With all the press kits and product samples we get, trade shows we attend and companies we visit, editors have a tendency to collect quite a bit of, well … let’s say “stuff,” during their tenures. Doo-dads, geegaws and souvenirs from the road make for great office décor. And if you’re a Bohemian pack rat like me, it’s 10 times worse.

Those who view such things as ephemera may find it hard to comprehend such an archival nature. But I really enjoy my job, and so many of these things have fond memories attached. At least two of them have relevance to this month’s issue.

One of the first things that greets me in the morning from its perch on my bookcase is an HO scale boxcar (yes, I’m also a railroad buff, Lord help my wife) emblazoned with the Sargento Foods logo. It’s a model of an actual boxcar specially painted a year ago to deliver Christmas trees to Sargento’s hometown for a holiday event sponsored by the company.

When I look at the model, it reminds me of two things – one, how cool it is when my profession and hobby collide, and two, how savvy the Sargento folks are at speaking to the community.

That’s a big part of why we chose Sargento as our 2009 Processor of the Year. Through its years of product innovations, public relations and community outreach, Sargento understands how to touch its consumers and stay not only relevant but important in their lives. These days, nothing could be more crucial to the dairy industry.

The other thing I see each day, a shelf up and over from the boxcar, is an empty Blue Bunny Carb Freedom yogurt cup. It, too, reminds me of the innovations that have come out of Wells’ Dairy. And though this particular product is no longer made (Wells sold its cultured plant to Lala and fluid plant to Dean, to focus exclusively on frozen desserts), it speaks to how well another great dairy industry player understands consumer trends as they arise.

Wells’ Dairy also understands how to get its popular products to market and supports a strong manufacturing infrastructure, including its facility in St. George, Utah, the Dairy Field Reports 2009 Plant of the Year. Though not the largest of Wells’ factories, the St. George plant’s strategic location, dedicated personnel and nimble work flow make it a crucial part of the company’s growth strategy.

It will be my honor to present these awards to both companies’ management and operations teams at Dairy Forum in Phoenix next month. Meanwhile, read more about Sargento starting on page 30 and Wells’ St. George plant on page 55.