Northwest kids learn about dairy

WHATCOM COUNTY, Wash.– Whatcom County Dairy Women and Whatcom Farm Friends held the 16th Annual Milk Makers Fest recently along with many other volunteers and sponsors.

More than 1,700 first grade students in 64 classes from Whatcom County schools and some 350 teachers/chaperones participated in the event. “They all had a wonderful time learning about the dairy industry,” said Cheryl I. DeHaan, WFF community education program manager in Lynden, Wash.

 “Thank you so much for a wonderful, milk makers experience. My class learned so much,” said Anne Franzmann, of Birchwood Elementary School. 

“Wow!  We had such a wonderful time at the Milk Makers Fest. Every station was fantastic and all the volunteers were amazing. It is such a wonderful experience,” said Gayle O’Malley, Columbia Elementary School.

DeHaan said their approximately 40 daily volunteers had a great time as well! There were two sessions daily, with 12 classrooms visiting six stations during the nearly two-hour “tour” of the dairy farm. A group leader greets the classroom, tags each student with a color tag, and leads this group from station to Station. Station leaders shared their part of the dairy industry at the various stations, DeHaan explained.

In the milking parlor, students saw a real cow, “Trista,”  up close and personal. They  got a chance to feel the machine pulsation as they learn about the daily milking procedure.  Here they also have the opportunity to “milk” our model cow “Twister.”  

When they visit the calf and health care station, they see different breeds of dairy animals and learn about raising and caring for them from calves, to heifers, to joining the milking string.

The “Circle of Farming” takes the students through a day at the dairy. They learn about how everything that happens on the farm is dependent upon something else. A cow needs to eat a nutritionally balanced diet including grass, silage and grains. She also drinks a lot of water each day. Her manure is not a waste but is used as fertilizer to grow more feed for the cow. And along with that fertilizer, water is used to irrigate and increase crop yields. All this contributes to producing that wonderful end product we enjoy – milk.

The kids get to see and smell a variety of feed products. At the dairy products station, The dairy ambassador treats each student to a single-serve chocolate milk and shares nutrition information with the students in a fun and interactive way. As they sing along, they learn how chocolate milk can fit into a well-balanced diet and help build strong bones and teeth. The students are introduced to many different farm animals and pets in the giant Straw Maze. They also enjoy a tractor pulled wagon ride while on a scavenger hunt, searching for things a farmer might come in contact with each day like boots, coveralls and wildlife. 

“The goal is to introduce the students and consumers to a little piece of Whatcom County agriculture,” DeHaan said. “As society becomes further and further removed from food and fiber production it’s important for farmers to tell their story. The community needs to know that the food they eat doesn’t just miraculously appear on their store shelves.”