A bag to fulfill the need 

Lewiston-Altura FFA supports dairy farmers, educates consumers

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LEWISTON, Minn. − When the dairy industry struggled in spring 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Lewiston-Altura FFA Chapter found an avenue that brought awareness to the industry’s farmers and helped move dairy products.
The chapter, which includes 45 members – 10 from dairy backgrounds – created an event June 14 where they handed out dairy bags to support their local creameries and farmers.
“Growing up on a dairy myself and seeing how prices were affecting the dairy industry really struck home for me, and I knew that I wanted to do something about it,” Katie Ketchum said.
Ketchum is a graduating senior in the chapter and is serving as the region eight vice president. She started the event two years ago and is involved in the marketing, ordering and coordinating of event help.
“I really enjoyed answering phone calls when people were ordering and hearing them say, ‘Oh, I was expecting to talk to an adult not a student,’” she said.
Ketchum also competes in dairy judging and is active on her family’s dairy farm where they milk 100 cows near Utica.
“This event really helps dairy farmers by getting their name out there,” Tyler Steele said.
Steele is the vice president of the chapter, does general livestock judging and shows sheep, cattle and pigs. His family previously milked cows.
Steele enjoyed packing bags during the event.
The bags included 1 pound of butter, a 1-pound block of cheddar cheese, 1 quart of vanilla gelato, a 5-ounce bag of ranch flavored cheese curds, a 5-ounce bag of plain cheese curds, a six pack of string cheese, a 16-ounce package of French onion dip, a package of vanilla protein mix, a 16-ounce squeezable pouch of sour cream, an 8-ounce bag of shredded mozzarella cheese, a small package of cheddar cheese cubes and a half gallon of milk.
“It’s fun to try different products and learn that they are actually dairy products,” Ketchum said.
Their advisor, Kaleb Stoppelmoor, agreed.
“When people think of whey protein, they don’t often think of dairy,” he said. “It’s really nice to have these kids that understand what the importance of a dairy farm is and where their products come from.”
Two years ago, the event’s purpose was promotion and awareness. Today, it has evolved into a fundraiser for the chapter while also bringing awareness to the dairy industry.  
“The event really helped us before we sold to get our name out there, and it just shows people that their food doesn’t always come from a store,” Austin Kreidermacher said. “A few years ago, we gave a tour, and people were all surprised at how milk was made because they were just expecting that it came from a store.”
Kreidermacher is a freshman in the chapter and judges dairy cattle. He works on a former dairy farm near Altura.   
Kreidermacher enjoyed handing out bags during the event.
To get the word out and help with the ordering process, Ketchum posted a link and phone number on social media.
“After the first year, I kept getting asked if we were going to do it again,” she said.
The bags also included a coloring book with recipes, dairy jokes, fun facts, pens and fidget spinners. They were all sold for half of the retail price.
“It helps families have a nice meal at home,” Kreidermacher said. “Milk has always been a part of my family, so being able to have that at the dinner table every night really helps.”
Steele agreed.
“The community also likes it because you get all this product for half of what it’s supposed to be,” he said.
To get the product, Ketchum made calls to local creameries, such as Ellsworth Cooperative Creamery, Elba Cooperative Creamery, Metz’s Hart-land Creamery, and went to Hy-Vee to purchase Land O’Lakes products.
“We wanted to support the dairies in our area, specifically, so we tried to buy from creameries that they sold their milk to,” Ketchum said.
The group started packing the bags on the night of June 13 and stored them in the kitchen cooler inside the school’s cafeteria overnight. They packed 350 bags in two hours.
The next day, each of the students who were helping arrived at the school a half hour early to start setting up for the event.
“There were people already waiting in line,” Kreidermacher said.
All bags were preordered, and to get their bags, each car followed a three-stop process: one stop for checking people in and making sure they were on the list, the second for paying and the third for picking up the bags.
  Each of the students were involved; Ketchum checked people into the event, Kreidermacher took the money and later switched to handing out bags, and Steele handed out bags and brought out more products.
“Whoever helps that day gets to meet the people in our community, and the community gets to meet them,” Ketchum said.
Stoppelmoor agreed.
“I like having kids who are excited about dairy and helping out the dairy farmers,” he said.
The chapter also had help from adult volunteers.    
They had 150 cars attend the event and plan to use the funds for new officer markers or trips such as officer retreats, national convention, state convention or other judging contests.
The chapter plans to continue the event again next year and hand out up to 400 bags.
“It’s something that is different and makes our FFA chapter stand out,” Ketchum said.
Stoppelmoor agreed.
“It’s fun to let the kids take over, run the show and explain these dairy products to adults,” he said. “It lets them grow as leaders and individuals.”daily

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