CEO Blog

Cynthia S. French's blog discussing important issues and the essential contributions of dairy farms to communities and the important nutritional and economic value dairy foods provide to consumers daily.

This was a bad week for fear mongers.

The National Academy of Sciences, after an exhaustive review, issued a landmark report on genetically engineered food and the verdict is clear: GMO foods are every bit as safe to eat as any other food.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization issued a joint report saying that glyphosate, one of the most common and most demonized pesticides used in agriculture, is “unlikely” to cause cancer in people. eating together

These reports confirm what scientists and what farmers – including dairy farmers – have been saying for years.

And yet, consumer demand for “non-GMO” foods and related items will likely increase – because the debate on GMO’s has been “based on fear, not logic.”  Dairy farmers have seen a similar debate play out on BST.

While we definitely have to do more to make sure people understand modern agriculture is safe, I’m pleased that these reports came out in the biggest media outlets in the world and they’re getting the attention they deserve.

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People often use the buzzword “sustainability” without fully understanding what that means.  Dairy farmers not only know what sustainability is, they’ve taught others the full meaning of the term in agriculture and beyond. Our farmers valued sustainability (stewardship) before it was cool.

Our dairy community defines sustainability as “providing consumers with nutritious dairy products they want, in a way that makes the industry, people and the earth economically, environmentally and socially better – now and for future generations.”

So to us, sustainability means using resources wisely to make sure our dairy farms and families perseveres, grows, and thrives over time.  It means ensuring future generations will have access to healthy, wholesome, and affordable dairy products.  It means maintaining the health and wellbeing of our cows. It means reducing waste, conserving energy, and being good stewards of the land and water.

For many farmers, sustainability is a sacred trust – it’s the idea that the legacy their parents and grandparents entrusted to them will be passed on intact to their children and grandchildren. Farmers know they cannot continue to meet the increasing demand of highly nutritious dairy foods and ensure the survival of their farms without maintaining the environment, treating their cows exceptionally well, and operating even more efficiently.

This hasn’t been easy. Global demand for dairy continues to increase while farmland continues to decrease. Over the years, farmers have endured resource shortages, price volatility and burdensome regulations. Today we face restrictions on our farms from interest groups that have nothing to do with sound science and everything to do with slick marketing. In short, dairy farmers have had to do a lot more with a lot less.

To preserve their legacy in the face of these challenges, dairy farm families have embraced modern technology and practices in ways few industries have. This relentless, daily commitment to improvement and stewardship has resulted in dramatic efficiency gains for all our communities.

Today, U.S. dairy farming produces only 2 percent of the animal livestock contributions to greenhouse gases. Dairies use 90 percent less farmland, produce 76 percent less manure, consume 65 percent less water and generate 63 percent less carbon than they did in 1944.

Our commitment continues to grow, and we are grateful for sustainability efforts from farmers and the organizations that support them. With three years of work and support from Western Dairy Association, Governor Hickenlooper’s Office of Energy (CEO) obtained a $1.1 million U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) award to help finance energy efficiency improvements for Colorado farmers. The award comes through USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service’s (NRCS) Regional Conservation Partnership Program, and is matched through a $1.3 million cash and in-kind combined contribution from CEO, the Colorado Department of Agriculture and utility and agricultural partners. The funds will help finance energy and water saving projects identified through CEO’s Colorado Dairy and Irrigation Efficiency Program.

Efforts like these are such a source of pride. They help preserve our farms for generations to come. They offer the promise of a healthier population and a healthy planet. They ensure the wellbeing of animals. Finally, they deliver a very clear message: America can see the future of sustainability by looking at the dairy industry today.

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Part of my job is to keep our dairy farmers aware of media coverage of the industry. Most of you are aware of the recent piece in the Washington Post that featured comments from Dr. Temple Grandin of Colorado State University.

Yesterday Dr. Grandin released a statement through CSU’s Department of Animal Sciences to clarify her comments and add some context. I think it is important for all our dairy farmers to see it, so I’m posting her comments, verbatim, here. You can also view her statement in PDF form by clicking this link.

