Day 4: Labor of love-in-action, with a decidedly dairy twist

12 Days of Christmas with a twist

Day 4: Another look at how milk and ministry are the gifts that keep giving at Andrea’s Home of Hope and Joy in Bolivia. A cover story in Farmshine was blogged on Day One here at

Now here is the link to the featured ‘Labor of Love In Action’s Decidedly Dairy Twist’ in the Dec. 12 Progressive Dairyman 


Day 3: Impacting future dairy leaders

12 days of Christmas… with a twist.

Day 3:  Youth education events in and beyond the dairy showring are the mission of the All-American Dairy Foundation. This story shares the lesser-known aspects of a great dairy show and the foundation that seeks to build the financial support to keep them going.



By Sherry Bunting Nov. 20, 2015 Farmshine

Ask how the All-American Dairy Foundation (AADF) impacts the next generation in the dairy industry, and the answer is wrapped up in youth education events at the All-American Dairy Show, which extend beyond the showring for over 2000 young people.

AADF raises funds through contributor-membership by individuals and companies, as well as other fundraising efforts throughout the year including a new matching funds challenge that is underway. The goal is to ensure the future of youth education events and scholarships at the annual All-American Dairy Show. This is critical because state sponsorship of the show and the economic revenue it generates to the Capitol Region each September, only covers a fraction of the costs and it cannot be counted on for the future in these economic times.

Thus, the All-American Dairy Foundation, a 501( c ) 3 applies for grants for its support of youth education activities at the show, but largely relies on the good will of companies and individuals to build its trust fund to insure these opportunities continue in the future.


Whether participating youth go on to their own dairy farms or to manage large herds for others — or to work as consultants, nutritionists, veterinarians and other allied industry careers — the ribbons and awards of their days in Harrisburg each September are just the surface of what sticks as they enter career paths on and off the farm. It is the cow sense, determination, teamwork, competitive drive, communication, decision-making and people skills that follow them into a range of dairy- and ag-related careers.

Youth opportunities at the All-American help the next generation forge lifelong friendships, learn from some of the best cowmen and women of the time, and network with potential mentors among dairy producers and allied industry representatives in ways that help them see the possibilities for their own futures.

These opportunities establish a network of relationships for the next generation of dairymen and women, advance student work ethics and teach students not only the nuts and bolts of dairying, but also the intangibles that are so important to their futures and the future of the dairy industry.


Of the over 2000 youth who participate each September at the All-American Dairy Show, two-thirds participate in the competitions beyond the showring. The Invitational Youth Dairy Cattle Judging Contest draws teams from dozens of universities in multiple states and as far away as California at the collegiate level, as well as another set of teams and states represented at the 4-H and FFA Judging Forum.

In alternating years, a dairy challenge is held for show youth, and their care of their animals is on display through Showmanship and Fitting competitions aside from the Premier National Junior Show’s breed competitions.


A key competition during All-American Dairy Show week in Harrisburg is the Junior Dairy Management Contest. This contest is unique among all the major youth shows. It has a long history at the All-American, and the number of participants has grown from 60 students as recently as two years ago to over 100 in 2015.

“The Junior Dairy Management contest gives youth a chance to use their knowledge in the dairy industry to compete while also learning more about it,” says Carl Brown of F.M. Brown Sons, Birdsboro, Pa. Brown previously chaired the contest for 27 years.

Many of these individuals go back to the home dairy farm or into related careers such as dairy extension, agriculture law, nutrition consulting, or veterinary medicine. The competition also includes a careers seminar, featuring representatives from allied industries, who interact with the young people about their interests and aspirations.

“This contest brings out the more practical-oriented students,” Brown explains. “I love Dairy Bowl competitions, but the Dairy Management contest at the All-American Dairy Show is more than memorization and knowledge. It is hands-on. It’s as real as it gets in the context of a competition.”

The annual competition consists of a judging component with descriptive type classes, benchmarks in dairy management, tools to evaluate milking management, as well as evaluating feed and nutrient management and dairy records management.

