Our History

To learn more about milk’s history in the U.S. check out this timeline from the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA).

Western Dairy Association is rich in history as it had its beginning in Denver, Colorado as the Denver Dairy Council. It was founded in 1936 and is an affiliate of the National Dairy Council, which was founded in 1915. The funding was provided by both the dairy farmers and milk processors.
Historical dairy farmer with cow and calf
The mission of the Denver Dairy Council was to educated school children about the benefits of consuming milk and many of the programs were aimed at children in the classroom and the school cafeteria.

After World War II and in the late 40s the American Dairy Association (ADA) of Colorado was founded by dairy farmers for the purpose of promoting milk. One of the first promotion focuses was during June with “June is Dairy Month.” The Colorado American Dairy Association was a member of the national ADA, headquartered in Chicago. Colorado ADA bought promotional materials and helped fund national advertising programs. The focus of ADA promotional endeavors was restaurants and grocery stores as well as home delivered milk.

In the sixties, the ADA and Colorado Dairy Council had separate boards and staff. Mr. Howie Ryan was the manager of the Denver Dairy Farmer Milk Marketing Cooperative (CO-OP) in Colorado. Mr. Ryan helped develop a merger of the milk marketing CO-OP and promotion organization, under the dairy farmer leadership of Tom Camerlo, a dairy farmer from Florence and known as a global leader in the dairy industry. The promotion association was then located in the Denver Milk CO-OP office in downtown Denver.

The ADA of Colorado was doing more local promotions at the time; however, there was a movement to incorporate the ADA members in the mountain region into one organization. As the milk marketing cooperative’s merged in the late sixties and early seventies, it was the wish of the dairy farmer members to incorporate promotion and nutrition under one roof. And, in tandem with the national movement by dairy farmers to have ADA and NDC merge with the newly formed Dairy Research Inc. (DRINC), incorporating into one organization called the United Dairy Industry Association (UDIA). Lillian McIntosh feeding dairy cow calves 1933

More consolidation of the dairy organizations occurred in the late sixties and early seventies. The milk marketing CO-OP, Mountain Empire Dairymen’s Association (MEDA), under the management of Vern Bingham, also expanded. It was the wish of the dairy farmer leadership to change the Denver Dairy Council to Dairy Council of Colorado and ADA of Colorado to Goddess of the Rockies Milk Inc (GORMI). Later, it also incorporated Wyoming, bringing both organizations under one roof with the leadership of Harvey Wilhelm and Ruth Bowling. GORMI was a member of UDIA. And as a member of UDIA, GORMI participated in national and local ADA/NDC/DRINC programs.

Then, in the early eighties, the milk marketing CO-OP MEDA continued to expand, as did the need for a broader, fully funded promotion association.

In 1980, the GORMI manager passed away and the board of directors, under the Greeley dairy farmer Historical image of cow's milk being shared from a refrigeratorleadership of William Wailes Sr., began a search for a person to continue to move the promotion organization forward. The board of directors hired Tom Jenkinson, a then-employee of The California Milk Advisory Board, to move to Colorado and lead the company into the future.

In the early eighties, GORMI was re-named Western Dairyfarmers’ Promotion Association (WDPA) and Western Dairy Council (WDC) to better reflect the geographic area and purpose of its mission, covering the states of Colorado and Wyoming. As oversupply of milk began to burden the dairy farmers in 1982, the promotion program, under the leadership of MEDA chairman Tom Camerlo, began to explore the feasibility of all dairy farmers in the United States paying an equal contribution, based on pounds of milk produced at each farm, to fund dairy promotions. MEDA already had a mandatory deduction from members to pay checks of 1% gross pay price; during this time farmers were receiving an on-farm price in the range of $14.00 per hundred pounds of milk produced.Homestead 1910

A national movement began in Colorado recommending that all dairy farmers in the U.S. be assessed $0.05 per 100 pounds of production to help remove surplus supplies of milk and stabilize the market.

In 1983, congress passed the The National Dairy and Tobacco act of 1983 creating The National Dairy Promotion and Research Board (NDB). Eighteen dairy checkoff organizations were formed in the U.S., called States and Regions. WDPA is one of those organizations.

In 1984, WDPA and WDC took on promotion responsibilities for Montana dairymen.

Buttermilk billboard by Denver Dairy CouncilDuring the mid to late 1980s, the NDB and UDIA had several three-way partnership agreements with The California Milk Advisory Board and continued to promote dairy into the early 1990s. As the programs begin to evolve in separate directions, the dairy farmer leadership saw a need to better coordinate promotion activities. It was then that the two national Organizations, NDB and UDIA, set the course for a partnership and in 1995 createde Dairy Management Inc. (DMI). DMI is the dairy promotion model guiding the dairy checkoff nationally today.

In 1995, dairy farmers also wanted a unified voice with regards to its funding, promotion activities, nutrition education, science, and research, thus they created the Unified Marketing Plan, which is implemented by the state and region organizations, like WDA, across the United States.Roy and his mother Agnes on their dairy farm

With the retirement of WDPA manager Tom Jenkinson in December of 2006, the Board of Directors hired Cynthia S. French as the chief executive officer for the organization.

In 2007, under the leadership of Cynthia French and the board of directors, WDPA and WDC were merged into one organization, Western Dairy Association (WDA). It represented the unifying of the organization under a single brand and mission, communicating WDA’s core values. It also served the purpose of aligning regional dairy checkoff programs with the unified national plan and clearly defining the differences. This merger signifies one company implementing one unified program and one unified dairy farmer voice, preparing the company for new challenges.

On the dairy farm, sampling cow's milkFrench initiated a new Dairy Farmer Image Campaign and school pizza partnership which resulted in both initiatives receiving a Heartland Emmy Award; the first award of its kind for WDA.

As checkoff began moving toward partnerships nationally, including work with Pizza Hut, Taco Bell and McDonald’s, Western Dairy too began to form local partnerships in order to reach consumers through trusted third parties and expand dairy farmer priorities in the community. Some of those partners include Rocky Mountain PBS, Pedal The Plains, Children’s Museum of Denver, Another Mother Runner, the Denver Broncos and more.

In 2014, Western Dairy Association launched a brand-new, modernized website that you still see today. Also in 2014 the Dairy Value Chain Curriculum was introduced. The curriculum is used by ag teachers nationwide and has received rave reviews.

As Fuel Up to Play 60 reached its 5th year of existence, the program continued to soar to new heights in the Western Dairy region. Support from the Denver Broncos means dairy’s health and wellness message is reaching millions of football fans throughout the year in school, at games and at the team’s health and wellness expo each Labor Day weekend. WDA has worked with incredibly player spokespeople from the team including David Bruton Jr. and Virgil Green.

In 2016, Western Dairy celebrated 80 years of history with a June event honoring all our dairy farm families, especially those who had also been operating for 80 or more years. A special publication went out featuring the stories from each of these dairy farm families at the end of the year.