Dairy farmers in the Midwest Dairy Association’s 10-state region have a unique, easy way to connect with schoolchildren to show the students how they operate their farms.
Adopt A Cow, entering its fifth year, is a free program that connects local dairy farmers with K-12 classrooms, allowing teachers and students to “adopt” calves and learn about animal care and milk production. From September through May, participating dairy farmers send updates about the adopted calves and the happenings on their farms.
During the 2021-22 school year, seven dairy farmers from the Midwest Dairy region connected with more than 3,500 classrooms and 74,000 students. Paige Roberts, herd manager at Jer-Lindy Farms, Brooten, Minn., was one of the seven who participated last school year. Roberts also helps at Redhead Creamery, which is on the farm.
“Telling the story of agriculture is something I take to heart,” she says. “I didn’t grow up on a dairy farm, so I understand where people are coming from when they don’t know what goes into the gallon of milk at the store,” she adds.
The Adopt A Cow program has helped Roberts share her dairy story and the workings on her employers’ farm with others. During last school year, Roberts shared updates about three calves — Alexa, Alljoy and Caroline — with 415 classes and more than 11,000 students in Minnesota.
“It’s cool that we can put a face to who is producing milk,” Roberts says. “Students are future buyers of dairy products. We talked about how our calves will make cheese someday. When kids are in a store, we hope they will think of our calves and farm.”
Participating in the program was easy, Roberts says, as program staff make all the arrangements with lining up schools and providing help in preparing for video interviews. In her first video shown in September, she offered a five-minute overview of the dairy farm. After that, she provided monthly photos and updates on how the calves were doing — where they lived, what and how much they ate and so forth. In May, they did a live YouTube presentation with the calves, allowing students time to ask questions.
Kids’ questions unique
Roberts shared a couple of her favorite questions. One student asked if cows ate dessert. Another asked how old a cow is when she has a calf. Roberts told her a cow is 2 years old when she calves. The young student replied, “But my mom isn’t 2 years old.”
“It’s fun to see how kids think,” Roberts adds.
Roberts encourages other dairy farmers to consider participating in the program.
“We all have different stories to share,” she says.
As a young woman, Roberts also is widening the view of who a farmer is — and possible career opportunities on dairy farms.
“It’s a good way to show kids that farmers are not just the old man in the overalls,” Roberts says. “Women can be in charge of the farm if they want to be. Anyone can.”
Learn more about the Adopt A Cow program.