Cindy French

Western Dairy Association, President and CEO

Setting the record straight

Temple Grandin

The Wonkblog article “Why a top animal science expert is worried about the milk industry” by Roberto Ferdman has caused 0T8A2894considerable discussion among the dairy industry and academia. My purpose in this writing is to clarify what was said and what are my opinions of the dairy industry.

The premise of Mr. Ferdman’s 15-minute phone interview with me was to help explain the graphs showing the decrease in number of dairy cows and the increase in production per cow. During the interview I praised the excellent Colorado dairies I visited with Bill Wailes prior to his death. I also indicated that, in my opinion, excellent dairies like these represent a third of the dairies in the United States. This was interpreted by Mr. Ferdman to mean that two thirds of the dairies in the United States are bad. This is not true.

I have and will always be an advocate for animal wellbeing. However, I do believe we need to be concerned about pushing biology too far without the proper support for extremes in production. After learning that high producing cows, such as Gigi, have good longevity, I will stop making statements that relate production to longevity. Recent information from semen distributors has also shown that concentrated selection for size and production has been replaced by selection for health and longevity. It is great to have genetic options to improve traits and wellbeing. In addition, I just learned that recently published and soon-to-be published scientific studies show great improvement in lameness issues previously associated with high producing cows.

There are always areas where improvement is needed. Too many cows that should be euthanized on the farm are still arriving at packing plants. Another problem I have observed is very tall cows and some tall dairy steers are bruising their backs in transit. Truck size is limited to 13 feet 6 inches due to bridge clearance. If cattle are too tall, they may require single deck trailers.

In conclusion, I will be clearer when talking to the public. The majority of the dairy industry is doing a great job with animal wellbeing through improved facilities, workforce management, feeding and selection, but there are still a few who really hurt all of animal agriculture when poor decisions are made.  While I praise the majority, we all need to work together to improve the others.  If there are ever questions or concerns, please reach out to me at 970-229-0703.

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I want to dedicate the year 2016 as a year of conducting our lives and business through Honor and Grace.

Honor originates in our hearts and refers to the value we personally place on someone.  It is not enough to merely honor people outwardly. Rather, honor comes from our hearts.

Grace is translated in from the Greek word charis in the Bible, which means “favor, blessing, or kindness.” I believe that we can all extend grace to others.

Let’s take the time to honor and extend grace to our spouse, our families, our co-workers and community in 2016 by recognizing their work and coming together to promote the incredible people in our industry.

This year marks the 80th year of existence of Western Dairy Association.  Let’s value and bless the hard and dedicated work conducted each day by families in agriculture who labor to produce safe, wholesome and the most nutritious food in the world.

This week I was humbled to host an inspirational and selfless leader, Dickson Ogwang, Minister Counselor to the Embassy of Uganda.  His visit gave him the opportunity to talk about building relationships through friendship and creating businesses that can help people enhance their lives and the lives of others through the actions of honor and grace. There is a lot to learn from Dickson Ogwang, the country of Uganda and the way that he views humanity and relationships.

Dickson knows the essential value animal proteins and milk have for his people in Uganda, and he is connected to us through that knowledge.  In Colorado he spoke to government officials, local churches and community members about opportunities to build sustainability into every life no matter where one lives.  He spoke with conviction about collaboration between our state and his country, saying;

“The historic moment for us in Colorado and the people of Uganda coming together to discuss fundamental issues of hunger and poverty.  Solving these challenging matters gives us fulfillment in life as we witness the lives of individuals and communities transformed for the better.  With a little difference, all of us together can impact the lives of those fighting hunger, poverty and desperation.”

Dickson believes through exploring business and charity during our lifetime, we have the chance to change the world.

I listened in awe as he spoke with many audiences, and watched his genuine expressions of grace and honor for humankind.  When I spoke to him personally, I asked him how he came to expressing and living such “Big Love” for the world’s people.  He told me how, in all reality he should have been killed several times, but that he was here, blessed to tell his story. His heart-stirring recounting of survival reinforced how lucky we are to live in the United States with an abundance of food, shelter and safety.

