Partnerships across the dairy supply chain play a key role in creating a more sustainable supply chain. Recently, C.O.nxt employee-owners Jill DeLucero, Senior Account Manager, and Rochelle Ripp Schnadt, Senior PR Specialist, took flight to Nashville for the annual Women in Agribusiness conference where they were able to shed light on the importance of these partnerships. The energy of nearly 1,200 women in the agriculture industry — ranging from students to senior leaders who have paved the way — was amazing.

We invited some of our food system friends in the dairy segment to participate in the panel discussion “Connecting for a Healthy, Sustainable Dairy Supply Chain,” which was moderated by Rochelle. Joining Rochelle on-stage for the conversation were:

  • Aubrey (Lettinga) VanLaan from Walnutdale Family Farms in Michigan
  • Lauren Brey, Director of Strategic Partnerships & Sustainability at Edge Dairy Farmer Cooperative
  • Glenda Gehl, Vice President and General Manager, Forage Genetics International (FGI) representing Land O’Lakes

We dove into difficult questions like…

What is your point of view on sustainability and where we’re headed? What makes you excited for the opportunity for agriculture? What are the biggest challenges for you in the supply or value chain?

We captured a few comments from the panelists to give you a taste of the dairy dialogue that ensued.

Q: Can you share the work you’ve done in driving the sustainability conversation in your businesses?

Aubrey: Over the last 5-10 years we have looked more closely into our farming business to look at efficiencies and areas where changes could happen on the dairy to be more profitable and sustainable in areas across the dairy. Looking at cows, cropping and nutrient management has led to building projects, equipment upgrades and cropping changes. All in efforts to not only change where we are at in terms of environmental impact, but also to where employees are equipped with efficient ways to care for and be successful on the dairy.

Q: Can you share an example of a key collaboration happening in your dairy/role?

Glenda: This summer, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Hershey Company announced the joint commit of $2 million for Land O’Lakes member dairy farms in Pennsylvania to support clean water, climate and sustainable farming initiatives. The increased funding builds on the “Sustainable Dairy PA” initiative started by Land O’Lakes, Hershey and the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay in 2021, which takes a collaborative, industry-led and public sector-supported approach to accelerate on-farm conservation practices that improve water quality and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Q: Do your sustainability practices or efforts differentiate you? How so?

Lauren: Yes, Farmers for Sustainable Food focuses on farmer led. The farmers are already doing this work, choosing what practices to implement. We are helping them document their practices to get information to better manage their farms while also connecting them with supply chain partners for support and collaboration.

Q: The million-dollar question…who should pay for the implementation of sustainability practices, and why?

Aubrey: It seems as talks continue to be had within the industry you have a lot of the things people think need to be done are at the farm level. What gets hard is that if processors and consumers aren’t going to pay for what needs to be done at the farm level, the farmer who most likely wants to make changes — because farmers want to do things the best way they can — are limited because of pricing and limited income to make decisions on things that aren’t completely necessary for the day-to-day operations. So, if we are asking for farmers to change then there must be support back down to the farm-level financially.

Lauren: Shared responsibility through the supply chain, then there should also be shared reward.

Diverse boards make better decisions. To have a high functioning board, you need diverse viewpoints.

While the room was filled with knowledgeable agribusiness women, the attendees craved the farmer conversations demonstrating the importance of farmer representation at these meetings. Having all segments of an industry in the room is key to understanding the entire value chain. It allows us to challenge each other’s thinking and gain the necessary understanding to forge those partnerships. There are still barriers like old-school thinking and gender roles to overcome. As Edna Morris, Chairman of the Board at Tractor Supply Company eloquently shared in another panel discussion, “Diverse boards make better decisions. To have a high functioning board, you need diverse viewpoints” and the same holds true throughout your organization.

In this episode we dish out takes on the struggling U.S. pea protein market, have roundup discussions on the Women in Ag panel and World Dairy Expo, discuss the Halloween sugarflation phenomenon and countdown America’s least favorite candies.

Published On: November 9th, 2023Categories: CSR and Sustainability

C.O.nxt Insight.

Our team of subject matter experts focuses on food and agriculture—farm field to processing to entrée on a plate. We can help you build a new brand, protect an old one or target customers to foster sales. Let’s talk when the time is right to handle your next strategic marketing and communications challenge: Marcy Tessmann,


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