By Jay Stauffacher, WMMB Board Member - District 23
Highway Dairy Farms, LLC. Darlington, WI
As dairy farmers we talk often about the importance of sharing our story, what happens on a dairy farm and being transparent. Still, the idea of hosting people by the busload can be daunting. As dairy farmers and industry professionals we have an amazing opportunity, an opportunity to connect and share our story on so many different platforms. These days, most children have little or no knowledge about where their food comes from. Visiting farms is one of the most tangible ways to reconnect all ages of people with agriculture and the food system. Visiting a farm can inspire young people to make healthier food choices that support local farm communities.
We have numerous rules, regulations and safety standards in place to ensure a safe and wholesome product for consumers and it is our job as producers and agriculture professionals to share that message. By visiting a dairy farm, people can see firsthand the lengths to which producers go to provide the wholesome dairy products they love.
Youth, their chaperons, and even the bus drivers learn about the value of dairy farming on their visits, they have the chance to experience firsthand the production of milk and how it gets to their table. A trip to a farm not only can be a hands-on experience, but also a great place to discuss school subjects such as math, science, technology, language arts and nutrition – all vital to the success of a dairy farm.
A few conversations with my neighbors about each of us hosting small farm tours has led to a mission of working together to help educate 4th grade students about the daily operations of a dairy farm in Lafayette County. In Wisconsin, 4th grade is the year many school children first become exposed to the dairy industry when children study the many industries our state is blessed with. "Day @ The Dairy" originated in 2013 with four founding Dairy Farms in Lafayette County, Wisconsin. Cottonwood Dairy, LLC; Redrock View Farms; Highway Dairy Farms, LLC; and Darlington Ridge Farm, LLC.
This concept truly became a chance for continual learning, not just for the 4th graders and accompanying adults, but also for the farm families, employees and partnering dairy industries as well. We continue to look for ways to enhance their educational opportunities. This year's event had over 400 participants. The event rotates yearly to each farm, and students are actively engaged in stations such as: a milking parlor tour, learning about feeds from a nutritionist, petting calves and learning about their care, breeds of dairy cattle, and types of common cheeses produced in the area.
Did you know our check-off contributes to farm tour resources readily available at the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board? Dairy farmers can request many materials ranging from dairy facts and stats and nutrition information, to coloring books and a bag for the kids to take everything home to share with their families. If you are ever interested in these materials for a farm tour call 800-373-9662 or visit www.wmmb.com/producers/farm-tour.
Dairy farmers can even receive key talking points, get training to enhance our communication skills or, when faced with the most difficult questions, ask WMMB to do some research so we can provide the most informed response possible.