2023 Annual Winners: Plants of The Year and Circle of Excellence

February 22, 2024

Circle of Excellence logo
Congratulations to the Foremost Farms 2023 Plants of the Year and 2023 Annual Circle of Excellence Winners!

Thanks to each and every winner for living our values and for your contributions!

We also thank those who take the time to make the nominations. We’re so pleased to see employees and leaders nominate each other for great work, so please keep those nominations coming in 2024.


Overall Excellence – Plant of the Year

Greenville: Jacob Kizer, Plant Manager
Overall achievement of safety, quality and service metrics

Safety Plant of the Year

Greenville: Jacob Kizer, Plant Manager
Overall weighting of safety metrics

Quality Plant of the Year

Appleton: Beth Schwertel, Plant Manager
Overall weighting of quality metrics

Service Plant of the Year: Lancaster

Lancaster: Adam Downing, Plant Manager
Overall weighting of service metrics



President’s Award

Dan Becker – Clayton, Plant Manager
Nominated by: Beth Schwertel

Dan has been the driving force to move the Clayton facility and team forward. During the July plant shutdown, Dan and the team facilitated and executed more capital projects in a 16-day window than most plants do in a year. Planning and executing capital projects is a significant effort and consumes a lot of planning time in advance of the actual construction down days. Even with many unforeseen challenges in an old plant, Dan pivoted to make necessary repairs and started up on time.

Demonstrated Values: Force For Good

Bryan Allen – Clayton, Production Supervisor
Nominated by: Derrick Koehn

Bryan’s leadership style and his achievements represent a blend of practical improvement strategies and a genuine commitment to the well-being of his team and the organization. His involvement in the Master Cheesemaker program and dedication to team development highlight his commitment to growth, social responsibility, and continuous learning. His focus on process improvement and employee empowerment marks him as a catalyst for positive organizational change.

Demonstrated Values: One Team

Sammi Fleckner– Headquarters, Dairy Analytics & Insights Manager
Nominated by: Jim Lindholm

Sammi put together a clear and interesting presentation for 50+ IT / Finance members who were outside of her direct supply function that ultimately went a long way toward establishing a better base level of understanding and purpose about our Dairy cooperative. It represented a strong example of how someone can go above and beyond their normal day-to-day responsibilities for the purpose of making our company and industry a better understood and more desired place to work.

Demonstrated Values: Work With Integrity

Joan Schenk – Headquarters, Pricing & Credit Associate
Nominated by: Aaron Kleeman

Joan solved a HUGE problem with the inadequate pricing system for freight of customer orders. In 2023 we arranged less freight, but she was able to increase revenue by over 50%. In August, she was able to have the first ever complete recoup on all US arranged freight.

Demonstrated Values: Take Care of Our World

Appleton $750K Grant Team – Mark Mueller, Beth Schwertel, Eric Gerndt, Kara Edler, Kaitlyn Harbort, Lisa Yanke
Nominated by: Lori Wall

Led by Mark Mueller, the team secured a $750,000 grant from We Energies that will be used to improve the Appleton steam boiler efficiency and install three heat recovery systems. Mark’s vision and hard work to define the project, plus his awareness of available programs to fund it, will make a big difference to Take Care of Our World. The grant will support a multilayered heat-recovery project that will reduce natural gas consumption by 470,000 therms/year, reduce electric consumption by 725,000 kWh/year, and reduce emissions from the Appleton facility by 2,832 metric tons CO2 equivalent.

Most Valuable Team

IT Security Team – Aaron Oberman, Alex Ginter, Bill Ustianowski, Brian Schaaf, Chris Tipton, Howard Hill, James Dugan, Jorden Kleier, William Newberry
Nominated by: Sean Asp

The IT Security Team provides continuous defense and strengthening of our networks and information systems, relied on by the entire company to keep Foremost Farm’s multi-billion-dollar value chain operating. Recently, Foremost Farms hired a professional security company to attempt to breach our networks and information systems. These professional hackers were NOT able to penetrate into Foremost Farms networks and systems, which is a rare occurrence for these professionals.

Service Hero

Appleton Brine Team: Beth Schwertel, Brandon Seidl, Jamison Junior, Jean Wickesberg, Micah Klug, Preston Lorenz, Robert Stanley, Scott Luchterhand
Nominated by: Eric Van Den Heuvel

After a roof failure, this team creatively and thoroughly developed processes to safely flush and sanitize brine piping and spray systems that have never been done before; and Jean shared a solution that saved over 24 hours of time getting the plant running after disposing of the block brine due to contamination. It was a great team effort to find safe and effective means to get the plant back online.