2017 World Dairy Expo Recognition Award Honorees

World Dairy Expo is pleased to honor four dairy leaders as the 2017 World Dairy Expo Recognition Award winners. These individuals have dedicated their careers to improving and impacting the global dairy industry. They are herd owners and managers, serve in public offi ce and own international businesses. The achievements of the 2017 awardees have reached all corners of the globe and facets of the dairy industry.

The 2017 Dairy Woman of the Year is Marilyn Hershey, Ar-Joy Farms, LLC in Cochranville, Pa.; Charles Ahlem, Charles Ahlem Ranch in Turlock, Calif., is Dairyman of the Year. The Industry Person of the Year is awarded to Ben Brancel, former secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection from Endeavor, Wis., while Derrick Frigot, owner of JISEX International, Jersey, Channel Islands, United Kingdom, is the 2017 International Person of the Year.

These dairy influencers will be recognized at the Dinner with the Stars banquet on the evening of Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2017 in the Exhibition Hall at the Alliant Energy Center. The celebration will begin with a WDE Welcome Reception featuring hors d’oeuvres and drinks at 5 p.m., followed by a ticketed banquet at 7 p.m. Everyone is invited to attend this event honoring the award recipients. Following is a brief biography of each of the honorees. 

Dairy Woman of the Year

Marilyn Hershey is a dairy farmer, industry leader and published author. Managing fi nances, assisting with milking and overseeing calf care on her family’s dairy farm, Ar-Joy Farms, LLC, Hershey has an active role in the dairy’s success. Ar-Joy is home to 600 Registered Holsteins with a rolling herd average of 27,963 lb. of milk and maintains a less-than-one percent calf and heifer loss. Hershey, her husband, Duane, and their family have bred 15 Dams of Merit, nine Gold Medal Dams and one Gold Medal Sire, resulting in eight Pennsylvania Progressive Breeder Awards. Earlier this year, the Hersheys broke ground on a methane digester that will utilize manure from the dairy and food waste from the surrounding community to produce electricity. When not on the farm, Hershey is active in the board room; she serves as the vice-chair of Dairy Management, Inc., is the secretary of the Mid-Atlantic Dairy Association Speakers Bureau and serves on the National Dairy Promotion and Research Board among other various community organizations. After her son Robert battled leukemia as a child, she authored, “Oncology, Stupidology…I Want to Go Home”; a book now sold at hospitals around the world helping children and their families deal with childhood cancer. Hershey also offers her insight on farming, family and faith in her regular column in Hoard’s Dairyman, Common Threads. Here, she provides a positive and empowering message for farm women across North America. Hershey and her husband reside in Cochranville, Pa., and have four adult children, Stephen, Kelby, Robert and Kacie and one grandson, Wyatt. 

Dairyman of the Year

With an entrepreneurial spirit, Charles Ahlem has played an important role in shaping the California dairy industry. As the owner of Charles Ahlem Ranch in Turlock, Calif., he became one of Ben Brancel recently retired as secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, but has deep roots in the dairy industry. In 1975, Brancel and his wife, the first dairymen to install a rotary milking parlor and robotic postdipping system, while also inventing milking hose support for rotary parlors. Ahlem piloted RFID chips for identification and management of his herd and uses the latest technology to apply manure water through a pivot irrigation system. The herd at Charles Ahlem Ranch is composed of 6,500 Jerseys with a rolling herd average of 18,632 lb. of milk, 5.1% fat and 3.6% protein while ranking 70th in the U.S. for Jersey Performance Index through the American Jersey Cattle Association’s REAP program. Ahlem is a founding co-owner of Hilmar Cheese Company, Inc., and Hilmar Ingredients, and is a founding member of Jerseyland Sires. In 2004, he was appointed to serve as the California Department of Food and Agriculture undersecretary. In this appointment, Ahlem used his previous experiences as former chairman of the California Dairy Quality Assurance Program and a former board member of the California Milk Manufacturing Boards, among others. Today, he serves as chairman of the Dairy Council of California and Dairy CARES. Ahlem and his wife, DruAnn, have three children, Lisa, David and Mark, and 10 grandchildren.  

Industry Person of the Year

Ben Brancel recently retired as secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, but has deep roots in the dairy industry. In 1975, Brancel and his wife, Gail, purchased his family’s dairy farm; they managed the herd of Registered Holsteins at Brancel Farms for two decades. During this time, Brancel began his 10- year service as representative for the 42nd Assembly District in the Wisconsin State Assembly. While in this role, he was co-chair of the Joint Finance Committee and was appointed as Assembly speaker. Brancel’s positions in Wisconsin’s government have allowed him to be a voice for farmers as he helped develop and pass three major farm laws, including the Right to Farm Law. In 1997, Brancel was appointed as secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. This appointment led to his time as USDA Farm Service Agency’s Wisconsin director. He returned to his position as secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection in 2011. Brancel was a key player in the construction of the New Holland Pavilions at the Alliant Energy Center and can be found every year at World Dairy Expo volunteering with cattle check-in, presenting the Cow of the Year award or talking with attendees. Brancel and his wife have three grown children, Tod, Michleen and Brandon, and six grandchildren. 

International Person of the Year

A native to the birthplace of the Jersey breed, Derrick Frigot has foraged a lifelong career promoting and improving Jersey cattle around the world. Frigot began his career at the Royal Jersey Agricultural and Horticultural Society as the editor of the organization’s magazine, The Jersey at Home, at 16 years old; he returned to the society 34 years later to serve as its president. In 1970, he became the manager of the Island of Jersey’s newly established Artificial Insemination Centre. The center, which was later renamed Jersey Island Semen Exports Limited, or JISEX International, soon was the only exporter of Jersey cattle genetics on the island, exporting to 46 countries. As sole owner of the business in 1986, Frigot began working to amend a law banning importation of Jersey genetics to the Island. He served as the secretary-treasurer for the World Jersey Cattle Bureau for nearly three decades before being elected vice-president and—subsequently—president, a position he still holds today. Frigot is an avid traveler and has spent the past 30 years leading and mentoring international dairy tours for young beginning farmers. As a humanitarian, he also led projects in Rwanda, helping produce enough dairy products to feed their growing population. In 2014, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II honored Frigot with the Member of the Order of the British Empire for his “services to agriculture, particularly the Jersey breed of cattle.” He continues to live in Wuthering Heights on the Island of Jersey with his wife, Jenny. They have two adult children, Andrew and Sarah, and five grandchildren. 


Note: This story appears in the 2017 World Dairy Expo program.