Thirty years ago, dairy representatives wanted a way to promote the positive image of the industry. Their ideas brought forth the Northeast Dairy Farm Beautification Program. At that time it included the states of New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Vermont. Since then, Maryland has been added to what is now called the Dairy of Distinction program.
The purpose of the program is to recognize attractive, well-kept farmsteads in an effort to promote a positive image for the dairy industry, its people and its products.
Active dairy farms apply to be considered for the program. In New York, the state is divided into 10 districts and volunteer judges evaluate the farms in their district. Currently, there are 603 New York farms with the honor, but a very elite group of 40 farms have earned the recognition for each of the last 30 years and can proudly display a Dairy of Distinction sign along their roadside.
"This is exciting!" remarked Nancy Putman, secretary of the New York State Dairy of Distinction program. It is a great honor to be listed. To view the farm names, Nancy invites you to visit www.dairyofdistinction.com and click on NY DOD and see the list of farms (by district) that have earned the award over the years, with the 30-year honorees listed at the top.
Previously honored farms must requalify each year to be able to display their Dairy of Distinction sign. Previous winners are evaluated in April for requalification. Farms that do not undergo the process each year or do not requalify are asked to remove the sign.
Any active farm can apply each year to enter the ranks, but the deadline is April 15 so all new farm judging can occur in May.
So what makes a Dairy of Distinction?
The farm is judged for the overall impression from the roadside, similar to the view any traveler would see on a drive past its location. A farm must receive 90 points or higher (out of 100) to receive the coveted Dairy of Distinction sign.
The criteria includes:
- clean and attractively finished buildings
- neat landscaping
- ditches neatly trimmed and managed
- well-maintained fences
- cleanliness of animals, barnyard, feed areas and manure management
All dairy producers, whether trying to earn recognition or not, should take pride in the appearance of their farms and present a clean and positive image to the public. We are judged by consumers everyday. Each well-maintained farm helps reinforce dairy's positive contributions to not only the food supply, but to the community.
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.