From left, animal science majors Cassandra Wilbur ’23, Emily Starceski ’23, Caroline Lafferty ’23 and Blake Wadsworth ’23 get ready to work with cows in the Cornell Teaching Dairy Barn.

Chobani supports next generation of dairy leaders

Nuzzled by newly weened calves, Emily Starceski ’23 feels right at home in the Cornell Teaching Dairy Barn.

She grew up working on her family’s farm in western New York, and now majors in animal science with a focus on dairy management. Starceski is one of four Cornell first-year students who’ve received $20,000 scholarships from Chobani to help them pursue a career in the dairy industry.

Announced in June 2018, the Chobani Scholars program supports New York state students at Cornell who have a family connection to dairy farming and plan to pursue a career in the dairy industry. Eligible students are chosen from those studying dairy management in the Department of Animal Science, at the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS).

Cornell impacting New York State

With deep ties to the New York state dairy industry, Chobani aims to strengthen local communities and invest in the future of dairy farmers.

“The success of the next generation of dairy farmers is incredibly important to us, and this unique program is designed to invest in some of the most talented and passionate youth leaders out there,” said Jason Rahlan, director of social impact and philanthropy at Chobani. “Through this partnership with Cornell, the students will learn valuable skills that they can use to positively impact the dairy industry of the future.”

The newest Chobani Scholars all believe technology is a game-changer for their generation. Everything from activity-tracking devices that help farmers monitor the herd’s health and facial recognition software for cows to more efficient milking practices and more nutritious feed are all giving the dairy industry the tools it needs to succeed.

All four students said that being involved in the dairy industry from a young age has made them passionate about continuing to support and improve it. Through the scholarship program, they will have the opportunity to intern with Chobani during their college careers.

“Chobani is a critical part of the New York state dairy economy, and we look forward to building on this strong partnership to bring continued success to our students and the industry,” said Kathryn J. Boor ’80, the Ronald P. Lynch Dean of CALS. “Here at Cornell CALS, we prepare our students to be next-generation dairy leaders in New York. The Chobani Scholars program will empower young people from local farm families to access a world-class education.”

The 2019 Chobani Scholars:

  • Caroline Lafferty ’23, from Schodack Landing, New York. “CALS has shaped my understanding of animal science and dairy management,” Lafferty said, “and it has diversified my perspective on dairy farming. Coming from a small town with a limited number of people involved in the dairy industry to a large campus with a whole new network of dairy people has shaped my understanding at a new speed.”
  • Emily Starceski ’23, from Sherman, New York. She has worked on her family farm since middle school, and said it’s important for people outside of the industry to realize that family farms aren’t competing against each other. “We are all on the same team, trying to provide consumers with a pristine product.”
  • Blake Wadsworth ’23, from Charlton, New York. Wadsworth is especially interested in pursuing herd management as it relates to genetics. “CALS has helped me think on a larger scale and look at bigger pictures,” he said, “since there is a large diversity of student and professor backgrounds, which all give unique insights to certain problems.”
  • Cassandra Wilbur ’23, from Fabius, New York. Wilbur grew up on the family farm and joined the local 4-H group when she was 9. “Being active within the 4-H group enabled me to apply for the Beginner Dairy Leadership and Junior Dairy Leader groups through Cornell,” she said. “I wouldn’t be a part of the Cornell community if I hadn’t started 4-H all those years ago.”

Chobani also awards $200,000 annually in grants through its Community Impact Fund to expand economic opportunity and entrepreneurship in central New York, including $36,333 to Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) Madison County and $27,082 to CCE Delaware County in 2019.

Jana Wiegand is the editorial content manager at the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

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Lindsey Knewstub