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Dairymen show support for Meck

Zach Meck, pictured above with his wife, Suzanne, found himself, as he puts it, "walking on a road I never expected." As he is battling cancer, his friends and neighbors have helped with the harvest. On Wednesday, December 4, his friends and fellow founders of the Dairy Policy Action Committee (DPAC) and Pennsylvania Dairy Farmers' Voice gathered at Shady Maple in East Earl, Lancaster County, to show Zach their appreciation for his support of his fellow dairy farmers and to in turn support him with a day of encouragement for the journey and "strength during adversity" for the battle ahead. Zach and his brother Jeremy are first generation dairymen after growing up on a poultry farm. A charter member of the DPAC Board, Zach has also been active in dairy policy issues as a Land O'Lakes delegate and through his prior involvement in the former Berks/Lebanon group called the Pennsylvania Dairy Farmers' Voice.
Photo by Sherry Bunting

'Strength during adversity takes on new meaning'


By SHERRY BUNTING
Special for Farmshine

EAST EARL, Pa. -- Four years ago on Dec. 10, more than a dozen founding members of the Dairy Policy Action Coalition (DPAC) signed a charter to begin a journey as an official organization -- after meeting for the first time on November 19, 2009.

But before that day, a small group of farmers from Lancaster and surrounding counties had been meeting at the suggestion of Pennsylvania State Senator Mike Brubaker after the famous pasture meeting of 500 that August. In addition, a group had been meeting in Berks and Lebanon County called the Pennsylvania Dairy Farmers’ Voice. Similar groups were also meeting in other parts of Pennsylvania and Ohio. They came together for the first time in November 2009 and formed DPAC.

This week, a DPAC appreciation luncheon was held here in eastern Lancaster County for charter members and friends. A special part of the program was a "toast" and "roast" of charter member Zach Meck, who -- prior to formation of DPAC -- was part of the early group meeting in Lancaster County as well as the Dairy Farmers’ Voice in Berks and Lebanon County. Zach owns and operates Meck Brothers Dairy in Womelsdorf, Pa. with his brother Jeremy.

In addition to a time of appreciation for the "strength during adversity" of four years of hard work in the dairy policy fight as DPAC, charter members and friends came together Wednesday to show support for dairy policy warrior Zach Meck, who was diagnosed with cancer in September.

It was a time of reflection, encouragement and humor and was videotaped for Meck who is hoping to get home from Hershey Medical Center soon. (Editor's Note: Meck is home from the hospital as of December 6, 2013).

"There’s nobody with the drive and tenacity of a Zach Meck," said DPAC’s current co-chair Rob Barley of Conestoga, Pa. "Then he met Suzanne, who shares that tenacity, and they are a great team."

DPAC charter member Duane Hertzler of Perry County could not attend the luncheon, but said Zach is known for "the ability to lead the fight if you believe in a just cause. You have been a fierce fighter for the cause of DPAC and the dairy producers’ survival."

Said DPAC vice-chair Alan Kozak of Meck, "You are unique and respected by those of us who have struggled to be dairy farmers because that is what we want to be and do. Hopefully the battle to establish and grow a farm has been both rewarding and prepared you for this battle. Like many folks I am pulling for you and your family to win this battle as well."

In true "roasting" fashion, local friends and fellow DPAC charter members Nelson Troutman of Richland and Daniel Brandt of Annville shared stories of the early meetings Zach helped put together before DPAC officially met for the first time.

After serving the first two years on the DPAC board, Meck remains a key member of DPAC’s Pennsylvania milk marketing committee that works on policy issues related to the state over-order premium and accountability of how this premium is distributed back to farmers. Meck also serves as a Land O’Lakes delegate, and he ran last fall for the cooperative board seat, and was narrowly defeated in a January 2013 tie-breaker vote won by Duane Hershey of Cochranville.

In an August 2012 Farmshine interview before that election, Meck stated: "It’s time to get the younger generation involved in the leadership of our cooperative. Our futures are at stake in the outcome of the decisions that are made."

In Zach’s current battle with cancer, "strength during adversity" takes on a whole new meaning. Zach has made DPAC a priority and strived to carry the farmer’s voice into the coop boardroom. DPAC luncheon attendees came out to show Zach they are there for him in turn.

Zach and Jeremy Meck started their dairy business together by renting and building their herd before purchasing their Meck Brothers Dairy location in Womelsdorf, Pa. in 2008. Even thought they grew up on their father’s poultry farm, he showed those first calves their father gave them and developed a passion for dairying. Their father passed away in the spring of 2012.

Zach and Suzanne (Perdue) Meck were married in the summer of 2012. Then, this fall, Zach found himself, as he puts it, "walking on a road I never expected." As he is battling cancer, his friends and neighbors have helped Jeremy with the harvest.