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Connecticut Farmers Graduate in the Holstein Foundation’s 9th Young Dairy Leaders Institute Class

Over 40 young adults from across the U.S. and Canada recently graduated from the Holstein Foundation’s ninth Young Dairy Leaders Institute class, with Phase III being held February 24-27 in Phoenix, Arizona. Amanda Freund of Freund’s Farm in East Canaan and Stacey Stearns of UConn Extension in Storrs both participated. Building on the skills they learned during their first meeting last February, along with what they have practiced and accomplished over the past twelve months, the class participated in interactive workshops covering topics such as advanced communication skills, conflict management, and the public policy process.Stacey Stearns and Amanda Freund in Phoenix with YDLI participants from the Northeast.

The theme for this YDLI Class was “Leadership Oasis.” In addition to hearing presentations from every class member about their Phase II advocacy projects, the Phase III session featured speakers and workshops including:

  • Joan Horbiak presented “Leading Out Loud” focused on mastering interviews with the media, handling consumer questions, and telling dairy’s story.
  • Dr. Wes Jamison moderated a session with guest Paul Shapiro from the Humane Society of the United States on the topic of animal welfare. Dr. Jamison also led a workshop on conflict management.
  • Pete Kappelman, YDLI Class 1 graduate, conducted a workshop on serving as a board member, and provided an inspirational evening keynote.
  • Bonnie Burr of UConn Extension, also a YDLI Class 1 graduate, led a session on understanding public policy and gave participants hands-on experience with the governmental process.
  • Ty Bennett delivered a keynote about the "Power of Influence." His message left the class inspired and feeling empowered to continue their leadership journey and have a lasting influence on those they interact with.

The dairy industry remains strong in Connecticut. One of the most important aspects of Young Dairy Leaders Institute is the Phase II advocacy and outreach work that is completed by all participants in their home states and communities. For Stacey, the consumer interviews conducted in person and online showed how much dairy education is needed, as most consumers are several generations removed from the farm. Her family bottles their own milk at Mountain Dairy in Mansfield, and educating her farms' consumers and others in the state became a key part of her mission. 

In September, Stacey organized dairy nutrition events in three dining halls on the UConn campus, in conjunction with National Chocolate Milk Day. Students were served chocolate milk, and educated about the nutritional benefits of drinking milk. A similar program was conducted in an urban after school program for elementary students, and another program will be conducted this spring in Mansfield elementary schools.

Amanda is part of a vibrant dairy community in Litchfield County. Educating neighbors was a key part of the past year for her, as she developed a newsletter with updates from Freund's Farm that was delivered throughout the community. The neighboring dairy farm asked to be part of the next issue, and this is a project that will continue in 2016. Amanda also organized a dairy dinner at the local Grange Hall.

On March 15th, Amanda and her family will become the first farm in the state using robotic milkers, as the dairy herd is transitioned over to the new barn, which has Lely robotic milkers installed. Freund's Farm is also home to CowPots, which creates biodegradable flower pots out of cow manure. These innovations allow the farm and the family to stay at the forefront of dairy production. 

Read more about Class 9’s YDLI journey on the YDLI blog. YDLI Class 10 will be held in February 2017 and 2018. Applications, available on the Holstein Foundation web site, are due August 1, 2016. With questions or for more information about YDLI, visit, or contact Holstein Foundation Programs Manager Jodi Hoynoski at 800.952.5200, ext. 4261 or by email:


Stacey Stearns is the Agriculture Program Coordinator at UConn Extension. 

Featured Image of Marantha Community Gardens courtesy of Grow Windham.