May 16 2014 07:00 AM

Washington dairy producers' new online game introduces consumers to the milk industry.

This time it's okay to play on your computer at work.

"Dairy Land" is a new interactive online game unveiled May 5 by the Washington Dairy Products Commission (WDPC). It's a fun and very educational take on how and why dairy products are great food choices, what it takes to make milk, and the important role dairying plays in Washington's economy.

The game is the brainchild of WDPC communications program assistant Dan Hoffman, who also did all of the very engaging artwork on the downloadable game board. He came up with the idea in 2013.

Blair Thompson, WDPC's director of consumer communications, wrote the 270 true-false and multiple choice questions that are central to "Dairy Land." He says its objectives are to provide positive consumer messages about dairy foods and to enhance the image of the dairy industry.

Four people can play at once. As each takes a turn, they are asked a question in one of three categories: dairy foods, on the farm, and nutrition. A correct answer lets them advance their game piece two spaces on the board. All of the board's 48 squares are color-coded to the question categories and determine what question group they click on for their next turn.

The path on the game board is a winding, entertaining west-to-east tour of Washington and its dairy industry. It starts at ocean whitecaps on the Pacific coast, passes the high-rises in Seattle, crosses snow-capped mountains in the Cascade Range, goes through cow-dotted pastures in Lynden and rolling fields in the central Palouse, and winds up in the vineyard and orchard-covered hills of the Yakima Valley.

It's a visually fun journey that illustrates the geographic diversity of the state and its dairy industry, and the questions aren't all pushovers, even for dairy producers. There's also a surprise or two along the way. (Keep your eyes open for Sasquatch.)

Kids and school classrooms will love "Dairy Land," but the creative way it engages consumers with factual, positive information about dairy foods and dairy farming is something all milk producers can appreciate, too.

The address is Go ahead and give it a try; this time playing on the computer really is okay at work.

Dennis blog footerThe author has served large Western dairy readers for the past 37 years and manages Hoard's WEST, a publication written specifically for Western herds. He is a graduate of Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo, majored in journalism and is known as a Western dairying specialist.