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CDEP Symposium Speakers

Jan Bitter

Farm Credit East

Jan Bitter, Branch Manager, Farm Credit East, works directly with agricultural borrowers while also overseeing the operations of a branch office, a leading lender to agriculture in the North East. In these roles, Ms. Bitter has evaluated many different lending requests and how different business relationships and approaches impact the ability of the business to access credit.

Presentation: A Lender’s Perspective on Joint Ventures and Collaboration

Donald De Jong

Agri-Vision Farm Management

Donald serves as owner and chief executive officer of AgriVision Farm Management, LLC – a company that manages organic and conventional farmland and dairy operations.  Donald De Jong also serves as co-owner and CEO for Natural Prairie Dairy — one of the largest, family-operated organic dairy farms in the U.S. based in Hartley, Texas. Natural Prairie Dairy’s mission is to deliver best-in-class organic milk from their family to yours.

Donald attended California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, California and majored in agribusiness management. In addition to his duties at Natural Prairie Dairy and AgriVision, Donald serves as vice chairman of Select Milk Producers, Inc. and serves as a director on the following boards: Greater Southwest Milk Marketing Agency, fairlife, and the Texas Department of Agriculture Organic Advisory Board. He also serves as a trustee for the Alpha Gamma Rho Fraternity Foundation and on the school board for Saint Anthony Catholic School.

Donald lives in Dalhart, Texas with his wife and business partner, Cheri De Jong and their three daughters Ashley, Allison and Alexandra.

Presentation: Joint Ventures and Collaboration - How We Have Utilized

Dean Ellinwood

Dairy Farmers of America

Dean has been involved in many aspects of the dairy industry.  He was raised on a dairy farm near Ithaca, NY.  After graduating from the State University of New York with a degree in Agricultural Engineering, Dean began working at Crowley Foods fluid bottling plant in Binghamton, NY.

From there he moved to Upstate Milk Cooperative in Western NY and worked with dairy farmers as a field representative for ten years. Dean was then hired by Eastern Milk Producers Cooperative as their Quality Assurance Manager, overseeing 25 field representatives in ten states. Eastern Milk Producers merged into Milk Marketing Inc. and eventually, Dairy Farmers of America, where Dean became the Director of Milk Sales and Marketing for the Northeast Area.

Today, Dean is Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Dairy Marketing Services, or DMS, a cooperative venture that markets fifteen billion pounds of milk annually, representing over 5,000 dairy farms throughout the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic areas.  He manages the Operations of DMS, including Sales and Marketing, Dispatch, and Transportation. Dean is a member of the New York Cheesemakers Board of Directors and is Chairman of the Pennsylvania Association of Dairy Cooperatives.

He and his wife Linda, recently celebrated their 35th wedding anniversary.  They have two sons, a daughter-in-law and a one year old granddaughter.

Presentation: Future of Milk Producer and Buyer Relationships - Panel Discussion (panelist)

Shannon Ferrell

Ferrell Law Firm

Dr. Shannon Ferrell, Assistant Professor, Oklahoma State University & Ferrell Law Firm, focuses on legal issues facing farmers and land owners and what types of legal agreements along with the pros and cons,  that are used within the agriculture business world.

Presentation: Joint Venture and Collaboration Agreements: What Forms Do They Take

Rick Fruth and Rob Rettig

New Vision Farms

Rob Rettig and Rick Fruth are two business owners that created a joint venture to improve the ability of both families to achieve their goals. Comprising over 7,500 acres in Northwest Ohio, the business focuses corn, popcorn, seed & commercial soybeans, wheat and fresh market green beans.

Presentation: Collaborative Farming: What Have We Done

Jason Karszes

Cornell University PRO-DAIRY

As a senior extension associate with the PRO-DAIRY program at Cornell University, Jason works with 80 to 100 dairy producers a year, focusing on education and research around annual business performance, budgeting, decision making, and goal setting to improve business performance.  He also coordinates activities across the state for Cornell University’s Dairy Farm Business Summary and Analysis Program, business discussion groups, and activity cost analysis projects.  With a focus on management education, he coordinates the Cornell Dairy Executive Program and works closely with the Academy for Dairy Executives Program in New York.

Presentation: Future of Milk Producer and Buyer Relationships - Panel Discussion (moderator)

Mike Lormore


Mike Lormore is a native of northern NY and a third generation graduate of Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the New York State College of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell.  Mike has also completed graduate studies at Penn State, The University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine and the Wharton School of Business.   Mike has extensive experience in the US dairy industry as a veterinarian, nutritionist, business manager and consultant. 

Mike has worked in corporate food animal practice since 1993, having spent 15 years with Monsanto, as well as brief stints with Elanco and in corporate consulting with Bain Consulting, prior to coming to Zoetis in 2010.  He has extensive technical services experience in both field applications and research support, as well as roles in people management, corporate affairs, marketing and business strategy.

Mike currently serves as Director of the Dairy Cattle Technical Services organization within Zoetis’ Cattle and Equine Business.  This organization is responsible for supporting all Zoetis products from a technical and business applications standpoint with the sales staff, veterinary practitioners, and dairy producers, as well as interfacing with marketing, public and government affairs, research and development, and a variety of other internal and external stakeholders. 

Mike has specific interests in animal health and production economics, dairy management systems, lactation biology, and cattle nutrition, as well as the intersection of technology issues with dairy markets and the global dairy supply chain.

Mike and his family live in Eagle, ID.

Presentations: What Drives Financial Success on a Dairy?; Future of Milk Producer and Buyer Relationships - Panel Discussion (panelist)

Andy Novakovic

Cornell University

Dr. Andy Novakovic, a Professor of Dairy Markets and Policy at Cornell University with 40 years of experience studying, tracking, and modeling dairy markets in the Northeast and across the country.

Presentation: Pricing and Marketing of Milk: What Are Potential Models; Future of Milk Producer and Buyer Relationships - Panel Discussion (panelist)

Ryan Sirolli

Cargill Animal Nutrition

Ryan Sirolli is the US Dairy Innovation Leader for Cargill Animal Nutrition.  In this role, he is focused on “What’s next?” for the dairy industry. Additionally, he leads Cargill’s Dairy Enterprise Group which facilitates more aligned and integrated dairy supply chains between Dairy Consumer Packaged Goods Firms and Dairy Farms throughout the United States.  Ryan has extensive experience working across the entire dairy value chain with a focus on how consumers are reshaping the dairy landscape both domestically and abroad.  Ryan holds a M.S. in Agricultural Economics.

Presentation: Livestock Marketing: What Has Occurred in Other Industries; Future of Milk Producer and Buyer Relationships - Panel Discussion (panelist)

Tom Thibodeau

Viterbo University

Tom Thibodeau is the Director of the Master's Program in Servant Leadership which is the only master's degree of it's kind in the US.. Tom is 31 year veteran of the Viterbo community and is engaged in the work of building servant communities. Tom and his wife Pricilla have three grown daughters and are part owners of a country tavern.

Presentation: Servant Leadership

Dick Wittman

Wittman Farms and Consulting

Mr. Dick Wittman, manager of a 19,000-acre dry land crop, range cattle and timber operation in northern Idaho in partnership with three other family partners, provides consulting and workshops with a key focus on fully utilizing the information within the business by implementing activity based accounting systems.

Presentation: Activity Based Management