Partnerships, pathways and production

Success Stories | 7 Rivers Alliance / Prosperity Southwest

An aging workforce and exodus of young talent has manufacturers and other stakeholders in the Prosperity Southwest region looking for ways to introduce career pathways to area high school students.

A unique partnership between Southwest Technical College, Rural Development Partners (RDP), Meister Cheese and Riverdale High School is opening young minds to careers in food processing, manufacturing and agriculture.

NMTCs funded a major four-way partnership. Pictured (L to R) Deb Ihm, Southwest Tech Farm Business & Production Management instructor; Scott Meister, president of Meister Cheese; Brier Bartels, Riverdale High student; Paul Marshall, Riverdale Ag education teacher.

NMTCs funded a major four-way partnership. Pictured (L to R) Deb Ihm, Southwest Tech Farm Business & Production Management instructor; Scott Meister, president of Meister Cheese; Brier Bartels, Riverdale High student; Paul Marshall, Riverdale Ag education teacher.

“This is a multi-faceted partnership focused on assisting farmers, high school students, and the agriculture industry as a whole in promoting a variety of value-added programming and investments in our region,” says Derek Dachelet, Ph.D., dean of Industry, Trades and Agriculture at Southwest Technical College.

The high-impact partnership leverages $125,000 in grants from RDP, a national Community Development Entity (CDE) that focuses on agricultural, forestry and renewable energy projects. RDP’s mission is to improve the economic and social viability of low-income rural communities through the application of New Market Tax Credits (NMTCs) to rural businesses.

Muscoda-based Meister Cheese Company, LLC and Muscoda Protein Products, LLP, utilized NMTCs from its 2013 plant expansion to fund the collaborative project which benefits students, milk producers and Meister itself. A portion of the credits was used to purchase welding and laboratory equipment at Riverdale High School in Muscoda. Students use the lab equipment to learn about food and medical testing.

The rapidly growing, third-generation company employs 132 people. “We noticed a significant trend of high school students leaving the area for better jobs,” said co-owner and president Scott Meister. “We realized they needed to be educated early about what Meister has to offer, but also to overcome the stigma of what manufacturing is.”

Prosperity Southwest Director Ron Brisbois helped Meister apply for the tax credits and also facilitated meetings between Meister, RDP, Southwest Tech, and the Riverdale School District, which encompasses Richland, Iowa and Grant counties. “RDP wanted to make sure that the benefits extended into all three counties. That is one of the reasons Prosperity Southwest was involved.”

Agricultural training is a second grant component. Southwest Tech’s Production Management program has partnered with Meister to help low-income and beginning milk producers with tuition assistance for management courses; farm business succession workshops; and agricultural career pathway training at Riverdale High.

Matt Lansing, Farm Business and Production Management instructor for Southwest Tech, partnered with Meister Cheese to offer a Dairy Summit in late 2015 that concentrated on financial management training. “In the summit we focused on getting people to understand their cost of production, their balance sheet, how they compare to other similarly sized ag businesses,” said Lansing. Summit attendees also learned about the $1 per hundred-weight incentive offered by Meister for its suppliers, who must follow specific organic guidelines.

Growth of cheese and whey producers in the region depends on increased production from the farming community. Grant outcomes include 12 hours of financial counseling for 20 producers.

“The goal is to sit down and go through balance sheets with them to put together a farm analysis,” explained Lansing. “Meister is looking forward to seeing how their producers rank against others, and it gives farmers an understanding of where they can tighten up and be more profitable.”

An aging workforce and exodus of young talent has manufacturers and other stakeholders in the Prosperity Southwest region looking for ways to introduce career pathways to area high school students.

A unique partnership between Southwest Technical College, Rural Development Partners (RDP), Meister Cheese and Riverdale High School is opening young minds to careers in food processing, manufacturing and agriculture.

NMTCs funded a major four-way partnership. Pictured (L to R) Deb Ihm, Southwest Tech Farm Business & Production Management instructor; Scott Meister, president of Meister Cheese; Brier Bartels, Riverdale High student; Paul Marshall, Riverdale Ag education teacher.

NMTCs funded a major four-way partnership. Pictured (L to R) Deb Ihm, Southwest Tech Farm Business & Production Management instructor; Scott Meister, president of Meister Cheese; Brier Bartels, Riverdale High student; Paul Marshall, Riverdale Ag education teacher.

“This is a multi-faceted partnership focused on assisting farmers, high school students, and the agriculture industry as a whole in promoting a variety of value-added programming and investments in our region,” says Derek Dachelet, Ph.D., dean of Industry, Trades and Agriculture at Southwest Technical College.

The high-impact partnership leverages $125,000 in grants from RDP, a national Community Development Entity (CDE) that focuses on agricultural, forestry and renewable energy projects. RDP’s mission is to improve the economic and social viability of low-income rural communities through the application of New Market Tax Credits (NMTCs) to rural businesses.

Muscoda-based Meister Cheese Company, LLC and Muscoda Protein Products, LLP, utilized NMTCs from its 2013 plant expansion to fund the collaborative project which benefits students, milk producers and Meister itself. A portion of the credits was used to purchase welding and laboratory equipment at Riverdale High School in Muscoda. Students use the lab equipment to learn about food and medical testing.

The rapidly growing, third-generation company employs 132 people. “We noticed a significant trend of high school students leaving the area for better jobs,” said co-owner and president Scott Meister. “We realized they needed to be educated early about what Meister has to offer, but also to overcome the stigma of what manufacturing is.”

Prosperity Southwest Director Ron Brisbois helped Meister apply for the tax credits and also facilitated meetings between Meister, RDP, Southwest Tech, and the Riverdale School District, which encompasses Richland, Iowa and Grant counties. “RDP wanted to make sure that the benefits extended into all three counties. That is one of the reasons Prosperity Southwest was involved.”

Agricultural training is a second grant component. Southwest Tech’s Production Management program has partnered with Meister to help low-income and beginning milk producers with tuition assistance for management courses; farm business succession workshops; and agricultural career pathway training at Riverdale High.

Matt Lansing, Farm Business and Production Management instructor for Southwest Tech, partnered with Meister Cheese to offer a Dairy Summit in late 2015 that concentrated on financial management training. “In the summit we focused on getting people to understand their cost of production, their balance sheet, how they compare to other similarly sized ag businesses,” said Lansing. Summit attendees also learned about the $1 per hundred-weight incentive offered by Meister for its suppliers, who must follow specific organic guidelines.

Growth of cheese and whey producers in the region depends on increased production from the farming community. Grant outcomes include 12 hours of financial counseling for 20 producers.

“The goal is to sit down and go through balance sheets with them to put together a farm analysis,” explained Lansing. “Meister is looking forward to seeing how their producers rank against others, and it gives farmers an understanding of where they can tighten up and be more profitable.”

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