Introducing Children to Cows: You Can Do It Too!

March 01, 2017

Children are our future and we have an incredible opportunity and responsibility to teach them about where their food comes from, because they will help determine the future of food.

As President of National Dairy Council (NDC), I am proud to represent the more than 43,000 dairy farm families and the broader dairy community who have championed the well-being of children for over 100 years.

When you think about it, the world is changing in profound ways. In fact, agriculture, food, nutrition, health and sustainability are converging in a way that is shifting how we think and talk about food, too. People are asking questions about the source of their food and how it is made. They are talking about locally grown, the carbon footprint, water use, how animals are cared for and simplicity. So I have committed myself to help people better understand agriculture, connect them to the farm and farmers and encourage health and wellness professionals to bring their expertise to the table -- to be at the center of new conversations that will define the future of food.

As you look through this slideshow of my farm visits last year, I hope it will inspire you as you lead the new conversation about agriculture, food, nutrition and well-being. Thanks to the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board, Florida Dairy Farmers and so many others for helping to make some of these tours happen. For more information about farms in your area, contact your local dairy council

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Fuel Up to Play 60 student ambassadors, representing schools from coast to coast, joined me in August for a visit to Fair Oaks Farms in Indiana. They learned that farm to school means more than having a school garden that grows fruits and vegetables. Schools can also have a great relationship with their local dairy farmers by visiting the farm or inviting a farmer to school. 

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The students were amazed as they watched 72 cows being milked on a rotary milking parlor at Fair Oaks Farms, as they are three times each day. Each cow waits her turn, then steps onto the slowly moving milking platform; when they are finished being milked, they back off and walk back to the barn to socialize. Did you know that when a cow chews her cud while being milked, it’s a sign she is relaxed and content?

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Mike and Sue McCloskey, owners of Fair Oaks Farms, believe that part of being a good steward of the land means helping preserve the natural plants and wildlife that live there. Students can visit the interactive Winfield Crop Adventure to discover what goes on underground, how corn, soy and wheat improve our lives and more. 

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While at the Farm to Cafeteria Conference last June, I met Chef Shannon Berry at Field Table restaurant in Madison, Wisconsin. We learned that having nutritious, locally sourced food available for her restaurant, as well as in school cafeterias and other institutions across the country, can help foster a culture of food, nutrition and agricultural literacy.

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Milk, cheese and other dairy foods are sourced from local dairy farms to create delicious and nutritious dishes at Field Table restaurant.
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Crave Brothers Farmstead Classics cheese made by George Crave, a licensed cheese maker, is made with nutrient-rich milk from the family's herd. In addition, Crave Brothers is a carbon-negative company, which means they produce more power with their anaerobic digester than they are able to use for their dairy and cheese plant. 

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On our tour of Crave Brothers, we learned dairy farmers are meticulous when it comes to cow care. They provide dry, clean bedding for their cows – this means clean straw or sand, and some farms even have “waterbeds” for cows to rest on. Did you know that a lot of farms have back scratchers strategically placed throughout the barn for cows to go up and scratch that itch?

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Sassy Cow Creamery offers both organic and conventional milk, providing a variety of dairy foods people want. 

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Sassy Cow Creamery offers several varieties of milk and ice cream made on-site from both their conventional and organic dairy herds.  

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R & G Miller and Sons Farms are owned and run by eight family members who carry on the legacy established by their great-grandfather who founded R & G Miller and Sons dairy farm in 1852. Certified organic since 1997, the 1,550 acres of certified organic land they own and rent is used for pasture and to grow crops to feed their 800 dairy cows. 

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We visited with Kevin Moore at his farm, Lake Branch Dairy in connection with the GENYOUth Townhall meeting in Tampa, Florida. Moore sets his priorities on family and community, saying I mostly invest where I see the most need, our youth. They are our future leaders in this community, and I want them to know the importance of the relationship of agriculture within the community and the positive impact it has.”