Leonard Southwell has spent 49 years in the dairy business providing guidance, experience, and leadership with the Prairie Farms organization, joint venture operations, and the many industry boards and associations of which he has been a part.
His 49 years in the dairy business includes 13 years as manager of Equity Union Creamery and Produce Company of Pana, Ill., from 1951 to 1964. The 1964 merger of Prairie Farms with Equity Union marked the beginning of Leonard’s Prairie Farms association.
His responsibilities with the company includes being named general sales manager in 1966, assistant general manager in 1971, senior vice president and chief operating officer in 1983, and executive officer in 1988.
The $16 million company Leonard joined in 1964 now has more than $1.8 billion in annual sales!
Leonard oversaw the operation of 29 manufacturing plants and 73 branch operations in 14 states. In Missouri there are five plants and 17 branch facilities that process and sell the majority of dairy products sold in the state. The names of those Missouri companies other than Prairie Farms are Hiland, Roberts, Pevely, Ice Cream Specialties, and Madison Farms.
“Our reason for being in business is to provide a good market for the milk our members produce and pay a competitive price,” Leonard said. “No other dairy cooperative has done this as successfully as Prairie Farms.”
“As a long time, 49 years, employee of dairy farmers and believer in the cooperative movement, my greatest satisfaction is being a part of the success of this company and paying patronage dollars back to those who milk the cows,” he continued. “Without earnings there would be little justification for us to be in business. Good operating plants are a necessity to create earnings and provide a market to our members.”
Leonard was born in Sioux City, Iowa, Nov. 9, 1924. He served in the U.S. Navy during World War II and later received a degree in dairy industry from Iowa State College. His first job after graduating from college was with Sanna Dairies, Madison, Wis.
He married Rosemary Kirsch June 9, 1951 and the Southwells have three children, Christine Schaefer and George and John Southwell.
Christine and husband Mike live in Pekin, Ill., and have two sons, Ross, 21, and Joe, 19. She was a nurse but is now a full-time homemaker.
George is a petroleum engineer, lives in Denver, and he and wife Linda have a son, Andrew, who is 22.
John is a geologist and lives in Midland, Texas.
Leonard was an initial member of the Milk PEP Board and served three years. He also served 21 years as a board member of the Milk Industry Foundation and was secretary for three years.
The First United Methodist Church is the Southwell family church of choice and Leonard also serves on the Pana Community Hospital Foundation Board.
Leonard sums up his Prairie Farm experience by saying “At Prairie Farms even the bad days were good days.”