September 5, 2017 at 3:32 p.m.

"From Farm to School to You"

By Christine Reitsma- | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

My new semester of classes is underway and just like many of the dairy farmers I know, I am back to the days of not knowing how to balance my time and wondering which task I want to take on next. School is going well and when I want to take a day away from campus I am able to do so in other classrooms much different from my own!
Sky Oaks Elementary in Burnsville provided me with yet another exciting classroom visit. I was even able to be among other royalty that day, as the cooks had constructed their very own sashes and were donning shiny crowns to celebrate my day at Sky Oaks. The excitement from these ladies couldn't have made for a more welcome atmosphere. We had barely begun talking when the first students came into the cafeteria. Naturally, I was stationed at the cooler handing out cartons of milk to every student before they received their lunch. In between giving out a serving of dairy to the students, I was able to add to my sixty minutes of physical activity that day by running from table to table in hopes to be able to talk to each one of the more than 600 students that passed through the cafeteria. When the wonderfully hectic lunch rush had subsided, I stopped by four individual classrooms to talk about dairy farming more in depth. To these visits I brought along a few props from our farm to give these children the most realistic idea of how a farm like ours operates. My five-gallon bucket showed them how much milk one of our cows produces during every milking. The grain, feed, and milk replacer I brought gave the children not only a look at what we feed our animals, but also a smell that, judging by their reactions, was unique to many. Finally my "huge baby bottle" caused many looks of wonder as the students connected this bottle with those that are used in feeding their younger brothers or sisters. This visit was especially fun because many of the students had never met a farmer or been on a farm. I was so honored that my mom and I were the first dairy farmers that these children had met and that we were able to teach them more about the way a dairy farm operates.
My next event was a quite a change from the many school visits I have been attending and instead of doing the educating, I was being taught quite a few things! Attending the Peanut Butter and Milk Festival in Litchfield was an exciting day that began at First District. The tour I received here was especially fascinating for me because I was able to see the facility that receives the milk from my family's farm! Spending the day touring local sights including a dairy farm with delegates from Alabama was a lot of fun. They were fascinated with Minnesota and its snow as well as the amount of ice cream all Minnesotans seem to eat despite the cold weather. I couldn't help but smile hearing that, especially when I had just finished a bowl of homemade ice cream provided to the group at the stockade. From the stockade we traveled to a local dairy farm. A majority of the delegates cringed when seeing the cattle because they were surprised at how big and powerful the animals are that we care for. However, I was happy to see that some became comfortable enough to practice milking one by hand. That's what I call hands-on learning!
Just as their hands were working to produce a wholesome product earlier in the week, my hands were gripping the handle of a shopping cart in a supermarket where that wholesome product was readily available to consumers. I was excited to be a part of the shopping cart challenge in Buffalo that celebrated National Food Checkout week. Representative Bruce Anderson and I competed in a ninety second competition to see who could fill up their cart with the most pounds of food, all of which would be donated to local food shelves. We were each granted the privilege of having one member of the Howard Lake Waverly-Winsted FFA to help us gather as much food as possible. With great disappointment I admit that Representative Anderson defeated my team in food weight, but I compensate for the loss by knowing that, without a doubt, my team had more dairy products in our cart!
From seeing a dairy farm in Litchfield to learning more about the handling of our milk at First District to participating in a supermarket challenge, I felt as though I was truly experiencing the journey of milk from farm to store.
At my most recent event, I attended a banquet that had a truly incredible purpose: to celebrate and to bring together those involved in promoting the dairy industry. At the Gopher Dairy Club banquet I was graced by the presence of a number of advocates whom I truly admire.
As I get ready to tackle my upcoming exams, I know that farmers at home are looking forward to getting out into the fields as soon as the weather begins to warm. Let us all plow forward with a strong force and bring in this new season with a renewed conviction to share our story with others. Be safe, everyone!
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