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Rodney Hissong to be Honored as Penn State’s Dairy Science 2018 Distinguished Alumnus

Posted: October 17, 2018

Franklin County dairyman, a 1998 graduate, will be recognized at a ceremony on November 2.

Franklin County dairyman Rodney Hissong will be honored as the 2018 Dairy Science Distinguished Alumnus by the Department of Animal Science at a ceremony on Friday, Nov. 2 at University Park. Hissong is a 1998 graduate of the Department and co-owner of Mercer Vu Farms, Inc., Mercersburg, a third-generation farm.

The Mercer Vu (www.mercervufarms.com) mission is straightforward: “To produce high quality milk efficiently, safely and profitably as to benefit the people, the cows, the environment and the community in which we live.” They have been pro-active in engaging the community to help create an understanding of what it takes to produce food while caring for their animals and the land.

The family has a firm commitment to operating their dairy on a strong business foundation, acknowledging the importance of understanding the cost of production to be competitive. Hissong said, “Dairying has proven to be a great way of life for our family because we approach it as a business and the numbers must make sense.  However, those numbers are often the result of great people working at a high level with animals and the land to produce a high-quality product.”

Dr. Terry Etherton, Head of the Department of Animal Science, said, “It is with great pleasure that we recognize Rod for the exceptional contributions he has made to the dairy industry. Mercer Vu Farms represents the very best of the industry with their commitment to producing quality milk and their continuing innovations in sustaining the environment. Their community outreach is exemplary as they seek to create more effective communications and help the general public understand dairy farming.”

Hissong said, "It was quite a surprise and a true honor to get the call from Dr. Etherton informing me that I was going to be the recipient of this award. It is humbling to be included with the other recipients of this award and to be singled out from the pool of distinguished alumni represented by the department. I would like to thank the faculty and staff of the department, past and present, for their dedication to shaping young minds and having profound contributions to the countless careers in our industry like mine. The time in the classroom, the interactions I had with faculty, staff, fellow students and the access to first class facilities has had a definitive role in shaping my career and has contributed to any success I have had in my field."

Mercer Vu Farms, Inc. consists of 3100 mature dairy cows and 2,500 replacement animals, with 5,000 acres devoted to cropping. The farm has expanded from 200 milking cows when Rod returned from Penn State to join his parents and brother (Rick, a 1993 Penn State Ag Mechanization graduate) to the current numbers. A second barn was added in 2006 to accommodate the 1,500 cows then being milked. Other facilities were added over the years, including a calf barn and farm shop, manure system upgrades and in 2015 a satellite dairy was purchased in White Post, VA, where 1,250 cows are milked.

Hissong’s primary responsibilities range from day to day business management, employee management and all animal management and care. The farm employs 46 full-time and 5 part-time employees.

Member-owners of Land O’Lakes, Mercer Vu is a 12-year milk quality award recipient. They have their own milk hauling business, hauling over 80 million pounds of its own milk annually.

Mercer Vu Farms has received numerous awards for their achievements and community involvement, including 2015 Tuscarora Area Chamber of Commerce Business of the Year, 2016 Franklin County Area Development Small Business of the Year, 2017 Innovation Center of US Dairy Sustainability Award for Outstanding Achievement in Resource Stewardship, 2017 Land O’Lakes SUSTAIN Innovation Award for conservation, 2018 Pennsylvania Dairy Innovator Award at the PA Dairy Summit, 2018 American Dairy Association Northeast Dairying for Tomorrow Award.

Hissong has been a board member and served as president of the Professional Dairy Managers of Pennsylvania, and has been involved in many dairy organizations including Land O’Lakes.

He and his wife Amy (2001 Penn State Ag Business Management) have two children, Carter and Maggie.