“I want to be a teacher when I grow up,” I declared after my first day of kindergarten. I began alphabetizing all of my books on my bookshelf and, just like the school library, I included a check-out card inside the front cover of each book.
I spent hours making worksheets for my dolls to complete while they sat up to cardboard boxes which were to be their makeshift school desks.
When I graduated from high school, I was ready to start my college career. Schoolteacher, here I come. However, it was the mid-1970s, and there was an overabundance of teachers at that time. “Don’t become a teacher,” my school counselor said. “You will never find a job.” So I listened and pursued another path.
After 10 years as an interior designer, my dream came true. I work at a local elementary school as an instructional assistant, helping students who need a little extra help with reading and math. But that is not where my school day ends. As a dairy farmer, I frequently get to put my passion for teaching, and farming, in action.
I pack up my “dairy toolkit” and visit classrooms to talk about life on our dairy farm. I begin with a PowerPoint presentation. I share about my family and how we balance our jobs on the farm with our jobs away from the farm. I explain that my husband, John, is the full-time farmer in my family, but we all have daily responsibilities on the farm.
I continue with photos and stories about the buildings and animals on our farm. The pictures of the calves are always a huge hit. We discuss what our cows and calves eat, and I explain the importance of good nutrition so our animals stay healthy to make the dairy foods we enjoy. I always bring feed samples, milking and calf supplies for the students to see, feel and smell (yes, smell).
Then it’s on to the video of my family milking our cows, followed by, “Where does the milk go when it leaves the farm?” After telling the story of how our milk travels to the processing plant and within two days it is in the grocery store, I show packages of the variety of dairy foods sold in their grocery store. We talk about all the benefits of these tasty, good-for-you dairy foods, too.
While the kids enjoy munching on string cheese, I answer questions. Here are just a few of my favorites ... “If only the girls milk, what happens to the boys?” “Does it hurt the calf when you put in an eartag?” “How long does it take for a cow to have a calf?”
“Do cows have more than one calf at a time?” “What other animals do you have on your farm?” “How much does all this stuff cost on your farm?” My answer to this last question is always many, many dollars – millions, in fact. After this answer, I look at a classroom of very shocked faces.
So why am I telling you this? Each of us has a goal in life. Mine was to become a teacher. I got a bonus. I get to teach about the dairy life that I love. As the school year draws to a close and we are quickly approaching June Dairy Month, I encourage you to share your passion of the dairy community.
Whether it be giving school presentations, visiting with students during in-school breakfast about the importance of dairy, reading farm stories at your public library during story time or sharing your life as a farmer through social media, it is important to share our story. If we want accurate, sincere information to reach consumers and their families, we need to accept that responsibility.
I always end my school presentations with a few questions to the students. “If you have a question about your cat or dog, who do you talk to?” A veterinarian, of course. “If you have a question about your car, who do you talk to?” A mechanic. “So, if you have a question about your food, why wouldn’t you talk to a farmer?” I love seeing their heads nodding yes.
Class dismissed. PD
- Dairy Producer
- Hastings, Minnesota