The United Dairy Industry of Michigan’s live virtual farm tour of Valley Grove Dairy has reached more than 9,800 viewers.
Virtual tourists experience an interactive glimpse into the lives of playful calves and a behind-the-scenes look at how milk and other dairy foods get from the farm to their table. The farm tour allows viewers to learn how dairy farmers care for their animals, which ultimately builds trust in dairy foods.
When initially launched, teachers, parents and children of all ages were invited to tag along as Jolene Griffin, director of industry relations for UDIM, took them on a virtual tour of her family’s western Michigan dairy farm on April 21.
“A virtual dairy farm tour is a wonderful opportunity to explore the world around you while families stay home and children are unable to attend school as we work our way through the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Amiee Vondrasek, UDIM youth wellness manager and farm tour moderator. “We know teachers and parents at home are looking for learning opportunities. The farm tour educated and entertained students and also gave them a glimpse into life on the farm.”
Griffin began in the calf barn explaining why the calves wear jackets, and how technology helps farmers care for their animals, from using ear tags for record keeping to automatic calf feeders. Viewers learned the steps involved to milk a cow, how milk travels from the cow to the milk truck and saw the cows lying in sand in the freestall barn.
Teachers had the opportunity to register their class so they could send in questions, receive updates and be notified of future tours. Teachers linked to 231 classrooms signed up with 4,415 students. Not only did teachers share the tour with their students, but many parents also joined the tour with their children.
Questions varied from “How big is a calf when it is born?” to “How is chocolate milk made?”
Griffin and Vondrasek answered questions and offered nutrition tips.
A dairy experience
UDIM’s popular virtual farm tour videos feature an intimate snapshot of life on Michigan family dairy farms, along with plenty of opportunities to ask questions of real dairy farmers. UDIM has hosted several virtual tours in recent years, each showcasing a different farm family and its passion for delivering dairy’s healthy foods to the people of Michigan and beyond.
Vondrasek works closely with educators across the state to ensure resources offered by UDIM fit into the school curriculum.
“Teachers can use these resources to support their current lesson plans and ensure a fun and educational experience for the students resulting in opportunities for all to learn where their dairy foods come from,” Vondrasek says.
Helpful resources such as a dairy tour scavenger hunt, FAQs and more ideas found at milkmeansmore.org enable teachers and parents to use the virtual tours as part of a wider educational experience.
The tours and these resources are intended to spark conversations and understanding while increasing transparency between food producers and food consumers.
“Questions are encouraged,” Griffin says. “We want people to understand what life is like on our dairy farms. We also want to share how Michigan dairy farmers add to their community, as well as the many nutritious benefits and comfort dairy brings to the table.”
New curriculum through Discovery Education
A new curriculum package focused on sustainability called “Innovations from Farm to Community” was launched in April from the national dairy checkoff’s Discovery Education. The new curriculum includes a video, an interactive map to explore dairy across the U.S., and a STEM lesson plan.
Students can learn about “Converting Poop to Power,” which brings to life how farmers across the nation are using innovation and technology to help protect the planet.
“Creating My Plate” teaches students what it means to compose healthy, balanced meals and how to reduce food waste in the process.
“Our Perspective: From Farm to Table” explores real-world innovation in the dairy community, plus teaches students the magic and science behind fermentation.
The program educates and informs students, teachers and parents about how farmers and dairy foods are good for the people, the planet and community. UDIM will be sharing the new curriculum with educators.