As a young child, Dickson accepted Christianity.  He tried to convince his mother, father and siblings of the same every single day.  One day, his village was bombed and as he calls it, “the rain started” (massive amounts of bullets due to the numerous shootings) through the air.  Blood from others spilled on him and his mother from the bombing and the shootings. As everyone ran in sheer terror, he began praying out loud while he WALKED his mother to safety.  This is only one of his many life experiences that have solidified his faith and his big love for life and for others. His life journey include hunger, poverty and terrorism which have instilled a worldly wisdom and appreciation for helping people gain the basic foundations of food and shelter. This sustainability of the basic needs in life allow people to truly live instead of just survive.

Our dairy farm families have done the same in investing over the past 80 years into childhood nutrition, community development, using natural resources with great stewardship and appreciation of farming and care for their animals. I want to honor and extend grace to those who have dedicated their lives to helping others.

In 2016, the dairy check off is focusing on:

  • Donating a gallon of milk to needy individuals when a consumer buys a gallon, called The Great American Food Drive.
  • Helping children improve their health and wellness through Fuel Up to Play 60.
  • Encouraging business leaders to help sponsor social goodness through GENYOUth along with our spokesperson Denver Bronco’s David Bruton.
  • Networking with consumers and mommy bloggers throughout the U.S. chatting about how important dairy nutrition is daily in our lives.
  • Growing Future Farmers of America students in their knowledge about the dairy value chain and leadership.
  • Building dairy partnerships with innovative businesses, community and agribusiness friends.
  • Growing the “Stand Up For Ag” network to share the stories and truth about food production.
  • Helping our farmers with continuous improvement through best practices guidelines with “Farmers Assuring Responsible Management.”
  • Dispelling myths by building unique stories within the “Udder Truth.”
  • Creating experiences for consumers and children through farm tours.
  • Providing farmer stories at the Denver Children’s Museum.
  • And, making continuous on-farm, sustainable improvements with the Colorado Energy Office.

With these initiatives, an excellent team at WDA and inspiring farmers and families, 2016 will be the year that we extend Honor and Grace to those who make a difference in our industry and in our world.

Join our crusade and stay connected to us.



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“A Glass of Milk”

Solutions for hunger are not easy especially in the face of CONFLICT and IGNORANCE and INDIFFERENCE toward the issue. Let us work with anyone who shares hunger goals, and for embracing any idea that can work, regardless of how unconventional it may seem at the time.

Dairy farmers for over 100 years have invested in childhood nutrition around the globe.

I’d like to relate a few stories I experienced while traveling in Africa, through Uganda and Rwanda, this summer and how it doesn’t matter where you are in the world……poverty, hunger and despair…. It all looks the same no matter if you’re in Colorado or Africa.

IMG_0088In July, I traveled with the Global Livingston Institution, a non-profit organization that works with students and community leaders to incubate innovative solutions to poverty. I will NEVER forget the people I met, the faces I saw, and the lessons I learned there.

We started in Uganda, where you can see a lush, GORGEOUS landscape coupled with EXTREME poverty in villages and cities. I was so HUMBLED and IMPRESSED by how the people worked so hard to “make do” with what they had. They just looked like they were living life – no cell phones…. Rather friends and family as they sat together talking and doing their daily chores. They are the most HUGGING people I’ve ever been around.

I was very curious about their food and access to food – Young men were riding bicycles carrying old-fashioned, large metal milk cans, bringing the milk directly from farm to market and to the milk plant – probably a 45 minute to two hour bicycle ride; and some by motorcycle.

We visited a young woman’s peanut butter business – the nutritional label she placed on her peanut butter jars read: “USES: – strengthens the gum, cures stomatitis, kills harmful bacteria; valuable in diabetes; useful in diarrhea especially chronic diarrhea; useful in nose bleeding and in cases of excessive bleeding during menstruation in women; and useful in treatment of hemophilia an inherited blood disease which causes hemorrhage.

