Meet Dairy Industry’s ‘NextGen’

Thirty emerging dairy industry leaders have been accepted into the fourth class of the NextGen Leadership Program, a signature program of the International Dairy Foods Association.

The group was selected based on their experience and scope of responsibility within their organizations. They represent the broad diversity of people and business types across the dairy industry. They have been identified by their nominating companies as tomorrow’s industry leaders.

“IDFA and current dairy business leaders have made it a priority to develop future leaders for our industry who can manage disruption, advocate for sound policy, and lead with integrity,” says Michael Dykes, IDFA president and CEO. “That’s why I’m so proud to welcome this fourth NextGen Leadership Class — 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 lead our industry into a new era.”

The 2022-23 class includes:

Nathan Bass, Vice President of Operations, Valley Queen Cheese
Gale Beard, Director, Quality Assurance, Grande Cheese Company
Melissa Bischoff, Director, Milk Procurement, Leprino Foods
Corey Brower, Director – R&D, Saputo Dairy USA
Brian Carden, Vice President of Sales & Marketing, Crystal Creamery, Inc.
Steven Christiansen, VP of HR and OD, Idaho Milk Products
Rylen Dickey, Category Manager – Ingredients, Hilmar Cheese Company, Inc.
Dakonya Freis, VP-Product Management & Marketing, Nelson-Jameson Inc.
Jeff Galbraith, Director of Operations, Continental Dairy Facilities LLC
Grant Gondell, Head of Global Commodities, United Dairymen of Arizona
Erin Graf, Leader – Total Rewards & HR Operations, Darigold, Inc.
Ben Hoperich, Dairy Category Manager, Abbott Labs
Heather Krebsbach, Director – Operational Quality, Sargento Foods Inc.
Ana Leach, Assistant General Counsel, Land O’Lakes, Inc.
Edward Learoyd, Vice President, Safety, Food Safety, Quality, Regulatory, Great Lakes Cheese Company
Jose Maldonado, R&D – Lead, Lala US Inc.
Matthew Maxson, VP, Corporate Controller, California Dairies, Inc.
Ryan Murphy, Director, National Sales & Operations, Prairie Farms Dairy, Inc.
Mark Petersen, Ingredients Sales Manager, Valley Milk LLC
Chris Pritchard, Chief Financial Officer, DairyAmerica, Inc.
Matthew Ryan, Director, Operations and Capital Management, Hershey Creamery Company
Casey Sallander, CFO – Kemps LLC and Central, Dairy Farmers of America
Sarah Schmidt, Vice President of Public Affairs, Associated Milk Producers Inc.
Billie Shaffer, Vice President, Product Strategic Management, Glanbia Nutritionals
Jason Smith, Director of Sales and Logistics, Maryland and Virginia Milk Producers Cooperative Association, Inc.
Sean Steichen, Director of Sales, Diversified Foods, Inc.
Blake Tangen, Director of Supply Chain & Risk Management, First District Association
Klazien Voogt, General Manager, Columbia River Technologies
Jeff Wilkerson, Supply Chain Operations Leader, Kroger Co.
Matt Zimbric, Senior Director of Cheese Technology, Foremost Farms USA

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 year-long program equips participants to build and expand relationships with their peers, hone leadership skills and acquire advanced advocacy skills for the dairy industry. The class will convene regularly over the course of the coming year with a mixture of both in-person and virtual modules. The program focuses on three core areas: advocacy, education and networking.

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