AA-2722wSpecifically, students are judged in seven categories: cattle selection, linear type appraisal, business management, feed and nutrient management, meats and quality assurance, calf management, and DHI records and benchmarks. They receive an overall score as teams and individuals. Part of what they do is to evaluate feedstuffs and their role in dairy rations, milk samples in evaluating milk quality and udder health, reproduction anatomy, animal health and care via dairy records, and even the economically important beef-side of the dairy cow at the end of her productive life reflecting proper handling and proper administration of treatments and withdrawal times.

“This event is one more avenue of learning about the dairy industry and being prepared with information they will need to know to be a part of it,” says Brown.

Throughout All-American Dairy Show week, these and other youth education activities require students to use their knowledge of dairy cows and dairy herd management as well as to hone their communication and decision-making skills to develop the confidence to become quality spokespersons for the industry, no matter what career path they ultimately choose.

At a time when the dairy industry in the U.S. seeks to attract skilled young people, the commercial side of the industry is just beginning to realize the intrinsic connection it has to what youth experience during these competitions inside and outside the showring at the All-American Dairy Show.

Safeguarding and building this is the AADF mission through its financial support.

What the next generation learns at the All-American Dairy Show can “translate to whatever you do in life,” observes Jeremy Daubert, who participated as a youth and today serves as a Virginia Tech dairy extension agent in the Shenandoah Valley. “I feel strongly what is missing most on many commercial dairies is this type of learning that the kids develop showing and judging and interacting with animals and people and practicing their ability to observe and work with cows, to communicate effectively, to make quick, informed decisions and be able to back them up, and the ability to self-evaluate to improve their future results.

“What commercial dairy or allied industry doesn’t want employees and managers with these skills?” he asks, even as his own children are growing into the age groups of participation.

These are the types of experiences the AADF underpins and why the Foundation relies on the good will of companies and individuals to keep funding going for its mission.

“These events are opportunities for our future dairy leaders and managers to not only hone important animal health and husbandry skills, but also develop confident decision-making and valuable interpersonal and leadership skills as they compete for awards, knowledge, self-improvement, and the opportunity to earn scholarships,” says AADF Executive Director Bob Heilman. “Funds donated through our various campaigns enable the Foundation to continue its support of these opportunities for youth to develop the skills they will need in dairy and business in the future.”

To learn more about how to support the AADF mission, contact Bob Heilman at 804-240-1539 or bob_heilman@comcast.netor visit and follow the All-American Dairy Foundation on Facebook. Donations and correspondence can be mailed to AADF, P.O. Box 11211, Henrico, VA 23230.







The 4-H and FFA Dairy Cattle Judging Forum is another competition beyond the showring that is drawing more 4-H and FFA teams to Harrisburg each September during the All-American Dairy Show. Photo by Sherry Bunting



Another aspect of the Junior Dairy Management Contest at the All-American is evaluating milk samples and dairy records management with a focus on milk quality and udder health. Photo by Sherry Bunting



The Junior Dairy Management Contest at the All-American Dairy Show each September includes Beef Quality Assurance of the beef-side of the dairy cow for quality and food safety that reflect proper care and handling. Photo by Sherry Bunting


AA-2728 and/or AA8309 and/or AA-31

Feedstuffs, nutrition and nutrient management is just one aspect of the Junior Dairy Management Contest. The five top scoring contestants from all FFA and 4-H teams are then interviewed by a panel of judges, who evaluated their oral answers to three dairy industry related questions as they vie for scholarships. Photo by Sherry Bunting



Dr. Carl Brown works with a group of students during the forage and feedstuffs portion of the Junior Dairy Management Contest at the All-American Dairy Show in 2013. He chaired the contest for 27 years and still helps out each September. Photo by Sherry Bunting

Day 2: Nightly event raises charitable funds while making ag ‘cool’

12 days of Christmas… with a twist.

