Although he didn’t grow up on a farm, Kelley has known this was the career for him for a long time. Spending his summers working on the family farm since the seventh grade helped cultivate his passion for agriculture. When he attended California Polytechnic State University, he graduated with a degree in agriculture business with a concentration in ranch and farm management.
Since leaving college and taking on a career in the family business, Kelley has been eager to take on new roles not only on the operation, but also in the Cooperative.
He is playing a significant role in helping to strengthen the Western Area YC program, and was recently elected a delegate for the Area.
“In 2008, our previous cooperative dropped us when milk got super long,” Kelley says. “DFA was there for us with open doors, and we couldn’t be more pleased. I’ve been trying to get as involved with the Cooperative as possible. It’s a great organization that goes above and beyond its call of duty for their members.”
Concerning the Western Area, Kelley is excited to have an opportunity to work with other Young Cooperators to build a sustainable future for the dairy industry, particularly given the challenges ahead — specifically environmental regulations in California.
“Regulations have gotten so aggressive that it’s almost a fulltime job to stay on top of the paperwork and keep your permits straight,” he says. “It’s starting to push dairies out of California.”
With California typically being a trendsetter for regulations, Kelley worries these regulations will spread to other states. This is a big reason why he wants to be more involved with the Cooperative’s efforts to fairly represent the dairy industry as a whole.
“I think sometimes environmental agencies and activists forget we are farmers, and farmers don’t get the returns necessary to survive by neglecting or destroying their land,” Kelley says. “We are stewards of the land and we are going to do everything in our power to take the best possible care of our animals and land because that is our livelihood.”