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

Taking advocacy into action

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

Recently, many of us witnessed the terrible depiction of dairy farmers on a variety of national television shows. As I watched it, I stood in shock. We all know that the image was false, but we have to look at it from a consumer's standpoint. What do they think? What are their questions now? That answer lays in words of wisdom my sister recently told me - "Dairy promotion is not a spectator sport."

For over 56 years, the Midwest Dairy Association and the Princess Kay program have been active players in taking advocacy into action. But what is so unique about the current times is that advocacy has been at an all-time high. Personally, I have been involved in three specific events this past month that have taken dairy advocacy to the next level.

In Brainerd, near the heart of Minnesota's dairy industry, I was involved with a continuing medical conference for the Minnesota Academy of Family Physicians. This was an ideal place for both my mom and me to be involved, as she is also a family physician and I always went with her to conferences like this while growing up! At this event, there was a group of physicians and their families who opted to go on a fun educational tour of a dairy farm put together by Midwest Dairy Association's registered dietitian who works with health professionals. The farm that was gracious enough to host this event was Enchanted Dairy of Little Falls, owned and operated by a very warm and hospitable family, the Millers. Attendees experienced petting baby calves, observed milking in a modern rotary parlor, and even talked with the farm's nutritionist, Barry Visser. This really was an up-close and personal opportunity for a consumer and health influencer to make the connection between themselves and dairy products they enjoy everyday.

The following day, the Peanut Butter and Milk Festival was underway in Litchfield, Minn. The story behind this event was to increase sales specifically in the dairy and peanut butter departments. Initially, it was just held in Minnesota, but after a span of time, many learned that in Hartford, Ala., there was a hugely popular Peanut Butter Festival. Since then, each year a delegation from one state visits the other state during their respective festivals. After nearly 40 years of this tradition, support for both industries has never been stronger. Each side is eager to learn more about and advocate for a different side of production agriculture, and therefore positive dairy promotion has grown exponentially. I would like to personally thank my hosts, Bruce and Marie Cottington, and Lori Christofferson, for making that event so enjoyable for not only me, but also for my new-found Alabama friends. You all should be proud for being great advocates!

Finally, I had the unique and special opportunity to attend the Home and Garden Show held at the Minneapolis Convention Center, arranged by Midwest Dairy Association. There, my mom, Laura, and I cooked on stage for 40 minutes during the "Minnesota Celebrity" time slot. To me, the best way to promote a product is to have samples because everyone loves food! The audience enjoyed fresh quesadillas that were topped off with a fruity splash smoothie. Needless to say, the food spoke for itself and everyone was asking for seconds!

Remember, dairy promotion is not a spectator sport - so join the efforts and support the true People Behind the Product, like you, by taking advocacy into action.

Elizabeth Olson is the daughter of Loren and Laura Olson of Hutchinson. As Princess Kay, she will work with Midwest Dairy Association through your dairy checkoff at a variety of events throughout the year. Read her blog at or visit her on Facebook/Princess Kay. If you have a consumer-directed event at which you would like to have Princess Kay appear, please call Char Hovland, coordinator, at 1-605-271-3703 or e-mail [email protected].

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