked:

What can dairy look like in 10 years?

Through presentations, panels, and conversations, we considered possibilities that could lead to a future dairy sector where:

  • New systems and strategies lead to increasing profits and farm viability 
  • Dairy leads the region on net-zero agriculture 
  • Committed, talented people are excited to work across the sector and have access to training and jobs that support their growth 

Thanks to all who came, engaged, and learned together!

Below, you’ll find a recap of the presentations, along with all available slides.

Plenary & Keynote Sessions:

Laura Ginsburg standing on stage behind a podium with a sign that reads "Northeast Dairy Innovation Summit"

Welcome Address: Investing in the Future of Dairy: Regional Resilience, Adaptability, and Long-Term Sustainability through Strategic FundingView the NE-DBIC Impact slides

What can $45.8 million do for the Northeast Dairy sector? Since 2020, NE-DBIC has been investing in projects that support dairy resilience and adaptability, leading to stronger systems and relationships across the region. In this opening session, we’ll look back at the impacts of NE-DBIC funding to date, ahead to the funding opportunities to come, and the possibilities for the future of regional dairy.

With NE-DBIC Lead, Laura Ginsburg, introduced by VT Secretary of Agriculture, Food & Markets, Anson Tebbetts

Tuesday Morning Plenary: The Dairy Talent Pool is Endless – How Do We Expand It?  View the Tuesday plenary panel’s slides

In this opening panel, we’ll dive into the vital topic of dairy workforce development, with a focus on reaching beyond the traditional entryways into dairy. Through conversation with a panel of dairy professionals, we’ll explore key questions, including: who is currently left out of the dairy workforce, what barriers are keeping people out, and what can we learn from those who have successfully navigated these obstacles to create more accessible pathways? Join us as we engage in constructive dialogue and strategize ways to cultivate a more inclusive and dynamic dairy workforce, ensuring a vibrant and sustainable future for the industry. 

Facilitated by Agela Abdullah: Marketing Director, President of the Cheese Culture Coalition, contributing writer for Culture Magazine, and a former cheese buyer. With panelists:  

  • Kyra James, a food industry professional, cheese educator, and creator of Own Your Funk, and board member of the Cheese Culture Coalition 
  • Greselda Powell, a cheesemonger at Murray’s Cheese 
  • Leslie McCrorey Wells, a restaurant owner, sheep farmer, and member of the Governor’s Commission on the Future of Vermont Agriculture 

Tuesday Night Keynote: Dairy’s Future Looks Bright: Opportunities for the Next Decade – View Corey Geiger’s slides

Dairy stands firm as the leading category in the grocery aisle and that position will continue to hold and grow. However, consumer preferences will reshape the dairy space both in the store and in the growing restaurant category.  In this Keynote session, we’ll delve into trends on shifting milk patterns, opportunities for the Northeast, and what will propel dairy into the future. 

Corey Geiger is the Lead Dairy Economist for CoBank, one of the nation’s largest providers of credit to the dairy industry. A two-time published author of books sold to all 50 states, Geiger served as Editor of Hoard’s Dairyman, and it’s four language editions, for 28 years and covered the global dairy industry. 

Corey Geiger speaking on stage
Corey Geiger delivering his Keynote Address: Dairy’s Future Looks Bright

Wednesday Morning Plenary: Leading Together: Uniting Regional Dairy for Impact View the Wednesday plenary panel’s slides

Large, small, organic, conventional – there are plenty of distinctions in dairy that can set producers up for competition. In this session, we’re doing something different. Join us as we identify what we share in common across the Northeast dairy sector, and why it’s essential to lift up our common goals and contributions to the regional food system.   
 
This session will cover the meaningful impact of leadership and storytelling on the dairy industry including a review of some of the latest dairy industry consumer research. We’ll explore how the stories we share individually and through brand marketing relate to and impact the larger landscape. 
 
Led by marketing, branding, and communication experts Maureen Ballatori of Agency 29, Laura Hardie of Red Barn Writer, and Alison K. Conant of CRA and Conant’s Riverside Farm. 

Alison Conant, Laura Hardie, and Maureen Ballatori sit in overstuffed chairs on stage, smiling and speaking into microphones

Lunchtime Presentations:

Building a Resilient Food System: a look at New England Feeding New England‘s 30 x 30 goal, and dairy’s role in regional food resilience, with Holly Fowler – View NEFNE slides

A look into the Northeast Regional Food Business Center, with Janna Spruill and Jade Umberger of the NASDA Foundation – View NASDA slides

Summit Tracks:

Dairy Workforce Development (Tuesday Only)

  • Building a Workforce Development & Apprenticeship Program for the RegionView the Designing a Regional Dairy Workforce Program Interim Report
    • This session will unveil the insights gathered from the Dairy Supply Chain Workforce Survey, conducted by Karen Karp & Partners (KK&P) on behalf of the NE-DBIC. Explore the key takeaways and implications of the survey results, and how this initiative aims to forge partnerships among dairy industry employers, the NE-DBIC, and state departments of agriculture in the Northeast, ultimately seeking to alleviate workforce challenges and foster sustainable growth in the dairy supply chain.  With Shayna Cohen of KK&P
  • Engaging ESL Speakers in the Dairy Sector: What we gain when we build a multi-Lingual Dairy Community View the Engaging ESL Speakers slides
    • Engaging ESL (English as a Second Language) speakers within the dairy sector can lead to improved workplace safety, satisfaction, and employee retention. In this workshop, you’ll gain practical insights and strategies for fostering inclusivity and linguistic diversity to enhance collaboration, productivity, and overall success both on the farm and in processing plants. Facilitated by Dan Baker of University of Vermont, with Carmen Licon of the Pacific Coast Coalition DBII, and Stacey Stearns of Mountain Dairy. 

