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Young dairy entrepreneurs urged to seek mentors

Jeff Harding, member of the Center for Dairy Excellence Foundation Board, addresses the crowd of young dairy entrepreneurs at the 2014 Pa. Dairy Summit.
Photo by Sherry Bunting

Special for Farmshine

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. – “Set your goals high,” Center for Dairy Excellence Foundation Board member Jeff Harding told the more than 50 young dairy men and women attending the end of the “young entrepreneurs” reception and panel discussion on the eve of the 2014 Pennsylvania Dairy Summit Tuesday evening, Feb. 11 here at the Penn Stater.

“We can be the fifth largest state in dairy. There are huge opportunities here in the Northeast for us to succeed in dairy. But we’ve got to be good,” added Harding who takes a keen interest in the Center for Dairy Excellence Foundation’s Dairy Leadership Program.

Attending the Summit in the “young entrepreneurs” track were a range of next generation dairy-interested young people – from those running their own dairy farms or working themselves into multi-generational family partnerships to those working full-time for dairy farms or related businesses and college students with strong dairy interest.

While students come from a variety of schools to this event, Penn State students have a much easier commute to this year’s Summit held at the nearby Penn Stater for the first time, after a decade of the venue at the Lancaster Host Resort. Next year’s Summit will return to Lancaster, but in the new Lancaster Marriott Convention Center downtown.

The evening program for young people included a dinner and reception followed by a panel discussion where the attendees had the opportunity to ‘pick the brains’ of other, more seasoned dairy producers who talked candidly about their operations and experiences.

In wrapping up the program, Harding urged young dairy entrepreneurs to gain confidence by developing mentoring relationships with other dairy producers.

“Look around,” he said. “There are all kinds of great dairymen here and I promise you every one of them will open up and pour out what they know for you. This is your opportunity over the next two days to learn and develop those relationships.”

The 2014 Pennsylvania Dairy Summit is hosted annually by Pennsylvania Dairy Managers of Pennsylvania (PDMP) and the Center for Dairy Excellence. Held February 11-13 in State College, the 2014 Summit included a trade show, farm and retail showcases, a “hands-on” demo room, and many breakout sessions on timely dairy management topics, and was attended by over 500 people.