Brattleboro, Vt. - Fifty-three enthusiastic, young dairy industry advocates from across the nation completed the first phase of the Holstein Foundation's renowned Young Dairy Leaders Institute (YDLI), in Albuquerque, N.M., March 2-5. Throughout the four-day program, class members had a schedule full of workshops aimed at improving their leadership, communication and advocacy skills. YDLI Phase II takes place of the next twelve months in participants' home communities, and the class will come together again for Phase III in New Mexico, February 29-March 3, 2012.

"It is exciting to be able to work with such a diverse, passionate group of individuals," said Jodi Hoynoski, Holstein Foundation programs manager. "They have shown a real commitment to the future of the dairy industry. The group is focused and driven, and we can't wait to see what they accomplish during Phase II with their advocacy projects."

"YDLI was an amazing experience that deepened my passion for the dairy industry and armed me with the tools necessary to become a more effective advocate for our nation's dairy farmers," stated Natalie Sneller, class member from California.

A variety of topics were covered during Phase I. Jim Henion of Cooperative Resources International presented "Becoming a More Effective Team Player," where participants learned their individual personality type, as well as tactics for working with people of all different styles. Following that, Jolene Brown discussed leadership, teambuilding, positioning your team for success and generational differences.

Friday included the ever-popular "Media Training Camp," led by David Pelzer of Dairy Management Inc. and Joan Horbiak. The memorable session covered key messages, tips and tricks for acing media interviews, and then gave several class members "in-your-face" practice with on-camera mock interviews. As a follow-up to the media training, the tables were turned when the class headed out to the University of New Mexico campus, where they interviewed several non-farm consumers about their perception of U.S. agriculture and food production. The experience proved to be very eye-opening as the class reported on their findings and reinforced the importance of conveying dairy's message to the general public. The evening closed with a memorable keynote by 2009 YDLI Distinguished Alumni Leader Award recipient Laura Daniels, speaking about connecting with consumers and grassroots-level advocacy.

The final day, Saturday, started off with a few speakers hitting on relevant industry topics in a panel format. Jacob Schuelke, economist for Hilmar Cheese Company talked about some significant advances in the history of the dairy industry and what their implications are for the future, followed by Margaret Speich from the U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC), discussing "U.S. Dairy Exports: Outlooks, Trends and Drivers," and Jesse Sevcik, who works with Elanco, covering responsible use of antibiotics on the farm. Jana McGuire of CMA Consulting was up next on the agenda, who led a very informative session about using shared values to connect with your audience, as well as putting together effective presentations. At Saturday's lunch, Kate Geppert was recognized as the 2010 YDLI Distinguished Alumni Leader award winner.

At the close of the day, the class members spent time developing their action plans for Phase II, including outlining an advocacy project that will be completed over the next year in their home communities. Phase II consists of a series of assignments that will give participants the chance to practice and develop some of the skills they acquired during Phase I, including contacting their local media and legislators, giving community presentations and completing an advocacy project.

"Throughout the Phase I experience, the advocacy workshops were important for me because they enabled me to have confidence to speak out and continued to reinforce the fact that our industry needs each of our voices to be heard to support the dairy industry," stated Renee Norman, class member from Ohio.

Having a group from 23 states, and three countries (Canada, Italy and Mexico) provided plenty of opportunities for networking as well. Aaron Palmer, participant from California, summed it up by saying, "On my last day at YDLI, it was amazing to think that I didn't know most of these people three days earlier. We formed instant bonds that will last a lifetime! This group's energy and passion for the dairy industry is infectious and has motivated me to share this enthusiasm with others."

The class will meet again in-person for Phase III in the spring of 2012, which will focus on group leadership skills. Workshops will cover topics such as advanced media training, meeting and board skills, and public policy. Class members will also give presentations on their Phase II projects.

For more coverage of YDLI, visit or, where you will find daily updates from Phase I, pictures and more! For more information about Holstein Foundation programs, visit the Holstein Foundation web site or contact Jodi Hoynoski at 800.952.5200, ext. 4261 or

Source: The Holstein Foundation