I have had the opportunity to attend several events in the past couple of months. From elementary school children to dairy farmers, I have been able to talk to a wide variety of audiences throughout the state. Each of the events provided a unique experience and an opportunity to share the story of Minnesota’s dairy community.
    In October, I visited the Southern Minnesota Children’s Museum in Mankato for the grand opening of their dairy exhibit. The exhibit features a freestall barn where kids can feed and bed the stuffed cows, lower and raise the curtains, or turn the fans and lights on and off. The idea of the exhibit is to show kids how farmers care for their cows every day by giving them a hands-on playing experience. The freestall barn at the museum reminded me of the barn at my farm. While at the museum, I helped introduce the exhibit, made butter and read dairy stories to the kids.
    I also visited Matoska International schools, White Bear Lake, and talked to five different kindergarten classes. The kindergarteners were excited to learn about how farmers care for their cows, and why dairy foods are an important part of their diet. They had plenty of questions about cows for me. At the end of the day, each student got to take home a dairy activity book and share what they learned with their families.
    I attended the Day on the Dairy at the Blake and Chicky Otte family farm, Square Deal Dairy. The event was filled with plenty of dairy foods, tours of the farm and several fun dairy-related activities. For instance, kids could practice milking a wooden cow and watch the journey of milk from the cow to their table. During the event, I had the opportunity to visit with many people who were in attendance. Although it was a rainy day, everyone I talked to was enjoying seeing the farm and making connections. It was a wonderful way to show people where their food comes from.
    At the So Minnesota event at the University of Minnesota in Crookston, I had the chance to talk with college students and staff about the importance of the dairy community in Minnesota. The event featured various Minnesota icons and businesses. Throughout the day, I also passed out cheese samples and judged a butter sculpting contest. This was a unique and fun way to spend the day talking about dairy.
    In November, I had the opportunity to speak at the Minnesota Farm Bureau banquet. This was a good time to connect with state legislators and Minnesota farmers from a wide range of agricultural fields. It was great to see farmers from all different ages and backgrounds come together to learn new things, meet new people and celebrate achievements. I was honored to have the opportunity to share with them my story and love for the dairy community.
    Most recently, I attended the Minnesota Milk Producers Convention and Expo banquet. This year’s theme, Expanding our Boundaries, was a fitting way to celebrate the past 40 years of the Minnesota Milk Producers Association while looking ahead to the future. It was awesome to see so many people in the dairy community gathered together.
    I have had a busy couple of months representing Minnesota’s dairy farmers and am looking forward to school visits in January. In the meantime, I hope each and every one of you has a wonderful holiday season spent with family and friends. One of my favorite parts of winter break is spending Christmas morning in the barn doing chores with my family. Doing chores and trying to find time to celebrate the holiday season can be stressful for dairy farm families, but it is also the time when some of the best family bonding happens and memories are made. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!