It's a moo-ving moment as Brown dairy producer honored for service – Jacksonville Journal-Courier

Ken Koch was named the 2021 recipient of the Illinois Milk Producers Association’s Dairy Industry Service Award.
MOUNT STERLING — A former milk producer from Brown County has been named the 2021 recipient of the Illinois Milk Producers Association’s Dairy Industry Service Award. 
Though he has been out of the industry for two years, Ken Koch received the award for his almost 40 years of service in the industry. 
“Those in the dairy industry were like a second family to me and I still keep in touch with with them,” Koch said. “I made a lot of lasting friendships all over the Midwest.”
The Dairy Industry Service Award is given to show service and benefit to the state’s dairy industry. 
Growing up, Koch’s grandfather produced milk with a small herd of cows and took it to be processed at the Prairie Farms plant in Mount Sterling. His father helped grow the herd and production over the years. 
Eventually Koch and his brother took over Kochnook Dairy Farm with up to 130 cows.  In 2007, the Kochs were presented the Western Illinois Dairy Promotion Committee Heritage Award.
Koch served on the Prairie Farms board of directors for 39 years after returning from Illinois State University, where he studied agriculture and dairy production. He also served on the Illinois Milk Producers Association board for 13 years.
“I got to see the processing side, the grocery side of the business,” Koch said. He remained active for more than 40 years before taking a step back.
Koch and his brother sold the herd two years ago because of rising costs. 
“We were looking at a lot of money to modernize,” Koch said. “We decided it didn’t make financial sense, so two years ago, we exited the dairy industry.”
Despite no longer producing milk, Koch said he has maintained his connections in the dairy industry and tries to help his fellow producers.
Because he is no longer a producer, Koch no longer can serve on the boards, but he said he was honored to be recognized by those he served with and worked alongside for many years. 
“I was honored to be nominated and then selected, because I’ve known the people that have received it in the past — educators, other producers, CEOs,” Koch said. “There are a lot of farmers in the state more qualified to receive this award than me.”
Though he feels he doesn’t deserve the recognition, Koch is grateful for those he served with and those he was able to help during his time on the various boards, he said. And, he’s thankful for those who have helped him along the way.
“There were so many people that supported me throughout the years,” Koch said.  
Samantha McDaniel-Ogletree has been a reporter for the Journal-Courier since May 2014. She joined the staff after graduating from Eastern Illinois University. The Cahokia native worked with her school newspaper in various editor roles.