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

The dairy kingdom

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

Recently, at an elementary school in Minneapolis a first grader asked me where my kingdom was, thinking that it had to be Far, Far Away because we do not have princesses here. Though I had received questions like this in the past, they always make me pause a bit, as I try to think of a way to best describe the fact that my kingdom involves a barn, a couple of acres of soil that are cared for with sweat and hard work, and that it is the cows, rather than myself, who receive the royal treatment. Now that I have moved home from college for the summer, I can safely say that I have fallen in love with my kingdom all over again. Waking up in the morning and putting on barn boots rather than a backpack never fails to put a smile on my face, while replacing the pencil and paper with shovels and calf bottles is always a welcoming change. Boy, am I excited to be home.
Over the past month I have continued to share my farm story and Minnesota's dairy story with students in elementary classrooms. On Friday, May 17 I was able to share with 700 students the importance of dairy foods and dairy farms while serving as a special guest for an Ag in the Classroom presentation in Minneapolis. Over fifty FFA members from Morris, Hancock, and Dassel-Cokato visited individual classrooms and gave an introduction to Minnesota Agriculture to children from kindergarten through eighth grade. The students were then able to put their knowledge to action as they traveled outside to a petting zoo. After seeing and petting the cows, sheep, pigs, and goats the students could ask questions at the Ask a Farmer booth. This was followed by the students dispersing to individual agriculture industry booths. At the dairy booth, I was able to show students what the cow they saw ate, as well as describing why it is so important for them to drink the wholesome milk that she produces. The students all enjoyed learning about where their food comes from as we brought the farm to the city.
Fuel Up to Play 60 was in full swing as the NFL draft rolled around in late April. I worked with Minnesota Vikings staff to celebrate the success of individual school programs at the Annual Rewards Training Camp. Over two hundred students and their teachers gathered in the Metrodome to celebrate meeting specific goals throughout the year. Guest speakers included Minnesota Vikings', Matt Cassel, and dairy farmer, Kristine Spadgenske. They answered students' questions related to dairy and about staying active and eating right. Student representatives then were broken into groups to run relays with University of St. Thomas football players, brainstorm new program ideas, take pictures and receive autographs from Viktor the Viking and myself, as well as receive a tour of the dome. Seeing all of the success stories was a humbling experience as it reminded me just how important a program like Fuel Up to Play 60 is to our youth. In Minnesota alone, more than one thousand schools have taken the stand to end childhood obesity and to encourage youth to stay active while eating right. This would not have been possible without the dedication of the dairy farmer who works to not only make the wholesome foods, but to share its importance in students' lives.
I am looking forward to continuing to meet with youth as the school year winds down. Each classroom visit allows me a chance to inspire students to take control of their lifestyles and eat right. It also gives me the opportunity to share your story and provide a dairy farmers point of view. The dairy kingdom is a strong and growing community, one that I am proud to be a part of and represent throughout the state. As June Dairy Month approaches, I encourage all of us to get involved in sharing what the dairy community is all about- providing a wholesome, nutritious product while doing a job that we love. I cannot wait for the opportunity to work with many of you during one of the busiest and most rewarding months in the dairy industry.
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