While it’s not uncommon for schools to start mornings off with dairy in their Breakfast in the Classroom program, co-hosted by the American Dairy Association and Dairy Council, it’s not every school that benefits from a program such as Ashley Teachout is conducting at Richfield Springs in Herkimer County, New York.
The 16-year old Herkimer County Dairy Ambassador put together a program featuring agriculture and focusing on dairy, for the elementary students.
“I’ve learned that people don’t know a lot about the dairy industry and what goes on,” remarked Teachout in a recent interview. “So, I created a presentation about why the dairy industry is so important, how we help everyone, how we feed everyone and why it’s important to support the family farms in the community.”
Teachout says her catalyst for this program was a photo and remark on the internet that was being shared on Facebook. This photo depicted bloody, pus filled milk, and a statement that this is what milk looked like before it was processed and put on the shelf for consumers to purchase.
“That made me mad, because people believed it!”
So, she put together a special power point program to share with elementary children, aimed primarily at children between 2nd and 6th grades, informing them of agricultural facts and went to the principal of her school to get permission to speak with each classroom.
“I mainly go on the topic of ‘no farms, no food’ and tell them that farms produce everything that you eat. A lot of people do try to tell our story for us, and it’s not right at all.”
Ashley starts out her presentation by asking students if they know why farms are important in today’s society. Then she talks to them about how farms produce the food they eat. She also talks about different breeds of cows and how each breed is different, and which cows produce the highest protein and butter fat. The presentation is peppered with questions directed to the students, keeping them engaged in the presentation.
“Cows produce all white milk,” Teachout says to a second grade class during her presentation. “If there’s anything else, there’s something wrong with the cow.”
Teachout explains how cows are raised and how farms produce crops. She also talks about pesticides and harvesting.
Following her presentation, Teachout hands out Cabot cheese samples and a children’s activity pamphlet with information about dairy products and “food fuel” snacks.
Second grade teachers, Amy Burdick and Darlene Barnhart commented on Teachout’s presentation.
“I think it was great that the students had a chance to learn about the dairy industry,” said Burdick. “They enjoyed the presentation and now want to learn more about cows! They enjoyed the cheese as well. We welcome these presentations anytime!”
“What a great learning experience for my second grade students!” remarked Barnhart. “It is so important for children to understand where their food comes from and how important farming is in their lives. I truly believe that farmers are the most hard working and dedicated people in the world!”
Teachout, who says she intends to pursue a career in diesel mechanics in the future, lives on a dairy farm where an assortment of Holsteins, Jerseys and Milking Shorthorns reside. “We milk about 30 cows and then we’ve got about 100 heifers and bulls,” she said.