Day 2:  After interviewing Neil Messick two weeks ago for a Farmshine story about this deal running nightly at Messick’s Farm Equipment Dec. 4 through 28, we decided to check it out tonight with the grandchildren! Two thumbs up!


Sneak peek in ‘tractor row’. Photo by Neil Messick

By Sherry Bunting, Dec. 4, 2015 Farmshine

ELIZABETHTOWN, Pa. — Whether or not a new tractor is under your Christmas tree, what farmer wouldn’t love to see a 30-tractor Christmas light show, and then some?

At Messick’s Farm Equipment in Elizabethtown, Lancaster County, Pa., 20 years of light displays along Route 283 gradually became more animated as Neil Messick, marketing and IT manager, and younger brothers Kevin and Lucas began collecting the things they might need to do something grand.

And grand it is. Since 2013, Messick’s, in conjunction with Kubota Tractor, has presented a massive animated Christmas light show set to music and viewable from their parking lot nightly between December 4 and 28.

Even better, the 20-minute program receives donations from viewers and has raised in its first two years a total $50,000 for charities that help local families.

“We obviously enjoy this, or we wouldn’t be doing it,” Neil said in a phone interview with Farmshine this week as the program is ready to kick off Friday. “What has been surprising is the sheer amount of donations. To raise $25,000 a year doing something we enjoy, just shows the giving spirit.”

While many of the visitors are local, it is surprising how far some will drive to see it. Last year’s inclement weather kept viewing traffic to 3500 cars and a dozen buses over the 24 days. Neil anticipates more will come this year, and hopes to raise $35,000 for charities.

Lights and technology are Neil’s “thing” while Kevin and Lucas work with the music and the sequencing.

“It’s something they work on at home at night,” says Neil. “We start in the summer and have the program planned three to four months in advance.”

An estimated 150 man hours of sequencing are involved and another 150 man hours of set up and tear-down. In addition, three to four staff members work nightly with parking, collecting donations and handing out flyers to cars, which can wait in line for up to two hours at the peak of the season.

New this year is the music (Sauniks Carol of the Bells), as well as the use of red-green-blue flood lights to mix the colors and make them more brilliant. Also new is a 44-foot air-operated tower that makes the giant Christmas tree and star move.


The view from our windshield (wipers included). Four separate sets of carols by digitized orchestra. Great sound via channel 89.1 on the radio dial

Together, Kubota Tractor and Messick’s pay the cost of the display, which includes 30 lit-up Kubota tractors, many of them having animated parts to play in the show.

“This is the combination of everything we love. We enjoy Christmas time and the lights (and of course tractors). We combine these things to make agriculture cool and engage our community in this way,” Neil explained.

Viewed from the upper and lower parking lots, visitors set their car radios to channel 89.1 for the music with which the light show is synchronized.

Click here to see a video preview

The 20-minute display runs from 6:30 to 9 p.m. during the first seven days Dec. 4 to 10 and from 6:30 to 10 p.m. from Dec 11 to 28. For more information on viewing, including a map, visit

Donations to support the charities are collected at the end of the show. 100% of donations go to support needs of local families through Habitat for Humanity, Community Cupboard of Elizabethtown, Paxton Ministries, Water Street Ministries and Mennonite Disaster Service.

To view what is arguably the largest tractor light display of its kind synchronized to Christmas music, enter the parking lot from Mertz Road off the Rheems/Elizabethtown exit of Rte. 283, and be prepared to wait. Lines can be 90 minutes in the 10-days before Christmas, with lighter crowds generally in the first week of the display.



Day 1: Milk and ministry are gifts that keep giving

12 days of Christmas… with a twist.

Day 1:  I met these folks last summer, learning of this mission to Bolivia that is rooted in Pennsylvania while visiting the Rice family of Prairieland Dairy in Nebraska last Spring. Two stories in two dairy publications resulted at long last. This one was the cover story in the Nov. 27, 2015 Farmshine and another will be found in the Dec. 14 edition of Progressive Dairyman. What these folks are doing is “love in action” for sure. Milk and ministry are gifts that keep giving. They’d love to share the project with others by speaking at dairy, church and other meetings where people have a passion for children, ministry… and milk!


