MMPA’s Michalek Receives TNC's 2023 Conservation Excellence Agribusiness Award

Sustainability supervisor at the Michigan Milk Producers Association has championed a more sustainable future for Michigan’s dairy industry.

Six people gather on stage with award winner for a group photo.
2023 Award Winner L to R: MDARD Director Tim Boring, MABA Vice Chair Jon Rush, MABA President Chuck Lippstreu, award-winner Sarah Michalek, TNC's Joel Leland, Rebecca Hagerman and Ben Wickerham © TNC

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LANSING—The Nature Conservancy in Michigan (TNC) today announced Sarah Michalek, sustainability supervisor for the Michigan Milk Producers Association (MMPA), the recipient of TNC’s 2023 Conservation Excellence Agribusiness Award. The award was presented Tuesday, Jan. 9, during the Michigan Agri-Business Association’s 91st annual Winter Conference and Trade Show at The Lansing Center.

“At The Nature Conservancy, we are proud to partner with innovators across the agriculture sector, including dairy farmers, to help them reduce their emissions, environmental or GHG footprint,” said Ben Wickerham, agriculture program director for The Nature Conservancy in Michigan. “Sarah Michalek has been a leader on the farm, helping MMPA members reduce emissions, and in the boardroom informing the organization's Farmer Sustainability Advisory Committee on changes the dairy industry can make for a more sustainable future.”

In her current role, Sarah has overseen a multitude of initiatives aimed at reducing the carbon footprint of the dairy supply chain. She has managed on-farm sustainability programs including Feed in Focus, a partnership with The Nature Conservancy.

“Sarah Michalek has been an unwavering advocate for our members and the environment for more than a decade and has made countless contributions to the dairy industry's sustainability efforts,” said MMPA Chief Corporate Affairs Officer Sheila Burkhardt. “Sarah’s dedication, expertise and unwavering commitment to making the dairy industry more sustainable should serve as an inspiration to us all.”

Sarah's journey to the dairy industry began at Michigan State University, where she excelled academically while also serving as vice president of communications and policy in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources Student Senate. Her passion for dairy and food systems led her to excel in her studies and laid the foundation for her outstanding career. Sarah has recently returned to MSU to coach their Collegiate Dairy Cattle Judging Team, which has brought home multiple first-place trophies and is helping teach our next generation of dairy professionals.

“Sarah and the farmer-owned Michigan Milk Producers Association cooperative are innovators who are building bridges to deliver climate solutions,” said Chuck Lippstreu, president of the Michigan Agri-Business Association, and a member of The Nature Conservancy in Michigan’s Board of Trustees. “This is a well-deserved recognition that spotlights Michigan Milk’s industry leadership and willingness to forge new partnerships. I thank these leaders, and The Nature Conservancy, for their shared work to advance on-farm stewardship.”

The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world’s toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in more than 70 countries and territories, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit or follow @nature_press on Twitter.