In my mind, believing isn't seeing, it's hoping for an outcome or future. When belief becomes action, it takes on a passion or power that can change the future. The Professional Dairy Producers Foundation
(PDPF) was founded, and sustained, on the belief in a better future.
"That's what it's about, producers and industry leaders getting behind it," says Shelly Mayer, Executive Director of PDPF. "What is amazing and inspiring is how, even during rough economic times, how much producers believe in the future of the dairy industry."
That was actually the premise behind the "I believe!" campaign that was started back in 2005 and continues today. When you go to the PDPF website, you will see I believe woven into everything they do. They believe in a bright future for the dairy industry and want to provide a means for great things to happen.
"It's easy to start a foundation," Mayer says. "It's hard to grow one. When we hit about year three we were questioning, was this worth it, we asked our membership and our industry colleagues, 'Do you believe enough in the future of the industry that you are willing to put your own money into this foundation?' And they answered it in an overwhelming way."
Members of Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin (PDPW)
put a lot of money and time into getting the foundation up and running. They knew that the future of the diary industry isn't only in Wisconsin, so they are beginning to reach out to other state groups and organizations to help them grow. (It also just added Pennsylvania dairyman Logan Bower to the Board of Directors.) Dairymen know well that it's hard to operate without money, and the Education Foundation facilitates educational opportunities beyond the borders of Wisconsin.
"The purpose of the foundation is to have dollars so that we can grant out and support initiatives across the country" Mayer continues. "Something bigger than Wisconsin and bigger than Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin could do on it's own. If there is an important initiative or cause that Pennsylvania or California has that is a benefit to our whole industry, and allows us to come together and rally, that's the purpose of this foundation."
PDPF was conceived back in 1999 and 2000 by members of PDPW. They believed that somehow they needed to have a greater impact on the whole industry not just Wisconsin. In 2002 The Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin Education Foundation began as a way to ensure that training wasn't delayed or neglected because of a lack of funding. Although it was completely independent of PDPW in operation and organization, organizers kept the PDPW tag to give it some recognition in the industry, but in 2010 it changed it's name to better reflect it's scope and reach.
"What we recognized is nationally PDPW didn't represent well the vision and the capabilities of this foundation," Mayer explains. "So that's why its board decided that it's time now, because we have our own organization, to have a name that clearly states what we are. So the intent is still the same, to do good that brings the industry together and do greater good nationally, but the name better reflects its ability."
The foundation supports events that fall into three main areas: Public Trust, People Development and Preparedness. Some of the initiatives that it has helped fund include, Dairy Challenge
, National Dairy Animal Well Being Initiative
, ACE – Agriculture Community Engagement
, and Dairy Mentor Program
"The Foundation is a little bit of everybody," Mayer says. "It's leaving a legacy, something greater than ourselves, and greater than the organization and asking others that are touched by the industry, 'Do you believe in what your doing? Do you believe in the future and the importance of the dairy industry? If you do, then this is the place to come together and invest in the future.'"
If you do believe, you can not only donate money, but your time and talents to helping the industry grow. Mayer stressed that you don't have to be a millionaire to serve and make a difference.
So the only question left to ask is ... Do you believe in the future of the dairy industry?
I'm proud to say, "I believe."