Oct. 23 2013 08:24 AM

Share your dairy-inspired meals with others.

cheese and crackersDairy farmers believe in promotion. Fifteen cents from each 100 pounds of milk sold goes to the checkoff program to educate consumers and promote dairy products, both on the state level and national scene. Some counties have active dairy promotion groups that work with June is Dairy Month events. But, what is being done closer to home? That is up to you.

At a church pancake breakfast fundraiser, my dairy farm family sat down to find margarine on the table. Eek! Dad was disturbed to say the least. At the conclusion of his meal, he asked the priest if he could sponsor or pay for butter at next year's event. It did not matter if it was butter from his creamery or if he was making a donation, he just wanted real butter on the tables. It was a financially small gesture, but it was personal.

Are there opportunities in your area to do something similar? Schools, churches and youth groups have spaghetti dinners as fundraisers quite often. Have you ever considered donating Parmesan or shredded cheese for the spaghetti, butter for the bread, or chocolate milk? I am not suggesting donating to anything and everything, but make a conscious effort to think dairy when donating to programs you already support. Connect to the food people are enjoying with you . . . the farmer or the agricultural supporter.

I like attending city festivals and usually seek out the baked potato stand manned by a youth or church group. I proudly order a "dairy potato," one with butter, cheese and sour cream. I could just list the ingredients, but I like to remind those behind the counter that the dairy cow made all of those options possible.

Your signature casserole or hot dish that everyone craves at gatherings, is it made with dairy products? Or maybe there is some cream cheese in your delicious appetizers or famous desserts. Don't be afraid to promote the fact that as a dairy producer you use dairy products and they are part of many meals that people often overlook.

Cajun cheese curdsOther events like potlucks, office parties or school snack days can promote dairy as well. Instead of picking up two dozen cookies for the 4-H meeting, try bringing string cheese or spice things up with some Pepper Jack or Cajun cheese curds. Greek yogurt has exploded in popularity, but have all your friends tried it? Make it an option at the next baby or wedding shower. Start some conversation. Expose people to the variety that dairy can provide.

So, as you prepare your Thanksgiving or holiday meal options this year, contemplate your dishes. Will they be dairy inspired?
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The author is the online media manager and is responsible for the website, webinars and social media. A graduate of Modesto Junior College and Fresno State, she was raised on a California dairy and frequently blogs on youth programs and consumer issues.