Organic Valley has appointed Shawna Nelson as the farmer-owned cooperative’s new executive vice president of membership (EVP). Growing her experience from intern to vice president over the span of 18 years, Nelson has been a contributor to Organic Valley’s growth and has demonstrated success. Nelson adds her perspective to the executive leadership team as a woman leading in agriculture focused on the farmers and producers that underpin the American food system. 

Born and raised in the same Driftless area that Organic Valley calls home, Nelson started her career at Organic Valley in 2005 as a human resources intern and then moved to various roles in marketing, sales analysis, recruitment, employee relations, field operations and dairy pool management. Nelson’s appointment as the EVP of membership began on Oct. 23, 2023, as current EVP of Membership Travis Forgues begins his transition to Hidden Springs Creamery and their family farm on Nov. 3.

“After 25 years as a part of Organic Valley/CROPP Cooperative, wearing both farmer and leadership hats, I'm eager to shift focus to my family farm and our artisan sheep dairy and cheeses, Hidden Springs Creamery,” Forgues states. “Shawna Nelson and I have worked closely together for many years, and I'm confident she's become the perfect torchbearer for our community. I'm looking forward to this next chapter and to seeing how she leads our membership into the future.”

"I am honored and elated to take the next step with the cooperative and continue serving its mission to create a stable economic model for organic family farms,” Nelson says. “Since 2005, I’ve known Organic Valley is the place I am meant to be. I look forward to working more closely with CEO Jeff Frank, the rest of our executive leadership team, board members, farmer-members and teams across the cooperative to realize the immense potential for Organic Valley’s continued growth and success.”

Nelson is advancing her role at Organic Valley from her previous position as vice president of dairy pool, where she oversaw membership functions that directly impacted the dairy pool of the cooperative, including hauling, regional pool management, scheduling, forecasting, milk handlers and dairy payroll. 

As EVP of membership, Nelson will be responsible for the cooperative’s farmer-member touchpoints and all the farmer pools within the organization. This new position takes Nelson’s leadership beyond the cooperative’s dairy pool to its egg, meat, produce and grower pools. Finally, the programs that support all of the cooperative’s pools, including member communication, sustainability and veterinary services will be guided by Nelson’s leadership moving forward.

“We are thrilled to grow leadership from within the cooperative and appoint Shawna to her new role,” Frank says. “Her substantial experience in leading and supporting our farmers and her demonstrated commitment to the mission of this cooperative make her a powerful leader for our team, and for the agricultural sector in the U.S. more broadly. Shawna has strong skills, a track record of success, necessary knowledge and a clear mission focus. I know she will make a meaningful difference working together with the farmers who own this cooperative.”