I have a son, a daughter, and two grandchildren aged five and four. My son is a certified marine technologist and operates a marina on Long Island. My daughter is a Pre-Kindergarten teacher in Iowa. I lived on a boat on Long Island Sound one summer. We put in on Memorial Day weekend and came ashore on Labor Day.
During football season you will find me in front of the TV cheering for the Iowa Hawkeyes and the Kansas City Chiefs. I love to travel; so far I have visited 38 of our 50 states and Victoria, British Columbia. I also have lived in five different states – Iowa, Florida, New York, Kansas, and North Carolina. The neatest thing I have experienced was when I was in a tiny hole-in-the-wall bar on Long Island in the early 1990s when a security detail came in and blocked the entrance and exit. A man walked in unannounced, sat down, and started playing the piano…it was Billy Joel! On Long Island, Billy Joel is royalty.
I was originally hired 14 years ago when our Verified Premium Plus (VPP) program was first launched to process our VPP audits. Over the years my role has evolved, and I am now the Program Coordinator. I manage the VPP program for the DQC in the Southwest, Pacific Northwest, and Northeast regions of the United States, covering about 25 states. I work with close to 200 dairies and over 150 veterinarians to facilitate third-party audit and certification services for dairy farms on behalf of milk and dairy/beef processors.
I also help provide dairy producers and veterinarians with information, education, and certifications on milk quality and dairy/beef safety. Another thing I do is manage our auditing program for dairies selling milk to Costco in the states of California, Arizona, Texas, and New Mexico; and I manage our audit program for veal growers selling to Costco in Quebec, Canada.
I love that I can help the dairy farmers prove to consumers that their animals are well cared for, and their dairy products are produced in a safe and sustainable way. I also love that the dairy can receive premiums for showing they are doing things the right way. I really enjoy my interactions with the dairies and their veterinarians.
DQC has been around for over 40 years. Our VPP program is 14 years old, having launched in 2008. We have dairies that have held VPP certification for every one of those 14 years.
What has surprised me the most is how influential the consumer can be on the dairy farmer. For example, if a group of people claim that dairy cows are being mistreated and everyone should boycott using dairy products, this affects the dairy farmer’s livelihood. By certifying that your animals are treated humanely and are well cared for, this throws a little water on that fire and consumers start buying dairy products again.
I think what has impacted me the most is how helpful our VPP program can be for our dairies. It can create a better relationship between the dairy and their veterinarian by discussing issues that can be worked on, while complimenting them on a job well done. It can improve standard operating procedures (SOPs) on the dairy to help it become more efficient. And it rewards them with a premium for doing things the right way. It just feels good to be a small part of that process.
DQC evolved from our parent company’s Ag in the Classroom project where we taught teachers how to use our software to educate children on where their food comes from. As technology progressed, this initiative became obsolete and DQC was born. DQC is a network of dairy farmers, certifying veterinarians, and beef processing partners who all work together to provide consumers with confidence that the food they eat was produced ethically and sustainably, while rewarding dairy farmers for producing premium beef and dairy products.
I would love to see our VPP program expanded to other regions. California, for example, has a lot of dairy farms who could benefit from our premiums for complying with our best practices and standards.
The VPP program is a farm certification program that validates animal health and welfare, employee safety, and sustainability practices on the dairy farm. VPP strengthens the relationship between the dairy farmer and his veterinarian. It helps the dairy farmer prove to the consumer that he is doing things the right way – and he earns a premium for doing so. It’s a win-win!