Dairy Farm Innovation & Resiliency 

  • Innovation for all Farms: How smaller farms can utilize and benefit from new technology View the Innovation For All Farms slides
    • A panel led by Jayne Sebright of Center for Dairy Excellence with Jason Frye of Pleasant Lane Farm and Creamery (PA), Annie Watson of Sheepscot Valley Farm (ME), and others.
  • Building Better Technical AssistanceView the Building Better TA slides
    • Best practices for relationship-centered TA with Lucas Waybright of PASA, Silene DeCiucies of the The Center for an Agricultural Economy, Ashlee Kleinhammer of North Country Farm and Creamery (NY), and others.  
  • Innovations in Grazing and Grass-Based Production: strategies to reduce reliance on imported feed and improve ecological outcomesView Cheryl Cesario’s Grass-Based Production Strategies slides; View the Farmer’s Grazing Innovation slides
    • With Cheryl Cesario from American Farmland Trust, Eric Sheffer of Sheffer’s Grassland Dairy, and Eric Ziehm from High Meadows of Hoosick 
  • Your Farm in 2034 – Addressing three of the most important issues that will come up in the next decadeView Your Farm in 2034 Succession Planning slides and Sustainability Planning slides
    • A look into succession planning, investing in your business, and reaching dairy’s net zero goals. The conversation will be led by the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board, Facilitated by Liz Gleason of Vermont Farm and Forest Viability, with Jen Miller of NOFA-VT, and Dana Bourne of Stonyfield Farms. 

Dairy Processing Expansion & Innovation  

  • Dairy Marketing & Branding: How investing in your business’s consumer builds salesNo slides available
    • How do you harness the power of branding and marketing for your business? Is there a right way or wrong way? Right time or wrong time?. Come learn about the experiences of three expert members of your community as they share the unique circumstances around their branding and marketing efforts. Hear about the costs verses the R.O.I. of these initiatives on their respective businesses.  Come with questions and we’ll dig for as many answers as we can. Facilitated by Steve Redmond, the Designer, Strategist and “Chief Belief Officer” behind Rival Brands. An award-winning creative that has strategized some of the BIG IDEAS behind well-known food, beverage and outdoor brands within Vermont and beyond, he works with founders and brand leaders to increase their impact on their brands and keep them reaching for goals they didn’t think possible. With panelists Cate Kennedy of Wright’s Dairy Farm (RI), Jessica Dizek of Mapleline Farm (MA), and Curt Alpeter from Grafton Village Cheese (VT) 
  • Dairy Product Innovation Challenge: Insights from Entrepreneurs Leading the WayView NE Dairy Product Innovation Challenge slides; View Food Product Development Lab slides; View Innovation Challenge Winner slides: lu.lu Artisan Ice Cream slides and Oakfield Corners slides
    • The Northeast Dairy Product Innovation Competition helps farms and food businesses validate, launch, and scale new dairy-based foods and beverages, enabling them to stay competitive, relevant, and responsive to consumers. The result is elevated demand for Northeastern dairy, and deepening reputation of its high quality. Hear from current participants about their entrepreneurial journeys.  With Jenn Smith, Director of Food & Ag Innovation Programs at Cornell University; Rob Ralyea, Senior Extension Associate of Food Science at Cornell University; Molly Moffett, cheesemaker at Oakfield Corners Cheese; and Laura Mack, owner of lu.lu artisan ice cream. 
  • Developing Climate-Friendly PackagingView the slides of each grantee by clicking on their names below
  • The Community Impacts of a Healthy, Vibrant Processing sector – No slides available
    • Mateo Kehler of Jasper Hill Farm (VT) and Jake Heller of Perrystead Dairy (PA) join us to share insights on supporting their communities through the creation of award-winning cheese. Business ethics aimed at equitable outcomes are central to the work of these rural and urban cheesemakers. Come hear how they put local passion into daily practice. Panel led by Allan Reetz, Director of Public and Government Affairs at Hanover Co-op Food Stores of NH & VT. Allan’s policy work centers on local and national advocacy for sustainable small-scale agriculture. His board and advisory work includes serving on the Vermont Dairy Commission and New Hampshire Food Alliance

Goat & Sheep Dairy  (Wednesday Only)

  • Goat & Sheep Market Opportunities: what are they, how can we fill them? View the Goat & Sheep Market Opportunities slides
    • Panel led by Holly Aker of Local Goods Gathered with David Major of Vermont Shepherd (VT), Ed Fredrikson of Fredrikson Farm (ME), and Robert Dunning of Raspberry Ridge Creamery (PA) 
  • Developing Goat and Sheep Specific Resources to Grow the Small Ruminant Dairy SectorView the Goat & Sheep Resources slides
    • This session, led by Kelsie Meehan of University of Vermont Extension will highlight opportunities and gaps specific to small ruminant dairy farming. The panel will include Carol Delaney from Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry, Hannah Sessions from Blue Ledge Farm (VT), and Holly Menguc of Tup’s Crossing Farm (VT). 

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