Sept. 10 2021 08:00 AM

The Dairy Science Club at Iowa State University promoted dairy to over 4,600 people at the Iowa State Fair.

Whether it’s a mental list or physical agenda, everyone has a bucket list. Most bucket lists include extreme activities or seeing unforgettable sites. For example, during my lifetime, I hope to skydive, scuba dive, and travel to numerous countries.

For other people, their bucket list includes a task that I have done my whole life and took for granted. While working the “I Milked a Cow” or IMAC exhibit presented by the Iowa State University Dairy Science Club, I heard numerous comments from the public about how milking a cow was on their bucket list.

Throughout the 10 days of the fair, we had two-hour shifts three times each day when fairgoers were invited to hand milk a cow. This booth is the club’s largest fundraiser and education event. People of all ages engage in IMAC and walk away knowing more about the dairy industry. For some, it is an annual tradition to participate in the IMAC booth and for others, it’s a “once in a lifetime opportunity.”

While hand milking a cow may seem outdated, it gives consumers a greater appreciation for the labor and technology incorporated into dairy. Today, few dairy farms still milk cows by hand, but it shows the public the roots of dairy and how milking is just one of the laborious tasks on a farm. They become more grateful for farmers’ devotion and passion for producing high-quality milk.

At IMAC, consumers learned how technology has made the dairy industry more efficient and productive. They were able to see firsthand how hand milking can take minutes or hours longer than machine milking depending on herd size. Seeing the need for technology makes it seem less scary and more beneficial.

Educating the public about dairy does not always mean showing them everything that happens on the farm. While working alongside my fellow club members, I learned that understanding needs to start on a basic level. The more you verbally throw at a consumer, the less they understand.

With the IMAC booth, our club was able to teach more than 4,600 people the basics of milking. Even though more topics could have been discussed, this gives them a general understanding of the dairy industry and leaves them with a positive impression.

Jessica Schmitt

Jessica Schmitt grew up working on her family’s dairy farm near Fort Atkinson, Iowa. She recently completed her junior year at Iowa State University where she is triple majoring in dairy science, international agriculture, and agricultural and life sciences education with a communications option. Schmitt served as the 2021 Hoard’s Dairyman editorial intern this summer.