IDFA Welcomes 30 Dairy Leaders to NextGen Leadership Program

“IDFA and current dairy leaders have made it a priority to develop future leaders for our industry who can manage disruption, champion sound policies and lead with integrity,” said Michael Dykes, DVM, CEO of IDFA. “That’s why I’m so proud to welcome this fourth NextGen Leadership Class, comprised of some of the best and brightest men and women rising through the ranks of our industry. IDFA’s NextGen Leadership Program will prepare them to manage disruption, embrace change, and usher our industry into a new era.

The program, now in its fourth year, is designed to support, guide and prepare mid- to senior-level dairy industry professionals who are ready to take the next step in their leadership journey. The one-year program allows participants to build and expand relationships with their peers, hone their leadership skills, and learn advanced advocacy skills for the dairy industry. The class will meet regularly over the coming year with a mix of in-person and virtual modules. The program focuses on three main areas: advocacy, education and networking.

“Our industry leadership is committed to preparing the workforce of tomorrow and this program is designed to cultivate this next generation of leadership, one cohort at a time,” said Colin Newman, Chief of Staff of the IDFA. “The caliber of the candidates selected for Cohort 4 is exceptional and we are confident that they will all make valuable and positive contributions to this year’s program.”

The class of 2022-23 includes:

  • Nathan BassVice President of Operations, Valley Queen Cheese
  • wind beardDirector, Quality Assurance, Grande Cheese Company
  • Melissa BischoffDirector, Milk Supply, Leprino Foods
  • Corey BrowerDirector – R&D, Saputo Dairy USA
  • Brian CardenVice President of Sales and Marketing, Crystal Creamery, Inc.
  • Steven ChristiansenVice President of Human Resources and OD, Idaho Milk Products
  • Rylen DickeyCategory Manager – Ingredients, Hilmar Cheese Company, Inc.
  • Dakonya FreisVice President, Product Management and Marketing, Nelson-Jameson Inc.
  • Jeff GalbraithDirector of Operations, Continental Dairy Facilities LLC
  • Grant GondellGlobal Product Manager, United Dairymen of Arizona
  • Erin GrafLeader – Total Compensation and HR Operations, Darigold, Inc.
  • Ben HoperichDairy Category Manager, Abbott Labs
  • Heather KrebsbachDirector – Operational Quality, Sargento Foods Inc.
  • Ana LeachAssistant General Counsel, Land O’Lakes, Inc.
  • Edward LearoydVice President, Safety, Food Safety, Quality, Regulatory, Great Lakes Cheese Company
  • Jose MaldonadoR&D – Manager, Lala US Inc.
  • Matthew Maxsonvice president, corporate controller, California Dairies, Inc.
  • ryan murphyManager, National Sales and Operations, Prairie Farms Dairy, Inc.
  • Mark PetersenIngredient Sales Manager, Valley Milk LLC
  • Chris PrichardChief Financial Officer, DairyAmerica, Inc.
  • Matthew RyanDirector, Operations and Capital Management, Hershey Creamery Company
  • Casey SallanderChief Financial Officer – Kemps LLC and Central, Dairy Farmers of America
  • Sarah SchmittVice President of Public Affairs, Associated Milk Producers Inc.
  • Billie ShafferVice President, Strategic Product Management, Glanbia Nutritionals
  • Jason SmithDirector of Sales and Logistics, Maryland and Virginia Milk Producers Cooperative Association, Inc.
  • Sean SteichenDirector of Sales, Diversified Foods, Inc.
  • Blake TangenDirector of Supply Chain and Risk Management, First District Association
  • Klazien VoogtManaging Director, Columbia River Technologies
  • Jeff WilkersonSupply Chain Operations Manager, Kroger Co.
  • Matt ZimbricSenior Director of Cheese Technology, Foremost Farms USA

Learn more about the NextGen Leadership Program here.

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The International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA), Washington, DC, represents the nation’s dairy manufacturing and marketing industry, which supports more than 3.3 million jobs that generate $41.6 billion in direct wages and $753 billion in overall economic impact. IDFA’s diverse membership ranges from multinational organizations to single-plant companies, dairy companies and cooperatives to food retailers and suppliers. Together, they represent 90% of milk, cheese, ice cream, yogurt and cultured products, as well as dairy ingredients produced and marketed in the United States and sold worldwide.

Kevin E. Boling