While it's not June, it's always in season to promote dairy.
The Young Dairy Leaders Institute began in 1994 with its first class of young leaders. Some class participants were dairy producers, while others work in the dairy industry. Currently, Class VII is just over midway through the program. This phase of the program is the "outreach" portion where class members develop and implement an advocacy action plan in their local communities.
Katie Davis, a class VII member, completed her advocacy project last weekend. It centered around Wisconsin Dells' biggest yearly event, the Wo-Zha-Wa fall festival. The Dells is known as the "Waterpark capital of the world" and is a major tourist attraction with many visitors from the Chicago area. She organized a group of producers and their families to participate in the parade, distribute cheese sticks and coloring books to children, and was on hand after the parade to answer questions about the dairy industry and milk. Donations of cheese, coloring books, educational dairy material, as well as financial contributions came from local agri-businesses.
While sporting t-shirts reading "From our family to yours", the volunteers wanted to emphasize that families are operating dairy farms. They distributed cheese sticks to 2,000 children. Their parade entry showcased three calves (Red & White, Jersey, and Holstein) in a wagon, a tractor, a farm truck and trailer, and Katie leading a Holstein cow. Katie commented, "I was prepared for the sounds of the band and clowns running around everywhere. What I wasn't prepared for was the crowd of about 10,000 people CLAPPING for us and children "mooo-ing" and screaming about the cows. That is the closest that many of the visitors had ever been to a cow. What an awesome experience!"
Not only did Katie bring dairy closer to consumers, she was able to pool the resources of other dairy farm families in the area to help achieve a goal. In addition to Katie and her husband, Chris' family, other producers included the Williams Family, The Leege Family, the Walker family, the Madland family, the Heinze family, the Nelson family were part of the weekend festivities. After this experience, this group of producers saw the value of promotion in their home area. They now have organized a local dairy promotion group and look forward to planning similar events in the future.
While it is no longer June, dairy promotion is a year-round commitment. Thanks to the efforts of all dairy promoters like Katie for making a dairy difference.