Q&A: David White

Written by Emily Battmer
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Cabhi Farm
Clymer, N.Y.

Third-generation farmer David White began dairying in 1980 and became a partner at Cabhi Farm in 1988. Today, in partnership with his brother, he milks 210 cows and grows alfalfa and corn on 525 acres in Clymer, N.Y.

David has been active in the dairy industry and in Dairylea Cooperative, which merged with DFA in April 2014. He served as vice chairman of the Dairylea board and sat on Dairylea’s Resolutions Committee, the 2020 Dairylea Committee and participated in the Dairylea Young Farmers program.

Now, as one of the newest members of DFA’s Board of Directors, White is bringing those experiences to his role as a farmer-leader in the Cooperative, maintaining a voice for DFA’s newest members in the Northeast.

Before the merger with DFA, you served on Dairylea’s board of directors. What was that experience like?

I joined the Dairylea board in 2010, and in 2012, I was elected vice chairman. I served as vice chair for the Dairylea board through the merger, and it was just a great experience. I came on at a time when our previous chairman, Clyde Rutherford, was phasing out of his position, and Bill Beeman was elected chairman. I’ve been serving with Bill for the last two or three years, through day-to-day activities in the Northeast and, most important, through the merger process. The Dairylea board worked really well together under Bill’s leadership through the entire planning phase and merger discussions.

What role did you play in Dairylea’s merger with DFA?

As board members, we actively engaged in discussions and analysis that led to the decision to merge with DFA. Dairylea had a rich, 100-year history, and at the time when we started talking about the merger, we were probably as financially strong as the cooperative had ever been. I think the Dairylea board and management showed a lot of vision and foresight to take that step at a time of strength. We thought maybe as a cooperative we had kind of peaked, and we were investigating to see what our next step should be. The board was having discussions about getting back into the processing end of things, as a number of members expressed interest in that. We looked at different entities to partner with, and it was clear through the very close relationship we had with DFA that it was the obvious choice for us. It was a two-year process of evaluating the cooperative and deciding what we thought was the best move for our members. We wanted to keep a strong Northeast presence, and we believed bringing Dairylea and DFA together would help solidify that. I’ve known Rick Smith for 25 years, ever since I was a young farmer, when he served as Dairylea’s CEO. It made the discussion about the merger more comfortable. Members were familiar with Rick, knew what he had done for Dairylea, and we could see what he was accomplishing at DFA.

What made you decide to serve on DFA’s Board of Directors after the transition?

I had expressed interest in serving on DFA’s Board for a number of reasons and am very fortunate to have that opportunity. The first is probably somewhat selfish, but to be honest, I wanted to see through to completion what I had been a part of starting with the DFA merger. I also believe that DFA is “the” milk cooperative of this country. DFA is the leader in this industry, and I have a desire to be a part of that. I wanted the opportunity to continue to serve the dairy farm families that make up this Cooperative.