We also saw very ELABORATE farmers markets with the most COLORFUL fruits and vegetables I was not familiar with. People were buzzing and happy around these markets.IMG_0336

I saw community water wells with women walking MILES hauling their 20 gallon containers on their shoulders or their heads. The water is definitely not in the quality standard that we are use to – it’s MUDDY and REDISH.

I spent a day on a dairy farm with Moses Byaruhanga and his family. It was an idyllic setting. Cows are milked by hand and they raise huge banana trees. However, Moses isn’t your typical dairy farmer – he’s also the Ugandan Presidential Senior Political Advisor. A friend of mine for a few years now, I asked Moses, what does the President of Uganda really want when it comes to dairy – he said, Cindy we want to go from one cow milk production to supplying milk commercially so that our people have more access to good nutrition.

His country is working so hard to grow its economy and take better care of its people. He fully understands the critical role dairy nutrition can play in improving the health of its citizens.

So when I asked him how he planned to deliver more dairy to the people, his answer was simple: “more cows.”

However, as any modern dairy farmer will tell you, it’s NOT THAT SIMPLE. More cows may be necessary, but that also means more inputs and more strain on natural resources.

American dairy farmers have met demand through more efficient farming and fewer cows. Like the wonderful and resourceful citizens of Uganda, we try to do more with what we have.

We use more efficient milking methods. We use more nutritious feed. We emphasize cow comfort and reduce stress on the animals. We monitor health closely and use advanced veterinary medicine when necessary. As a result, today’s dairies use 90 percent less cropland, produce 76 percent less manure, use 65 percent less water and 63 percent less carbon than a dairy did in 1944.

Today we’re trying to help Moses and his country achieve better results with their dairy farms. Earlier this month Moses visited Greeley and toured Diamond D Dairy in Longmont, where he met Jim and Kristie Docheff and discussed ways to improve dairy farming in his own country.  Thank you Jim and Kristie!

Africa children w CindyOther things we saw while I was in Africa included a visit to a real medicine doctor on a remote island, where he explained various ingredients he uses to cure many ailments. The Global Livingston Group worked with him so that he would refer certain illnesses to the town’s hospital – it seems he was telling parents to cut out the blisters on their children’s gums – as it was the devil – however, these children were dying of infections.

We also spent 7 hours trekking through the rainforest looking for gorillas – we were in the camp “Gorillas in the Mist” where Diane Fossie studied and it was the most PHYSICALLY CHALLENGING trek I’ve ever done in my life – straight up and straight down – no switchbacks.

In fact, we had to cross a rope bridge – a real rope bridge with creaky wooden slates …..OVER A CANYON – like what you’d see in an Indian Jones Movie – where only ONE PERSON at a time could cross the bridge.

So, TYPICAL to MY personality…when I face adversity, I decided I was going to “HAUL ASS” and get across the bridge the fastest way I could.

I also saw farming in these countries, done in small plots of ground but up on VERY STEEP slopes and the people farming the acreage HAND CARRIED their large farming tools up the steep mountain, farmed for a few hours and hiked back down.

But, you know…..nothing made a larger impact on me than visiting a grade school in Kampala. The school’s “Spiritual Committee” posted a letter on the wall – “author unknown” – this is a true story….. It’s titled   “A Glass of Milk” – true story and the story goes like this….

“One day, a poor boy, who was selling goods from door to door to pay his way through school, he found he had only one thin dime left and he was HUNGRY. He decided he would ask for a meal at the next house. However, he lost his nerve when a lovely young girl opened the door. Instead of a meal he asked for a drink of water. She thought he looked so hungry so she brought him a large glass of milk. He drank it slowly, and then asked, How much do I owe you?  “You don’t owe me anything,” she replied. “Mother has taught us never to accept pay for a kindness.”

He said…”Then I thank you from my heart.”

