2006 Dairy Leadership Award

2006-McCroskeySam E. McCroskey

After earning a bachelor of science degree from Southwest Missouri State University, Sam McCroskey completed a master of science degree in dairy marketing economics at the University of Missouri-Columbia.  His graduate adviser was Dr. Stephen F. Whitted, who served in that role for many marketing students at the University.

After working three years for the Federal Milk Marketing Administrator in St. Louis, Sam joined Mid-America Dairymen, Inc. as a marketing specialist in 1969.

He then worked in member relations for the Southern Division of Mid-Am and in 1986 Sam became vice president for the Southern Division with responsibilities for both producers and plants.

Manufacturing, marketing, and sales of cultured, shelf-stable, and special dehydrated products became his responsibility in 1991. In 2000 he became president of Dairy Food Products with responsibilities for manufacturing and sales of shelf-stable products and cheeses. In 2002 he was given the responsibility of the important Borden Cheese brand.

Sam built his career at Mid-Am and Dairy Farmers of America, Inc. around credibility and a passion to add value to the dairy farmer’s and cooperative owner’s milk checks. His honest and straight talk was as solid as the rock under the farmland in the Republic and Willard areas where he lives.

Although the firm had been in the shelf-stable dairy food business for more than 60 years, Sam oversaw a significant growth in both the shelf-stable and the value-added businesses. When he became general manager of the Mid-Am Southern Division, annual sales of baby formula totaled 216 million cans. At his retirement sales totaled almost 840 million units of shelf-stable beverages and nutritional drinks, nearly half of them in plants at Springfield and Cabool.

The business had expanded beyond the steel cans of the 1980s to glass, plastic, and aluminum, and the wholesale value was more that $400 million. Sam also managed the important Borden cheese brand business for several years.

Sam demonstrated foresight and managerial skill by continuing and strengthening the customer/supplier partnership in the cheese curd production and cheese processing operations in Monett. The cheese manufacturing and reverse osmosis whey ingredients businesses allowed adoption of new technologies that brought added value to cheese slices and infant formula.

Sam and Larry Claypool were the driving force in building the Research and Technology Center in Springfield. The center and its expert personnel made possible development of new shelf-stable dehydrated cheese products, foods that brought value-added returns instead of commodity prices.

Sam was also a part of the team that helped bring Fonterra, a large New Zealand dairy cooperative, into partnership with DFA for the production and sale of dehydrated specialty products. The uses of new technologies from New Zealand and the manufacturing and sales assets of DFA have been the catalysts that grew the production of the El Dorado Springs plant from 20 million to 36 million pounds of product per year.

Although known as a tight-fisted manager, Sam saw fit to take risks to increase producers’ milk checks by adding value to milk products. His legacy of emphasis on value-added products has helped maintain four significant plants in Missouri. These plants would have been in jeopardy as the milk supply decreased markedly in Missouri because those plants faced stiff competition from the efficient DFA commodity-producing plants in other parts of the country.

Sam’s wife of 40 years – Angie – grew up on a farm near Willard in an area where the family still lives. The McCroskeys have two children – Amanda has undergraduate and masters of business degrees granted by Missouri State University and is now working on a nursing degree.

Matt teaches English at Rogers High School and his wife Nanette has training in accounting software and works for travel agencies.

Sam and Angie are members of the Willard Presbyterian Church and are involved in the family farming operation located near Willard and Vanzant.

Randy McGinnis, vice president and chief operating officer of the DFA Central Council, Kansas City, nominated Sam for the Dairy Leadership Award and was joined by the Missouri Dairy Products Association and a supporting letter from Arthur Farris, executive vice president of DFA Formulated Dairy Products.