Dairy will continue to be important in the “new normal” by Courtney Llewellyn

We first saw the emergence of the “Milk…It Does a Body Good” commercials in the 1980s. While the world has changed a lot over the past three decades, the heart of that ad campaign has not. And out there on the frontlines of dairy advocacy is Abbey Copenhaver, MS, RD, CDN of Farmstead Nutrition and Consulting LLC.

Abbey and Austin Copenhaver, Garrett and Libby Eiholzer and Clayton and Katie Wood are the team behind Ivy Lakes Dairy LLC in Stanley, NY, nestled between the Finger Lakes of Seneca and Canandaigua. Abbey grew up on a dairy farm in northern New York and attended Cornell, where she met her husband and one of the other couples they farm with. Today, Ivy Lakes milks about 1,000 cows and farms about 1,500 acres.

In addition to farming, Abbey teaches part-time at a community college, works on a child nutrition program for Child Care Council Inc. of Rochester, trains as an athlete and works with a lot of dairy checkoff associations doing educational projects for consumers and health professionals. Her credentials (Master of Science, Registered Dietitian and Certified Dietitian Nutritionist) are in use through her Farmstead Nutrition consulting business.

According to her Facebook page, Farmstead Nutrition “was established after seeing the need for agricultural education throughout communities and the growing knowledge gap of farm to table in our world. As a Registered Dietitian, wife to a dairy farmer and agricultural advocate, Abigail Copenhaver’s passion regarding this issue led to several presentations and workshops for various companies and associations.”

With people still staying at home due to COVID-19, proper nutrition is important, and dairy plays a huge role in that. “We really always talk about the trifecta with consuming dairy, and the top three link together and benefit each other,” Copenhaver said. “The nutritional value is most important. When you’re incorporating it on a long-term basis, you reduce the risk for cardiovascular disease, hypertension, diabetes, stuff like that – it’s prevention. Next is setting yourself up with savings down the road, especially in healthcare costs. And then there’s savings right now. For what you get from dairy, it’s a really cost-effective way to get essential nutrients.”

For those marketing their own milk or dairy products, the focus on nutrients is a good way to lure people back from milk substitutes. Dairy provides calcium, protein, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium and vitamins A, B12, D and riboflavin, among others.

“What I want people to know first and foremost – and this is not just relevant right now – is that dairy is important in our diets,” Copenhaver said. “Whenever things settle down, we still want to incorporate those three servings of dairy a day. When it comes to your immune system, you need it to function optimally.” The protein helps your body maintain its normal functions; the vitamins and minerals are necessary for a functioning immune system. Yogurt is especially important for gut health due to its probiotics. “These will all be important even after we reach our ‘new normal,’” she stated.

She speaks from experience about full-body health. Copenhaver is a triathlete, and her favorite recovery drink is chocolate milk. She even ensured she had some chocolate milk ready for her after giving birth to her first child a few months ago.

“Our farm’s mission is ‘Continuing the tradition of caring for cows, land and people.’ We care for our animals and employees daily,” Copenhaver said. To do that, Ivy Lakes relies on things like checkoff for marketing their dairy products.

“They’re the experts on what we should market, and they help us utilize our story to bridge that education gap,” she noted. “I like to promote dairy products as a food group – one product isn’t better than another. We don’t want to feed into consumer miscommunication. Brand X isn’t better than Brand Y. Dairy is about illness prevention and health promotion. And if we take good care of our cows, they’ll take care of us.”

To learn more, visit facebook.com/farmsteadncs.