The Bolivian dairy project committee met a few months ago near Breezewood, Pa. to talk about plans to build a dairy processing facility and future retail store: (l-r) Karen Hawbaker, Dave Pullen, Pete Hamming, Robin Harchak, and Love in Action International Ministries co-directors Jerri and Gary Zimmerman. Photo by Sherry Bunting

By Sherry Bunting 

BREEZEWOOD, Pa. — The people we love and lose in our lifetimes leave indelible imprints on how we view the world and connect with others and where we put our time and energies.

For the dairy producers and industry folks involved with Andrea’s Home of Hope and Joy — an orphanage of individual family units in Bolivia — the ‘Love in Action’ is linked to folks from Pennsylvania wanting to see that these children have the gift that keeps giving — Milk, of course!

The first seeds to build a dairy farm at Andrea’s Home were planted by the late Rodney Hawbaker, a Franklin County, Pa. dairy farmer. In late 2007, Hawbaker and his industry friends — Dave Pullen, a dairy nutritionist, Pete Hamming with AI, and Robin Harchak, a milking equipment specialist — brought their idea to Gary and Jerri Zimmerman of Love In Action International Ministries (LIAIM).

By 2009, they were fundraising, designing and planning for a dairy future at Andrea’s Home.

Known as Warm Springs Farm (Finca Aguas de Manantial), the Bolivian dairy project is so named in honor of Hawbaker, who died in a tragic farm accident in 2011 at the family’s Warm Springs Dairy, Chambersburg, Pa.


The late Rodney Hawbaker in 2010 with Wilson, one of the children at Andrea’s Home of Hope and Joy, where Hawbaker was instrumental in starting the Bolivian dairy project. It is now entering its next phase named in Hawbaker’s honor as Warm Spring Farm. Photo by Karen Hawbaker

“This was Rodney’s passion,” recalls his wife Karen during a planning meeting of the LIAIM dairy committee just off the Breezewood exit of the Pa. turnpike recently. Karen runs the 160-cow dairy in Franklin County and has taken Rodney’s place on the LIAIM board and dairy committee as well as volunteering with daughter Kirsten to help with the dairy’s progress at Andrea’s Home.

“Rodney was instrumental in helping design the barn as well as spearheading the initial fundraising through our church and a heifer sale in September of 2009,” Karen relates. “Rodney, Pete, Dave and Robin really dug into this, and we would travel to Bolivia every few months to work with the children and provide labor for the barn.”

Andrea’s Home, too, has its history — so-named for the Zimmermans’ youngest daughter Andrea, whom they had lost to cancer. Gary, a carpenter, and Jerri, a teacher, continued their mission work by fulfilling Andrea’s dream to focus the mission work on children. Thus, they set up Andrea’s Home of Hope and Joy through LIAIM. With the advent of the dairy project, the concept of Andrea’s Home has the potential to become a somewhat self-sustaining model for the future.

Divided into four 2-parent / 20 child units, Andrea’s Home currently serves 63 children with plans to build four more to serve 120 children. The dairy has become a key aspect of the planning to realize the goals of expanding Andrea’s Home and to build at a second location.

The heifers and bull for the dairy were delivered in 2014, with calvings ramping up through the summer and fall. Now plans are underway to build a processing facility and retail store.

boliviaworking at barnweb

Cows are housed on a bedded pack and milked in eight stalls using a vacuum and bucket system — doable with limited funds and infrastructure. Photo by Karen Hawbaker


The cow-to- consumer dairy has a fourfold purpose: Nutrition for the children, education and skills for the children, a business plan that improves the community infrastructure while employing members of the community, and eventual retail dairy sales to support the growth and mission of Andrea’s Home.

The nearby town of Guayaramerin is home to over 40,000 people. The region is isolated and poor with many children orphaned by tough lives on the street. Being just a mile from the Brazilian border — where coffee houses proliferate — the hope is that Warm Spring Farm can provide a source of milk for the orphanage, the town and additional offshoot sales to tourists crossing the Brazilian border, through a coffee and smoothie house run by the home.

