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By Julie Berry
  • Dairy Fellows Program
  • Animal Science
  • Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management
  • Dairy
  • Animals
For farm owners, an ongoing priority is attracting young people to the dairy field and developing future industry leaders. The Junior Dairy Leader (JDL) program, Cornell PRO-DAIRY’s flagship initiative, has built enthusiasm for the industry through personal and professional development for over 20 years. 

Alfredo Resendiz ’19, the first member of his family born in the United States and the first to go to college, developed a passion for agriculture through JDL. “These types of programs do have impact, especially within schools that have no agriculture at all and for youth like me who do not come from a farm,” he said. After completing the JDL program, Resendiz went on to apply to CALS, where he majored in animal science and minored in business. He is now pursuing a career dealing with agricultural commodity markets and risk management.

As part of JDL, high school students have the opportunity to participate in eight hands-on, interactive workshops over the course of a year. They tour different kinds of farms and attend the National 4-H Dairy Conference and World Dairy Expo in Madison, Wisconsin. Each program culminates in a graduation ceremony at Empire Farm Days in August, where students give presentations on their experiences.

Of Surveyed JDL Graduates

96%

said JDL influenced their decision to pursue a dairy or agricultural career

77%

learned technical skills for production management

58%

chose a dairy or agricultural career path after previously being undecided

Resendiz’s parents emigrated from Mexico in the 1980s and received citizenship through naturalization. His father, a pastor, taught himself English and also worked his way up to the position of herd manager at Will-O-Crest Farm in Clifton Springs, New York.

The younger Resendiz began showing cows with Will-O-Crest owners when he was 9 years old. Five years later, he started working for neighboring Willow Bend Farm. During high school, he advanced from crop and calf work to assisting the herdsman. And when Resendiz was accepted at Cornell, the farm gave him a $1,500 scholarship.

“Junior Dairy Leader is a huge exposure tool,” said co-owner John Mueller ’86. “It’s a hook to get youth excited about the industry and open their eyes to the possibilities, so you’re getting the best and brightest staying in the industry.”

While at CALS, Resendiz continued to work for Willow Bend Farm in addition to participating in the Cornell Farmworker Program, which is dedicated to improving the living and working conditions of farmworkers and their families.

“I will always be grateful for the JDL experience. I saw many things that I had never seen before, including milking robots. When it came time to apply to Cornell, I knew the campus already, and it motivated me to pursue agriculture as a career,” Resendiz said. “Junior Dairy Leader creates youth who are passionate about the industry and the program.”

Read more about Alfredo Resendiz's experience in the Junior Dairy Leader program.

Header image: Participants in the Junior Dairy Leader program tour farms and production facilities across New York state. Photo by Justin James Muir

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