Well, As Howard Kelly left that house, he not only felt stronger physically, but his faith in God and Man was stronger also. He had been ready to give up and quit.

Many years later that same young girl became critically ill. The local doctors were baffled. They finally sent her to the big city, where they called in specialists to study her rare disease.

Dr. Howard Kelly was called in for the consultation. When he heard the name of the town she came from, a strange light filled his eyes. Immediately he rose and went down the hall of the hospital to her room.

Dressed in his doctor’s gown he went in to see her. He recognized her at once. He went back to the consultation room determined to do his best to save her life.

From that day, he gave special attention to her case.

After a long struggle, the battle was won.

Dr. Kelly requested the business office to pass the final bill to him for approval. He looked at it, then wrote something on the edge and the bill was sent to her room. She feared to open it, for she was sure it would take the REST OF HER LIFE to pay for it all. Finally, she looked, and something caught her attention on the side of the bill. She read these words…..

“Paid in full with one glass of milk.” Signed— Dr. Howard Kelly.IMG_0040

Tears of joy flooded her eyes as her happy heart prayed: “Thank you God that your love has spread through human hearts and hands.”

There’s a saying which goes something like this: “Bread cast on the waters comes back to you. The good deed you do today may benefit you or someone you love at the least expected time. If you never see the deed again at least you will have made the world a better place.” And, after all, isn’t that what life is all about?

Dr. Howard Kelly was a distinguished physician who in 1895 founded the Johns Hopkins Division of Gynecologic Oncology at Johns Hopkins University. According to Dr. Kelly’s biographer, the doctor was on a walking trip, not through Africa, rather, northern Pennsylvania as a young boy, when he stopped by a farm house very hungry, and asked for a drink of water. A little girl answered his knock at the door and instead of water, brought him a glass of fresh milk.

And so, the hunger story goes from there…. “Paid in full with one glass of milk.”

In this school I toured, at the bottom of this letter posted on the school wall, was written, “Good friends are like Angels, you don’t have to see them to know they are there.”

This story, delivered by the most unassuming of tellers, demonstrated to me how important it is for all of us to keep up our work helping people in dire need….those suffering from just basic life’s needs….hunger.

I know hunger is a controversial issue to some people. But to me, this is a critical component of everything we’re doing here and what our dairy farm families stand for. We need affordable options for our families. The safe, effective advances in agriculture that mean affordable food and milk for children and families here in Colorado – and for Moses in Uganda – must be protected.

You may already know about the Great American Milk Drive – it’s one of the programs dairy farmers created to show our support for our communities by partnering with those who want to donate a gallon milk to food banks.

Let’s work to eliminate hunger here in Colorado – “Good friends are like Angels, you don’t have to see them to know they are there.”

God bless you and your families,


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We all know social media has ushered in a new era of communication and crusading. For dairy farmers, this new technology can help us begin conversations reaching more people and explore new opportunities to share what we do. One of the best parts of my job is sharing our dairy farmers’ stories and the fine work of our team at Western Dairy Association to people we haven’t engaged before. Most of the time people are appreciative and positive. It’s so rewarding.

Of course, this same technology helps bring out the haters. Criticism – fair and unfair – is often fast, intense and anonymous.

This kind of cyber-nastiness is, for many of us, simply the price we pay for participating in a discussion. I’ve encountered my share. Typically I ignore it because it runs counter to the values of our community and does not align with good business ethics and my personal values.

Dairy farmers, true agriculturalists, and those of us living agricultural careers are straightforward people. We say what we mean and mean what we say. We own our words. We’re too focused on our important jobs to dwell on negativity. When I’m online I talk about the forward thinking things that align with our mission, like the essential nutritional value dairy foods provide or the steps we take to ensure food safety or the great animal care dairy farmers provide, I don’t have time for the pettiness.

I do worry, however, that this all-too common un-sourced “sniping” erodes the trust we work so hard to establish with our community and consumers. It’s not just with dairy farmers. People trust their friends and family the most when it comes to information they read online. But are we really supposed to ignore J. Patrick Doyle of Domino’s because your uncle read something on Twitter by “@wyldnuttr2001” about the latest nonsense from PETA, organizations slyly set on putting animal protein out of business or from disgruntled individuals with poor business and work ethics?

