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Maryland & Virginia Milk Producers Co-op Takes Top Communications Honors in NMPF Contest

November 2, 2023

Maryland & Virginia Milk Producers Cooperative Association took top honors in the National Milk Producers Federation’s (NMPF) annual cooperative communications contest, and a farmer-owner of the cooperative also received NMPF’s Farmer Communicator of the Year award.

Austin Schwartzbeck of Peace & Plenty Farm won the farmer award for his active efforts in promoting dairy’s values through communicating with both dairy and non-dairy audiences – including a recent television feature about how he and his wife met at the Maryland State Fair.

“Austin’s excellence in communication on behalf of the dairy community is rooted in his ability to tell a compelling personal story, connect with readers emotionally, educate and advocate for the industry, emphasize family values, utilize visual storytelling and leverage various media platforms for outreach,” Maryland & Virginia Milk Producers Cooperative said in its nomination letter. “Through these efforts, he effectively portrays the dairy industry as one filled with dedication, tradition and a deep love for farming.”

Schwartzbeck and his family milk 245 registered Holsteins and farm 1,100 acres in Union Bridge, MD.

Maryland & Virginia Milk Producers Cooperative was also recognized as the Cooperative Communicator of the Year, receiving top honors in the writing category and recognition in the publications, graphics and special projects categories.

The cooperative’s “Best of Show” award winner, “MDVA Member Stands as Beacon of Service to Others,” details North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University’s 492-acre farm with 57 dairy cows three miles from the skyline of downtown Greensboro – a Maryland & Virginia Milk Producers Cooperative Association member and the only dairy unit at a Historically Black College and University.

“This entry delivers delightful surprises while at the same time examining — without flinching — a serious national problem: the decline of black dairy farmers from 1 million in 1920 to 50,000 today,” the contest evaluator wrote. “The entry does more than expose a crisis. It shines a spotlight on a hidden gem providing a partial solution.”

NMPF also spotlighted the farm earlier this year as part of its Farmer Focus series.

The “Best of Show” award is selected from the first-place entries in the contest’s main areas: publication, writing, graphics and special projects. This year’s winners were:

All the winners will also be recognized at NMPF’s annual meeting in Orlando, FL on Nov. 13-15. A full list of the winners of the NMPF communications contest, which received 110 entries from 15 member cooperatives, can be found here.