John Kokoski Awarded AJCA Distinguished Service Award - Cowsmo

John Kokoski Awarded AJCA Distinguished Service Award

John Kokoski, Hadley, Mass., has been chosen as the 2024 recipient of the Distinguished Service Award of the American Jersey Cattle Association (AJCA).

The Distinguished Service Award is presented by the Board of Directors to as many living AJCA members and/or members’ families, who, in their opinion have rendered outstanding and unselfish service for many years and thereby made a notable contribution to the advancement of the Jersey breed in the United States.

In recognition of his unwavering dedication and outstanding contributions to the AJCA and National All-Jersey Inc., (NAJ) Kokoski will receive his award at the Breeders’ Banquet on Saturday, June 22 in Springfield, Mass. His exceptional commitment to the advancement and promotion of Jersey cattle and the dairy industry as a whole has set a standard of excellence that truly embodies the spirit of this prestigious accolade.

“John’s vision in the dairy industry and tribute to his forward thinking is demonstrated by his pioneering spirit in establishing the on-farm processing of his Jersey milk long before it was a popular occurrence,” said fellow NAJ board member John Marcoot, Greenville, Ill., in his support of Kokoski. “As a current member of the NAJ board, John’s leadership as president as well as a member of the Executive committee is sincere, thorough, consistent and never wavering.”

Kokoski is the fourth generation to farm the land initially purchased by his great-great grandfather in 1904—120 years ago. A 1969 graduate of the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Kokoski took over operation of the farm in 1986 and phased out the vegetable and tobacco business to focus on dairying.

John is a leader in milk marketing for the Northeast. He and his family have direct marketed milk from their Registered Jersey herd since 1995. Initially, milk was processed and bottled off-site and sold in a small retail store at the farm. A wholesale delivery business then grew out of the demand for All-Jersey milk, especially in the local restaurant scene which loved cooking and baking with premium Jersey milk. In January 2004, the farm constructed its own processing and bottling plant, bottling in both glass and plastic.

“John is always willing to share his knowledge and understanding on the benefits of not only the Jersey cow, but the milk she produces and the nutritional advantages it contains,” said past AJCA president Jonathan Merriam, Hickman, Calif. “The AJCA is a better organization because of John and breeders like him.”

Today, Mapleline Farm’s milk can be found throughout the state of Massachusetts, in grocery and specialty food stores, restaurants, coffee shops and institution dining services. Mapleline Farm milk is a certified “Queen of Quality” All-Jersey product, and proudly displays the “Queen of Quality” logo on its bottles. Its chocolate milk has been featured by many food editors and was recently named “Best Chocolate Milk in Massachusetts.”

“It is always a pleasure working alongside one of the tallest men I know,” stated former AJCA director David Norman, Liberty, Pa., in a letter of nomination. “I have learned John is more than tall, but a great leader at anything he does. He seems to always be thinking of the next move and what the Jersey breed needs to be doing.”
John has brought his leadership to the national level as a director of NAJ. He is currently serving his fifth term as director, having been appointed to the position in 2007. John has served as president of the NAJ board for the past seven years.

“The many positions John has been elected to serve in have come, not because he went seeking them, but because his fellow Jersey breeders and dairy community leaders respect him,” stated past AJCA President Paul Chittenden, Schodack Landing, N.Y. “They have elected him to represent them out of respect for his leadership, intelligent thinking, and willingness to serve.”

Kokoski has made many a trip to Washington D.C. to speak with leaders about the value and importance of the dairy industry. In addition, he has opened the doors to the dairy for local, state, and national politicians to come and visit and see firsthand the impact dairying has.

In 2016, Mapleline Farm was one of the featured Virtual Farm Tours at World Dairy Expo. John and his family, took center stage and focused on the innovations the farm had implemented to stay relevant in a quickly urbanizing local area. John’s insight and wisdom has guided the farm to carry on and is now owned by the fifth generation of Kokoskis, John and wife, Elaine’s, daughters—Jessica Dizek and Jennifer Zina.

John has never shied away from leadership. In addition to his many endeavors with the national Jersey association, he has also served in many capacities in the Northeast. Kokoski has sat on the New England Dairy Promotion Board and served the organization as director for more than 25 years. He has been a member of the Massachusetts Cooperative Milk Producers Federation and sat on its board for several years. Kokoski is past president of the Massachusetts Jersey Cattle Club and the New England Jersey Breeders Association. He has served as chair of the New England Spring Sale.

Mapleline Farm has been named a Dairy of Distinction by the Massachusetts Farm Bureau for 10 years and was recognized as a Century Farm by the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources in 2004. The dairy has been featured extensively in articles and tours sponsored by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service because of its conservation efforts and nutrient management plan. The farm also installed a total of 150-kilowatt solar generating system that went online in October 2016. In 2019 the University of Massachusetts presented Mapleline Farm with its “Sustainability Award.”

“John supports all of the AJCA programs and is a long-time Equity supporter,” said James S. Huffard, Crockett, Va., in a letter of support. “More importantly, John has been a friend to anyone who needs help or advice throughout his career. His experience in animal husbandry and milk processing is valued by those that know him or seek his counsel.”

The 110-cow herd is enrolled on REAP and has a 2023 lactation average of 20,788 lbs. milk, 1,072 lbs. fat and 759 lbs. protein. With the most recent appraisal in February, the herd includes 14 Excellent and 95 Very Good cows and has an average final score of 83.9%. Cows are milked in a double-seven, rapid-exit parlor and housed in free stalls. Mapleline Farm routinely consigns animals to The All American Jersey Sale, the Massachusetts Blue-Ribbon Calf Sale, the National Heifer Sale, and the previously the New England Spring Sale.

“John is an excellent representation of the Jersey breed and the leadership needed to evolve and prosper in this ever-changing world,” summed NAJ Director Jason Cast, Beaver Crossing, Neb.

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