We also know the mean-spiritedness of online “trolls” has actual, harmful impact on people in real life. Rumor mongering and cyber bullying have had devastating consequences for their victims, often with the offenders avoiding accountability. (A troll is a person who propagates discord on the Internet by starting arguments or upsetting people, by posting inflammatory messages in an online community with the deliberate intent of provoking readers – Wikipedia definition).

All of us can do our part by taking the high road – continuing to value transparency and responsibility for our words and actions. Don’t change who you are or how you act just because you’re looking at a screen instead of someone’s face. Own your words and put your name to them. When you see a dairy farmer, agriculturalist or other honest, hardworking person in your community taking abuse, come to their aid. Have each other’s back online.

Join our Stand Up for Ag network and engage in with honest people, great stories and essential conversations about the importance of food production. Learn more about the fine agricultural associations and its people like Western Dairy Association, Colorado Beef Council, Colorado Livestock Association, Colorado Farm Bureau, Rocky Mountain Farmers Union, Colorado Cattlemen’s Association, Colorado Wheat Council, Colorado Pork Council and many more. Hear from our fine employees, Colorado’s Farmers and Ranchers and essential Agribusinesses. Let’s fill the pipeline of honest conversations and start important dialogues with our communities.

We’re not going to convince every online troll to change their ways, but we can show them what civil online discourse and trusted values looks like.

We can take the high road!

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It’s time for those who produce food to have a say in food policy.

Recently, Natural Grocers, a U.S. food chain with stores in Colorado, Montana and Wyoming, announced they will sell dairy foods only from pasture-grazed cows. They will be requiring farm practices from their suppliers to include the requirement that cows must graze at pasture for at least 120 days a year and eat a primarily grass-based diet.

Setting policy? Talk to a farmer first

The announcement is part of a trend that has become commonplace in many communities, one I call “Food Policy in a Vacuum.” It takes place when the people who sell our food begin setting wide-ranging food policy without a thorough understanding of the issues and challenges faced by the hard-working folks who are producing the food we eat.

If the leaders at Natural Grocers had been willing to ask a few questions of our dairy farm families in any of the three states we serve, they might have received some important insights. While we certainly respect their right to sell products from any supplier they choose, we must point out that the weather in our region does not support 120 days of grass feeding a year. The grass in our microclimate grows very slowly, during a growing season of four months at the most. Further, the grass grown here is not nutritious enough, year round, for lactating cows (the ones who provide us with fluid milk).

Unworkable by any measure

And if the cows can’t thrive purely on pasture-based dairying, how about the health of the farmers’ land and business? Sadly, they would also suffer under this policy, since pasture-fed cows produce less milk that is often of lower quality. This factor alone means it would take additional cows to achieve the same milk quality and quantity we have today to meet consumer demand. This factor alone also would require more land, and even more acres to supply sufficient grass. Our dairy farm families know the importance of sustainability to land, water and resources.  Policies created in a vacuum cause an imbalance in sustainable use of such natural resources like water and irrigation for grassland.

So while they’ve received notoriety from their “only grass-fed” milk demand, I wonder if the folks at Natural Grocers might have done better by asking a few more long-range questions about the situation, or by taking up my offer of visiting one of our dairy farms and talking to our farmers to get a better understanding of the challenges faced by modern producers and the innovation our farmers are incorporating on their farms.

Our place at the table

Milk is one of the most affordable, available, naturally nutrient-rich foods (and protein sources) around. If we’re all going to have enough milk to meet demand and maintain health, then we must employ all the modern, scientific methods that have allowed us to feed ourselves, and many other parts of the world, for so many years. If you’re a dairy farmer, know a dairy farmer, or if you just enjoy drinking a glass of cold, nutritious milk whenever you like, then it’s time to stand up and insist that our dairy farmers have a place at the table when food policy decisions are made, and that those decisions are ones that all of us in agriculture can adhere to, in ways that keep our herds and our businesses as healthy as possible.

