Awards recipients, from left, the Itles, Jeff Trout and Gary Heckman.

Three Dairy Industry Awards were presented last week at the Pennsylvania Dairy Summit in State College, Pennsylvania.

The awards were presented by the Professional Dairy Managers of Pennsylvania, Center for Dairy Excellence, and Pennsylvania Dairymen’s Association.

The annual awards program recognizes dairy professionals who are reigniting Pennsylvania’s dairy industry through leadership, service and innovation.

All applications were reviewed by an awards committee of dairy producers and industry professionals.

Nominees were evaluated for their contributions to the industry and letters of support from their peers and fellow dairy producers.

Dairy Service Award

Gary Heckman, chief business services officer at AgChoice Farm Credit, received the Pennsylvania Dairy Service Award.

Heckman was the first executive director for the Center for Dairy Excellence.

During his three-year tenure, he developed the center’s mission and board of directors and launched its initial farmer programs.

In 2007, Heckman joined AgChoice Farm Credit. He is responsible for leading AgChoice’s business consulting, farm accounting, education initiatives and crop insurance.

Through Gary’s direction, AgChoice’s programs now reach nearly 2,000 farms, many of which are dairy farms.

Dairy Producer Award

Jeff Trout of Trout Brothers Dairy in Blain received the Pennsylvania Distinguished Dairy Producer Award.

Trout is a second-generation dairy producer who farms with his brother Mike.

Over more than 40 years, Trout has grown the herd from 80 to 650 head and build an operation that consistently produces high-quality milk.

Trout Brothers Dairy concentrates on forage quality, and the health and well-being of its herd.

The Trout brothers have added a sand bedding system to increase cow comfort. They use the wastewater for irrigation.

In 2011, Trout diversified his business by establishing BootLLeg Creamery. Since then, his production has quadrupled, and the ice cream business has increased significantly.

Producing 24 flavors of ice cream, Trout supplies five farm markets, several restaurants, a retail location, and two mobile units for community and sports events.

Dairy Innovator Award

The Itle family of Vale Wood Farms in Loretto, Pa. received the Pennsylvania Dairy Innovator Award.

Vale Wood Farms has been processing its own brand of milk and dairy products since 1933. Today, Vale Wood Farms is a 200-cow, 500-acre dairy farm operated by the third and fourth generations of the Itle family.

The Itles produce bottled milk, ice cream, cottage cheese, sour cream, yogurt, butter, buttermilk, iced coffee and yogurt smoothies.

The company provides weekly home delivery to thousands of customers, and supplies 20 businesses and school districts.

The family is active in agricultural social media and local civic groups.

The Awards

The Dairy Industry Awards are offered annually to Pennsylvania residents. Qualified applicants stay in the nomination pool for three years after being submitted for consideration.

Nominators can update the nomination each of the two years following their original submission.

Once a candidate is honored as a winner in an award category, they or individuals representing them are not eligible to win in any other category for two subsequent years.

For more information about the awards program, visit or call the center at 717-346-0849.

Lancaster Farming