Agency of Agriculture Dairy Section Chief E.B Flory Recognized with the 2020 John C. Finley Memorial Award
By Catherine (Kate) Finley Woodruff | Daughter of John C. Finley | Associate Dean, Student Services and Academic Programs | UVM College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
January 30, 2020 | Essex Junction, Vermont - "It is a pleasure to join you today to present the John Finley award to a wonderful recipient who every day supports Vermont agriculture and our working landscape.
Right: Kate Finley Woodruff introduces E.B. Flory at the Vermont Dairy Industry Association Luncheon
Most of you here today didn’t know my dad, who died 45 years ago. He earned his Bachelor’s and Masters Degrees at UVM, taught at VTC and Vergennes Vocational School before heading to Penn State to earn his PhD in Agricultural Economics. He returned to Vermont in 1974 to begin work as the Deputy Commissioner of the VT Department of Agriculture. His passion was dairy, but recognized even then the challenges in making a living making milk, and was an advocate for diversification. He had just been appointed to Governor Salmon’s Vermont Commission on Food when he was tragically died in a car accident in 1975 at the age of 35.
That Commission’s final report was released in January 1976. It offered wide-ranging recommendations such as support for food cooperatives and farmers’ markets… to the development of economic models showing the impact of agricultural activities on Vermont's economy… to encouraging the development of… specialty cheeses.
This year’s recipient would make my dad and the other members of this Commission proud.
She grew up on a dairy farm in Virginia. She worked for a conservation district there prior to moving to VT. She joined the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Market’s as the Dairy Section Chief in July 2017. She is responsible for on-farm and dairy processing regulation in the state. And while she was not an expert on dairy regs when she started, she jumped in with both feet to educate herself and be sure the state is doing what it should… and how it should.
This year she has faced two major issues in her relatively new role. When a cheese company faced regulatory issues with FDA, she jumped into action and dealt with the crisis. The situation not only affected the cheesemaker, but also impacted dairy farmers who were supplying milk to the cheesemaker. The farmers were at risk of losing their market but she worked hard to find a solution. These small farmers who could have easily been lost but she made sure they had a future in Agriculture.
She also monitored closely the bankruptcy of Dean Foods and the impact it had on Vermont. She kept all the players informed and made sure those working in the state’s dairy industry were protected.
Secretary Tebbetts commented on his Dairy Chief.“She is a professional and always tries to get to a “yes” when dealing with complex issues. She has a great team and makes sure they are trained properly to support a 2 billion dollar industry. This is not accomplished without a can do attitude.”
She approaches all challenges with a strong understanding of perspectives from all sides, the farmers, the regulator’s, and other industry stakeholders that may be impacted by a certain issue.
Left to Right: VAAFM Secretary Alyson Eastman | Dairy Section Chief E.B. Flory | Kate Finley Woodruff
She has mastered the art of being a fair and honest in her role, while also being a tremendous advocate for dairy farmers and the dairy industry. That is a talent that takes some people many years or an entire career to master, and our recipient has demonstrated her mastery of it multiple times over a relatively short period of time with the state of Vermont.
Our recipient is also an active participant in the Vermont Cheese Council and has been instrumental in assisting smaller cheesemakers with the completion of their food safety plans. She is active in the dairy community, and works diligently to assist her staff in their continued education. She learns alongside other cheese producers, as she makes her own cheese and yogurt at home. But don’t be fooled, because as a former basketball coach and player, she will tell you that many of her lessons in life were not learned in the kitchen, but on the basketball court.
One colleague said “She represents the future of the dairy section as we all face new challenges. She is an exceptionally talented individual who is knowledgeable beyond her years.”
And another said, “ I believe that she will continue to be an asset to the dairy community. I look forward to watching her in the coming years as she helps dairy farmers and businesses prosper in Vermont.”
And not only current dairy farmers and producers, but maybe the future ones as well. The UVM CALS is in the midst of a Vermont Dairy Product student challenge and sure enough, she agreed to jump in and mentor students when needed.
As my dad and the rest of Governor’s Salmon Food Commission identified 45 years ago, Vermont’s value-added dairy products strengthen our economy, protect the future of our working landscape, and are a cornerstone in the foundation of our Vermont brand.
And regardless of if those products are the result of the hardworking dairy families from one of our two century old cooperatives, or from one of our new and emerging cheese companies, you can bet they will have the support and assurance of our recipient in the years ahead. Please join me in congratulating the 2020 John Finley Award recipient, Elizabeth EB Flory."
Catherine (Kate) Finley Woodruff