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Every journey may begin with a single step, but it took me about 1.8 million of them to really appreciate the value of corporate wellness.

“How bad is it?” I went through the Anschutz Executive Health and Wellness assessment over a year ago. The assessment results reflected the past years of limited physical exercise, stress, and poor sleep and nutrition habits. It was obvious I needed to make some significant lifestyle changes.

1.8 million steps … and countingdec 2014 wellness blog

I had casually talked with Dr. Hill during a childhood health and wellness town hall where he told me about the executive assessments the Anschutz Health and Wellness Center was starting in Colorado. When I couldn’t finish the three-minute step test, I knew the results would not be good. And now, here I was in Dr. Holly Wyatt’s office, hearing the hard truth about what I already was beginning to realize: I had to make some big changes if I wanted to look better and have more energy to spend time with my husband, kids and grandkids. Since that fateful day February 27th, I have been challenged, tested and sometimes discouraged, but I’ve stayed true to my commitment to improve my health. As a result, I have more energy and vitality, 6 clothes sizes smaller and close to my fitness level of 18 years earlier. In fact, I’ve walked 1.8 million steps so far this year, and I’m not planning to stop anytime soon.

With my own personal health journey as an inspiration, I was determined to help my staff here at Western Dairy Association start living their healthiest lives, too. I did some research and found that employee health and wellness programs can make a big difference. According to a U.S. Department of Labor study, “workplace wellness programs can help contain the current epidemic of lifestyle-related diseases, the main driver of premature morbidity and mortality in the United States.” As the leader of an organization that proudly sponsors Fuel Up to Play 60, a program empowering students to lead healthier lives, it’s important to me that all of us at WDA are wellness role models for kids in our community.

Climb every mountain

With the help of the Anschutz Health and Wellness Center, and the eager support of the team, we rolled out our first-ever employee health and wellness program in May. The first phase of the program ran for 16 weeks, and included several sessions with Anschutz staff: Strengths Finder, Mental Muscle Building, Goal Setting, Setting Boundaries and more. Our team also took a field trip to the campus at the University of Colorado for individual health and wellness assessments, a POUND group exercise class and a healthy cooking demonstration. Everyone got FitBit fitness tracking devices to help increase healthy habits and movement during the work day. To motivate everyone, we decided to tackle the “Flat 14ers Club,” which flattens each of Colorado’s 14,000 foot peaks and measures how many steps would be needed to “climb” each one. Then, as each week passed, we counted how many of the mountains we had virtually scaled.

Looking forward to the New Year

In just 16 weeks of tracking, our staff climbed 41 mountains and walked 15,106,000 steps. We’re all so pleased with the results that we’ll be kicking off a new phase in 2015. If you’re ever out in Denver and stop by our offices, you’ll be greeted by our health-conscious and energetic team. And who knows? We just might talk you into taking a walk with us over the lunch hour, as we complete even more steps on our own health journeys as we kick off the New Year.

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At the grocery store, in restaurants, and in our own kitchens, we can all take action to reduce food waste.

Yes, I share, and I don’t care who knows it. Because I often find myself eating at restaurants during the week, I never hesitate to ask my dining companions, “Can we share a dish?” Even though my request sometimes is met with a confused look, usually people will tell me, “Yes! I can never finish these huge restaurant portions, and I don’t want to waste food!”

Sharing meals is a small step, but it’s a mindful one in the battle against food waste. As a leader in the food production industry, I’m very concerned about this issue. While I was already aware of the fact that we waste 40 percent of our food in the United States, I just returned from a conference that helped me learn more about the situation that contributes to that staggering statistic, and to start reflecting on what more can be done.

