July 2024 MilkLine Newsletter

FarmFirst Dairy Cooperative > News > MilkLine Newsletter > July 2024 MilkLine Newsletter

FarmFirst has been providing scholarships to children of members since its organization in 2013 and is proud to have awarded a total of $248,500 to 261 students since that time. However – the history of our scholarship program goes back to 2009 and begins with a man named Bill Walters.

Manitowoc Milk Producers was one of the three cooperatives that merged in 2013 to create FarmFirst Dairy Cooperative. Also from Manitowoc, was Mr. Bill Walters. Bill covered the dairy industry in the northeast part of Wisconsin for forty years as a farm broadcaster and farm director for WCUB radio in Manitowoc up until his retirement in 1992.

I recently spoke with Corey Geiger, former Editor of Hoard’s Dairyman Magazine for nearly three decades, who now serves as the Lead Dairy Economist for CoBank. Geiger’s family happened to be members of Manitowoc Milk Producers, and his father Randy had served as board president of the cooperative. They both knew Bill Walters very well. “Bill was a big man with a soft heart. On a scale of 1-10 for being a good guy, he was a 9.9,” said Geiger. “While he covered every area of news during his 40-year career at WCUB, his passion was interviewing the area’s dairy farm families who were the backbone of the industry. He firmly believed these farm families instilled the best life values into young people, and in his mind, there was no better place to raise children.”

When Bill passed away in 2008, he left a large gift to the Manitowoc Milk Producers Cooperative and their families. In the hope that the children of these farm families would continue to remain on the family farm or to stay involved with a career in the industry, Bill left a contribution of $189,000 to the cooperative. This money was to be earmarked for the children of the cooperative in the form of scholarships.

At this time, it just so happened that Randy Geiger was serving as the board president of Manitowoc Milk Producers, and Corey was president of National Dairy Shrine. “Dad and I had a discussion one day while milking cows, after we heard about the gift Bill had left to the co-op,” Geiger stated. “Things seemed to just be in alignment at time as he was the co-op president, and I was serving as the president of National Dairy Shrine. It made sense to investigate partnering with the Dairy Shrine to hold and manage the funds for the cooperative as a 501-c3, and as an organization that values youth and education.”

Randy and Corey spoke with Bill’s nephew, Roger Treece, about the idea, and he told them that this is exactly what Bill would have wanted. The Manitowoc Milk Producers Cooperative board of directors agreed that this idea made sense, so it was decided to proceed in making this happen. The entire group including Roger, the cooperative board and National Dairy Shrine worked together and brought this before a Manitowoc County Judge, who approved the measure without hesitation.

Through sound investments, National Dairy Shrine has helped this fund continue to grow so that FarmFirst can continue to provide scholarships to the youth of its membership. The first year that scholarships were provided from this fund in 2009, a total of six students each received $1,500 for a total of $9,000. This year, fifteen years later, FarmFirst is still able to provide this opportunity to its membership, and just announced twenty students that will receive a scholarship this year with a total of $22,500 to be awarded.

A photo of Bill Walters hangs on the wall to this day in the FarmFirst Dairy Cooperative board room as a reminder to continue in his footsteps in doing all that we can for our members, the dairy industry as a whole, and to continue to invest in our youth. That’s what Bill would have wanted.

His legacy continues, as due to his thoughtfulness, generosity and passion for the dairy industry, the gift he left behind is still helping farm families and their children each year and will do so for many years to come. Bill Walters truly gave a gift that keeps on giving.

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FarmFirst Dairy Cooperative
4001 Nakoosa Trail, Suite 100
Madison, WI 53714-1381

Toll-Free: 1-800-525-7704
Phone: 608-244-3373
Fax: 608-244-3643
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