The American Dairy Association and Dairy Council (ADADC), Inc., District 5 annual meeting took place at the Perthshire, near Amsterdam, NY, on Sept. 30, with American Dairy Association North-East, Director of Consumer Confidence, Beth Meyer, as guest speaker.
This meeting showed a larger than ever turnout of youth involved in the dairy industry.
Notre Dame Bishop Gibbons’ 11th grader, Cole Nelson was one youth attending the meeting.
“I think that youth belong at ADADC meetings because youth are the next generation in farming,” said Nelson. “If they have interest in dairy, and want to promote it, then youth should be at meetings and be out promoting as much as they can.”
Nelson says he has been actively promoting dairy in any way he can, and has even joined on the ADADC’s Communications team as a “Dairy Dude” — a counterpart of the Dairy Princess — helping to “bridge the gap between farmers and consumers.”
“I became the Dairy Dude because I had been showing dairy animals for two years and just loved dairy,” Nelson said. “My best friend was on the court as a Dairy Ambassador and I was curious of what it was.”
Montgomery County Dairy Ambassador Erika Gogis also attended the annual meeting. Gogis, a graduate of SUNY Cobleskill, works as a dairy specialist with Stamford Farmers Cooperative.
“Getting kids involved in any type of dairy promotion is important to the future of agriculture,” commented Gogis. “Learning how to communicate with the public and portray the dairy industries message can never start soon enough.”
Communication is paramount with the dairy industry.
“Dairy checkoff staff is constantly searching for ways to expand their reach,” remarked Meyer. “Working with partners and market leaders that can extend our reach and influence — and sell more dairy.”
Meyers said one key program is the ADADC’s work in schools. This work includes the Breakfast After the Bell program.
“When school breakfast is offered outside of the cafeteria, the number of kids participating skyrockets from an average of 20 percent of students eating in the cafeteria to 90 percent of students eating at their desks or another location,” reported Meyer. “That’s good news for farmers, since every meal includes milk, and sometimes other dairy items like a cheese stick or yogurt cup, so an increase in students eating breakfast translates to proven increases in dairy sales. Our region has some of the highest increases in breakfast participation in the nation!”
District 5 Director Terri Phillips is constantly working to promote the dairy industry and works closely with the ADADC’s Dairy Princess and Court team.
Phillips said, “The dairy industry has always been unique. ADADC is trying to spend the promotion dollars to get the best bang for their buck. Unfortunately, it is hard to relay the message back to the farmers.”
She points out that the annual meeting each fall provides a free dinner for all farmers to attend, and that board members are always available to answer questions.
“The regional office is only a phone call away,” said Phillips. “The state office deals directly with schools to make sure the coolers are working correctly, getting breakfast into the school lunch program and getting real dairy products on the daily lunch menus. They work with DMI (dairy management Inc.) to get chefs into the larger fast food restaurants to get real products onto their menus.”
“We also know that consumers are more interested than ever in where their food comes from,” she confirmed. “So, we work on several different fronts to help the 50 million people in our territory share an experience with a dairy farmer.”
This exposure includes farm tours, blogs and “Farm to Fork experience” events targeted at dietitians and chefs.
Members of the Greater New York Dietetic Association recently attended one such event at Fulper Farms, Lambertville, NJ.
“The first-hand knowledge they gain will help them better advise their patients and arm them to share the positive story of dairy with other health professionals,” said Meyer.
In the meantime Phillips said, “Locally, hopefully, each County Dairy Princess and their court are getting out there to inform the public of the healthy benefits of real dairy products.”
“Youth involvement in ADADC is important,” said 20-year old, former Mohawk Valley FFA President and current dairy farm employee Stephanie Arndt. “It’s an outlet that really connects kids with dairy and creates opportunities that they may not have had without the program.”
Youth may also be eligible to sit on their local board of directors.
“We have no age requirement,” said Meyer. “You must receive a milk check in your name and live in the district you wish to represent — and, of course, be elected by the committee.”
Meyer encourages all dairy farmers and their families to attend their annual district meetings.
“It’s a great opportunity to learn more about their check off investment and to have their questions answered.”
Find a complete listing of district meetings at http://tinyurl.com/y7uumsga
And the bottom line?
“Without involvement of future generations, the ADADC will disappear,” Arndt confirms.
For more information, District 5 members, including Schoharie, Montgomery and Fulton counties, may contact Director Terri Phillips at 519-376-1301.