Wasting 273 pounds, per person, each year

The topics of food waste and sustainability were front and center at the gathering of the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy Sustainability Council, which is comprised of more than 200 members representing businesses across the food chain, as well as NGOs. During our meeting in Seattle, we had time for exploration and learning (ask me sometime about how cool it was to visit Starbucks’ headquarters!), and we also learned some sobering facts about the food waste.

For example, I found out that each person in our country wastes an average of 273 pounds of food each year, and that more than 96 percent of the food we throw away ends up in landfills. Once in landfills, food breaks down to produce methane, a potent greenhouse gas, which contributes to climate change.

Dairy farms step up to the challenge

Many in the dairy industry are taking positive steps in response to this issue. In fact, compared with the farms of 60 years ago, our modern dairy farms use 95 percent less land and 65 percent less water, while producing 76 percent less manure. And, instead of the 26 million cows living on farms in 1944, we produce all that nutritious food with only 9 million cows. We’re also aware of the global implications of our work. While we’ll soon be able to meet U.S. food demand with only 8 million cows, the global demand will be for an additional 1.5 million, making dairy exports a vital link to global food sustainability.

Modeling recycled energy in Seattle

During the meeting in Seattle, the Sustainability Council visited the Werkhoven Dairy, which accepts pre-consumer food waste, combines it with manure in their digester, and produces electricity for as many as 300 homes. The benefits are significant, since they are keeping the air and water clean, protecting salmon streams, keeping the dairy operating and creating Grade A compost. It was heartening to see our industry held up as one that is doing many things right in this area. And we’re also doing more to make sure our products end up with those who need them most. I personally am gratified by our participation in The Great American Milk Drive, which works to get milk on the shelves in community food banks.

How to take action now

If you’d like to find out how to take action against food waste, I recommend learning more about the Environmental Protection Agency’s Food Recovery Challenge, which has a toolkit to help you get started. During a presentation to the council, EPA representatives told us an average family can save $1,600 a year by reducing food waste.

Even with the progress I learned about during this meeting, I am very aware there is still more to do. Dairy farmers are dedicated to producing such a highly nutritious food, so we all need to work harder to keep excess food out of landfills and get it to the children and families who need it most.

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I continue to be grateful for the opportunity to represent so many genuine, hard-working families in the dairy farming businesses.

Flying over Colorado early this morning, I was looking over the fresh blanket of sparkling snow that covered our beautiful state, relaxing and listening to my favorite tunes by Sade. After a work week best described as “complicated,” I had a moment to pause and reflect on how thankful I am for my life, family and career.

As the leader of an organization that is a trusted partner of family dairy farms, I feel a special sense of gratitude that I’m allowed to do the work I do every day. I am honored to be a representative for so many genuine, hard-working family businesses. I’m supported in that work by a group of fine men and women on our board of directors and a talented, dedicated staff. I am beyond grateful for all they do to further our mission here at Western Dairy Association.

I’ve had much to be thankful for this year. I’ve held dialogues and town hall meetings with inspiring people, including Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, USDA official Audrey Rowe, former CNN news anchor and GENYOUth CEO Alexis Glick, Broncos safety and Fuel Up To Play 60 spokesperson David Bruton, and former U.S. Surgeon General and promoter of eliminating childhood obesity Dr. David Satcher.

I had a chance to befriend Florence Ozor, a founder of Nigeria’s Bring Back Our Girls campaign, and escorted her on a tour of a local dairy farm. With her, I experienced the palpable feeling of contentment of in a place where animals are so well cared for. And I met with Dr. Kenneth Cooper, called the Father of Fitness, who pioneered the aerobic exercise movement in the United States. I told him that, because of a University certification requirement, I hadn’t been allowed to graduate from college until I could run an 11-minute mile. I could have been on the “family” plan for college!  He “shared my pain” and we laughed together about how hard I had worked to reach that daunting goal!

As I gather with family and friends around the Thanksgiving table next week, I will know I have so much to give thanks for – my husband, wonderful kids and grandchildren, and work in agricultural food production that fulfills and sustains me. I can only look forward with great anticipation to the new challenges and opportunities that await me, and our association, in the year ahead.

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