May 7 2020 08:27 AM

UDIM and technology bring the farm to schoolchildren, parents and educators.

The information below has been supplied by dairy marketers and other industry organizations. It has not been edited, verified or endorsed by Hoard’s Dairyman.

Jolene Griffin and Amiee Vondrasek of UDIM answer questions from virtual tourists.

The United Dairy Industry of Michigan’s (UDIM) live virtual farm tour to Valley Grove Dairy reached more than 9,800 viewers. Virtual tourists had an interactive glimpse into the lives of playful calves and a behind-the-scenes look at how milk and other dairy foods get from the farm to their table. The farm tour allowed viewers to learn how dairy farmers care for their animals, which ultimately builds trust in dairy foods.

Teachers, parents and children of all ages were invited to tag along as Jolene Griffin, Director of Industry Relations, UDIM, took them on a virtual tour of her family’s West Michigan dairy farm on April 21.

“A virtual dairy farm tour is a wonderful opportunity to explore the world around you while families stay home and children are unable to attend school as we work our way through the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Amiee Vondrasek, UDIM Youth Wellness Manager and farm tour moderator. “We know teachers and parents at home are looking for learning opportunities. The farm tour educated and entertained students and also gave them a glimpse into life on the farm.”

Griffin began in the calf barn explaining why the calves wear jackets, and how technology helps farmers care for their animals, from using ear tags for recordkeeping to automatic calf feeders. Viewers learned the steps involved to milk a cow, how milk travels from the cow to the milk truck and saw the cows lying in sand in the freestall barn.

Teachers had the opportunity to register their class so they could send in questions, receive updates and be notified of future tours. Teachers linked to 231 classrooms signed up with 4,415 students. Not only did teachers share the tour with their students, many parents joined the tour with their children.

Questions varied from “How big is a calf when it is born?” to comments of “How is chocolate milk made?” Griffin and Vondrasek answered questions and offered nutrition tips.

The virtual farm tour can be viewed on the Milk Means More Facebook page. This tour and the four virtual tours hosted last year can be found on the Milk Means More virtual farm tour page.

A Dairy Experience

UDIM’s popular virtual farm tour videos feature an intimate snapshot of life on Michigan family dairy farms, along with plenty of opportunities to ask questions of real dairy farmers. UDIM has hosted several virtual tours in recent years, each showcasing a different farm family and its passion for delivering dairy’s healthy foods to the people of Michigan and beyond.

Vondrasek works closely with educators across the state to ensure resources offered by UDIM fit into the current school curriculum.

“Teachers can use these resources to support their current lesson plans and ensure a fun and educational experience for the students resulting in opportunities for all to learn where their dairy foods come from,” says Vondrasek.

Helpful resources like a dairy tour scavenger hunt, FAQs and more ideas found here enable teachers and parents to use the virtual tours as part of a wider educational experience.

The tours and these resources are intended to spark conversations and understanding while increasing transparency between food producers and food consumers.

“Questions are encouraged,” says Griffin. “We want people to understand what life is like on our dairy farms. We also want to share how Michigan dairy farmers add to their community, as well as the many nutritious benefits and comfort dairy brings to the table.”

New Curriculum through Discovery Education

A new curriculum package focused on sustainability called “Innovations from Farm to Community” launched in April from the national dairy checkoff’s Discovery Education. The new curriculum includes a video, interactive map to explore dairy across the USA and STEM lesson plan. Additionally:

  • Students can learn about “Converting Poop to Power,” which brings to life how farmers across the nation are using innovation and technology to help protect the planet.
  • “Creating My Plate” teaches students what it means to compose healthy, balanced meals and how to reduce food waste in the process.
  • “Our Perspective: From Farm to Table” explores real-world innovation in the dairy community plus teaches students the magic and science behind fermentation.

The program educates and informs students, teachers and parents about how farmers and dairy foods are good for the people, the planet and community. UDIM will be sharing the new curriculum with educators.

Virtual Dairy Resources

To learn more about UDIM, virtual dairy farm tours, Michigan dairy farms and ideas on how to incorporate healthy activities and dairy foods into your meals, visit these resources:

About the United Dairy Industry of Michigan

The United Dairy Industry of Michigan (UDIM) is dedicated to serving Michigan’s hard-working dairy farm families and promoting Michigan’s locally produced dairy products. UDIM is the umbrella organization for the American Dairy Association and Dairy Council of Michigan. These non-profit organizations provide dairy product promotion and nutrition education services on behalf of their funding members.