NDA Board & Staff

The Northwest Dairy Association board is elected by their farmer-peers to lead the cooperative and represent NDA's farmer-owners. The board and all cooperative member farms are supported by a field staff who provide farmers resources and information about business-wide issues. While all NDA co-op member farms are independently owned businesses, the cooperative supports innovation and improvement across our entire farm network.

NDA's Young Cooperators program is designed to support younger dairy farmers. Engaging young leaders is a strategy for building a bright and healthy future for the cooperative.

NDA Board of Directors

Representing NDA Farmers in Washington

Representing NDA Farmers in Idaho

Representing NDA Farmers in Southwest Washington and Oregon

Representing NDA Farmers in Montana

Senior Vice President NDA

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Steve Matzen, Snr VP of NDA

More About NDA

A Message from (former) Board Director Leroy Plagerman

Leroy Plagerman

Leroy Plagerman

Today, Darigold customers and consumers are more interested in how their food is produced than ever before. As a result, they look for assurance that NDA members are responsibly caring for their animals, providing a safe and healthy work place for their employees, and taking care of the land and water that are critical to a farm’s success. Fortunately, what our member-producers do on their farms and what our customers want are closely aligned.

If you ask what is most near and dear to our dairy farmers, you’ll hear “the cows and our employees.” At the center of our daily farm operations, our cows and employees are where it all begins.

NDA co-op members take pride in providing steady jobs with good wages in the rural communities where we live. Owners work with employees to provide our customers with safe, high-quality nutritious food. This effort cannot be accomplished without the teamwork of many people who are dedicated to the operation and the animals.

When customers first began asking about our practices, it was a bit of a surprise to our farmers when we received questions like, do our cows have adequate water, feed and bedding? Providing for basic needs like clean water, quality feed and comfortable bedding is a fundamental tenet of animal care. It’s not only the right thing to do to take care of our cows in the best manner possible, it has a direct effect on the quality of the cows’ milk. Beyond the obvious moral obligation to care for our animals, these are the heart of good farming practices – and thus, for us, good business practices.

Darigold producers are all independent business owners and members of the Northwest Dairy Association (NDA). Our members follow excellent animal care practices. As a condition of membership in our cooperative, our producers participate in the National Dairy’s F.A.R.M. (Farmers Assuring Responsible Management) program guidelines, which evaluate good animal care practices and promote continuous improvement on our farms.

Like animal welfare, stewardship of the land is both core to our values and makes business sense. As a farmer, I view manure as a valuable crop nutrient that can replace the need for commercial fertilizer. We have every incentive to use this asset (manure) by practicing effective nutrient management through comprehensive manure handling and rigorous soil testing. We follow excellent nutrient management practices, not just because it is a requirement in our Nutrient Management Plans, but because it is good for our farms to do it.

Water quality and water conservation are also vital concerns for us. My farm in Whatcom County, Washington, provides one example of the kinds of environmental initiatives about water that are happening on many NDA farms. Water is very critical in general and for growing crops in specific, so we follow water management best practices. Clean water is also essential for local residents, fish habitat and wildlife, so we are working closely with the six Watershed Improvement Districts in our county, where I serve on one of the local boards. We are one of a group of landowners that voted to tax ourselves on a per-acre basis to build a fund to help manage these districts. Funds are used to monitor watersheds; identify areas of poor drainage or potential contamination; talk to farmers; and provide education and technical assistance to support stream flows, irrigation, aquifers and water tables. The goal is to ensure healthy and sustainable water systems, and support a vibrant and productive agricultural economy.

As dairy farmers, we are always looking for practical innovations that help us improve our operations, including improving our environmental performance. Many Darigold producers are testing and installing equipment like separators, centrifuges, presses, filtration systems and methane digesters. These systems, together with improved storage, allow nutrients to be made available to the crops when needed, which increases productivity and protects the environment. Other sustainable practices are also being employed, such as barn roof solar panels, LED lighting, variable speed drives enabling pumps to pull only the energy needed for each specific job requirement, capturing heat energy, and using automatic manure scrapers. Such practices both reduce our environmental footprint and make economic sense.

In addition to excellent animal care and innovations to expand our environmental stewardship, it is also worth noting that cows are efficient recyclers, as they eat things people can’t. Cows convert plants, such as grass and alfalfa, into protein-rich dairy products, providing nutritious food for humans. This is an important factor in our quest to feed the growing world population. In addition, our cows are fed a number of food processing by-products, such as bakery by-products, cotton seed, beet pulp, soy meal, distillers grain, straw and whey product from cheese making, which people do not normally consume. This contributes to a more sustainable food system.

At NDA we expect that these animal care and stewardship management practices are carried out for the benefit of the cows, the farmer, employees, the environment, customers and consumers. And that is how we think about sustainability or Cooperative Social Responsibility (CSR) at Darigold – it’s doing the right thing in ways that work well for all concerned.

Finally, I am personally struck by the fact that even in the U.S., one in six Americans lacks a secure source of food. Sustainability for us means that Darigold will continue to play a key role in addressing hunger.

We are working hard every day to live up to our sustainability commitments and we welcome the chance to share our CSR efforts with you.

Leroy Plagerman

NDA Director, Whatcom County Dairy Farmer

Young Cooperators Program

History and Beginnings

The Young Cooperator (YC) Program was established in the early 1950s through the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) as an organization for young dairy farmers. Supplementing the 4-H and FFA youth program, the YC Program continues education and leadership opportunities.


Northwest Dairy Association Young Cooperators is an organization made up of co-op members (individuals and couples) from the ages of 19 to 45 who are currently members of Northwest Dairy Association.


The purpose of the program is to educate and build future co-op leaders and to gain a better understanding of how dairy cooperatives work with NMPF in developing national dairy policy. The program also provides its young members with the information and knowledge they need to better understand milk marketing and the cooperative’s operation and structure.


  • To better inform members of the function and role of cooperatives in milk marketing;
  • To give members the opportunity to become involved in their cooperative’s activities by organizing, planning and directing meetings;
  • To provide an opportunity to meet other young dairy people within their cooperative, thereby encouraging the sharing of ideas and experiences and discussions of solutions to common problems;
  • To provide leadership roles for those members who choose to make such a commitment;
  • To promote the dairy industry and the wholesomeness of dairy products;
  • To develop a better understanding of how dairy cooperatives work with NMPF in developing national dairy policy.

About the NDA Staff

There are 14 Northwest Dairy Association staff who support member-owners with resources, market information, milk quality testing, communications and by serving an interface with Darigold operations. The NDA team is built to share and drive best practices and adoption of progressive technologies across the NDA farm network.

NDA field managers, who are based regionally near the farms, support the farmer-owners as we strive to build a culture of continuous improvement. The field staff regularly visit each farm. NDA staff members also provide support for Board committees and regularly report back to the Board on key activities, such as milk quality and member applications.

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