“We are looking for others in this compassionate dairy industry with the heart to come down to Bolivia and help with the processing end of what we are planning,” Gary Zimmerman explained. “We want to have the capability to produce milk and also yogurt, butter and ice cream with the whole project providing a source of revenue for the orphanage, as well as learning opportunities, work and nutrition for the orphans.”

boliviamilking 'parlor'web

Robin Harchak works on the milking parlor. The challenge will be to convert to more advanced technologies as the dairy processing construction is planned. Photo by Karen Hawbaker

“We’re ministering to the needs of the orphans, and also trying to change the culture of what they return to for their futures and that of the region,” he added. For example, when the children age-out of the home, they will have skills and a purpose and something to turn to and a good base on which to continue their education.

Gifted 230 acres of land by the veterinarian who today serves as the farm’s director, they have stocked natural springs with fish and planted orchards and gardens, along with the work of getting the dairy up and running.

The processing and retailing idea began to form when five acres became available last year in the nearby town of Guayaramerin. With a location to build a retail store, the processing facility plan became the logical next step.

Since 2008, the group closest to the Warm Spring Farm project have worked to raise funds and to gather and send work crews to build the dairy. Now that the focus has shifted to processing and retail construction, they are reaching out in search of folks with this expertise. One such person is David Rice, a former Berks Countian who has two sons dairying near Kempton, Pa. and a son that is manager and partner in Prairieland Dairy out in Firth, Nebraska.


Dave and Gloria Rice of Firth, Nebraska (formerly from Berks County, Pa.)

Rice bring his building and dairy background, along with knowledge of the milk bottling and ice cream making at Prairieland, to his volunteer trips to Andrea’s Home.

He observes that, “Not only will the young people learn agriculture and industry skills, they will also learn the business side of operating the future store.”

“All the profits will go back to benefiting the home, and to build a second home with the idea that the business can be developed to cover 65 to 75 percent of the cost of the home’s operation, which now relies mostly on donations,” Zimmerman explains.

While the dairy’s initial cowherd consists of a native breed suited to the climate of life right on the Equator, the dairy committee plans to improve the herd with good milking genetics via AI crossbreeding.

boliviaour cows in the barnweb

As first calvings and milking are underway, the director brings milk to the home from his own primarily beef herd, and the children learn to make dairy products for their own use.


Karen and Rodney Hawbaker’s daughter Kirsten with children at Andrea’s Home of Hope and Joy.

While there are no other dairies in this poor region of northeast Bolivia, the LIAIM dairy committee, and the folks at the home, have toured Brazilian dairies to look at cropping systems and forage ideas such as sugar cane and yucca root, which can be fed as green chop to boost dietary energy for more milk production.


The milking facility uses a vacuum and bucket system, which serves well its current purpose.

“Bolivia is the poorest South American country, and this LIAIM ministry seeks to reach the children here to provide the nutrition of milk while teaching business and industry skills that they can learn to be a part of,” Karen Hawbaker added. “We want to raise them and equip them for life. What better way to teach work habits and skills then through dairy.”

Hamming noted that the kids just love the dairy farm, the animals, seeing things grow, and are anxious to see the whole project move forward.


Karen Hawbaker at Andrea’s Home…

Rodney’s good friend and area veterinarian Corey Meyers, DVM, wrote of Hawbaker after his passing: “Rod knew his purpose in life. He got it. Just days before the accident he had commented to friends in a Bible study in Ecclesiastes: ‘When I hear of a righteous man dying, I take it as a challenge or as a reminder that you never know when your time is up. Live each day as if it were your last.’”

Members of the LIAIM dairy committee are also interested in speaking at dairy meetings to raise awareness of the Bolivian dairy project at Andrea’s Home of Hope and Joy.

To learn more visit Director Gary Zimmerman can be contacted at 719.440.6979 or email