Initiated in 1916, the Collegiate Dairy Products Evaluation Contest has had a phenomenal record of growth and industry participation since its inception. Many of today’s dairy industry leaders started out as contest participants . . . and winners. And, many of today’s participants will be tomorrow’s leaders.
Three organizations-American Dairy Science Association (ADSA), Food Processing Suppliers Association (FPSA) and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)-serve as contest sponsors. Dairy industry companies support the contest by donating and storing contest samples, as well as providing proctors, scorers and official judges. The contest is further supported on a local basis by numerous individual volunteers, as well as corporate sponsors.
This year marked the 85th year of competition, and what a year of competition it was. In fact, the number-one winner for all products was a university that never before competed. The team only started training for the competition a few months before hand. However, this determined group of very diverse undergraduates, with support from numerous local industry affiliations, put a small university from the middle of rural Tennessee in the spotlight.
That’s right, Murfreesboro, Tenn.-based Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU), a school few in the dairy industry ever heard of until now, walked away with a record number of top-awards after competing the first time ever in the national competition. “We had been thinking about running a dairy product evaluation course for some time, and this was the year it made it into the curriculum,” says Tim Redd, director of farm laboratories at MTSU, and one of the judging team’s coaches. “Twelve students signed up for the 13-week class; and it was only at about week eight when the national competition took place.”
Class instructors, who became the team’s coaches, included consultants from Randolph Associates Inc., Birmingham, Ala. “The team’s commitment was amazing,” says Neil Bogart, one of the coaches. “This was a group of students that made many personal sacrifices to put in long hours of training.”
Charlie White, professor emeritus at Mississippi State, and now a consultant with Randolph Associates and one of the MTSU team’s coaches, adds, “I have been involved with this contest for many years, and I had my doubts about being about to train these students in such a short time. But they did it.”
The three members of the undergraduate team were Justin Stefanski, who took first place for all products, Leah Blackwood, second place all products, and Elizabeth Knight, fifth place all products. Alternate team member Brandon Kimbrell gets to keep training for another year and compete in the 2007 contest.
The team’s third coach, Liz Troup, is MTSU’s milk processing manager. She competed in the graduate student contest and ranked second place for all products. “The sensory evaluation learned in this new course is the formal training I needed to better do my job in the milk processing plant,” Troup says. “It also provides the necessary training for the people I hire. It is invaluable to anyone in the dairy business.”
This is something that many in today’s dairy industry know from experience, and it’s why it was fairly easy to get local dairy processors to sponsor the team.
“When we were asked to be sponsors, we did not hesitate,” says Tim White, v.p. of milk sales for Purity Dairies Inc., Nashville, Tenn., a Dean Foods company. “It is important that industry support bright students to train them to be our future leaders.”
Heritage Farms is very near the university and often uses it as a resource. “We recruit many students from MTSU, so supporting the contest is very beneficial to the company,” adds Karen Shook, quality assurance manager.
Other Tennessee-based dairies to support the MTSU team include Country Delite Farms, Mayfield Dairy Farms, PET/Land-O-Sun and Turner/Forest Hill.
“The university is very proud of the students and thankful to the coaches and industry,” concludes Thomas Cheatham, dean of the College of Basic and Applied Sciences. “I keep reminding myself that this was the first time the university offered this class, and wow, what a team it produced!”
For more information on the contest visitwww.ams.usda.gov/DAIRY/cdpec/welcome.htmor visitfpsa.orgfor more information.