Mondovi dairy farmer Randy Koller prepares Durand High School’s milk machine for a delivery of milk to be provided following sports practices at the school.
Mondovi dairy farmer Randy Koller prepares Durand High School’s milk machine for a delivery of milk to be provided following sports practices at the school. PHOTO SUBMITTED
    DURAND, Wis. – Influencing future consumers, promoting milk consumption and building community relationships. These were the Pepin County Dairy Promotion Committees goals when they embarked on their project to supply milk to sports teams in high schools.
    For a geographically small county, the dairy industry in Pepin County, Wis., is alive and kicking. Nearly 20 dairy farmers and allied industry members work as a committee to plan and promote the milk produced by over 30 dairy farms in the county.
    When charged with bringing new ideas to a committee meeting last year, committee member Noah Weiss, a Durand, Wis., dairy farmer, used his own experiences to come up with the idea of providing chocolate milk to high school athletes.      
    “When I was in football, everyone pushed Gatorade and Powerade after practice,” Weiss said. “Chocolate milk is now viewed as the best recovery beverage for refueling and rebuilding following a workout. I thought that providing chocolate milk instead was a good idea.”
    The idea grew to encompass all high school sports, and the wheels were set into motion to begin providing a week’s worth of chocolate milk to all the high school sports teams.
    Mondovi, Wis., dairy farmer Randy Koller donates his time and efforts to the Pepin County Dairy Promotion Committee and also holds a seat on the National Dairy Promotion and Research Board. Koller has played an instrumental role in making the milk available to the high schoolers and said the students are appreciative and excited to receive the milk. Koller explained the importance of educating the students of the benefits of chocolate milk, citing over 20 studies lauding chocolate milk.   
    Pepin County is home to two high schools, and the connections and relationships between dairy promotion committee members and coaching staff at Durand High School made that a logical place to start.
    “We contacted the school and the coaches and got organized to provide ice-cold milk at the practices every day for the first week to get the kids exposed to the benefits of chocolate milk as a recovery aid,” Koller said.
    Committee members were able to speak to the athletes, presenting the information and studies on the benefit of consuming chocolate milk, which are not limited only to post-workout recovery, but also helping develop increased lean muscle.
    Committee members worked with Polka-Dot Dairy, a distributor from Hastings, Minn., to source the milk from the Hastings Co-op Creamery. Dairy committee members take turns volunteering as schedules allow to deliver the milk to the students. Milk is delivered each day for the first week of practices. Durand High School also has a vending machine for milk which the dairy promotion committee helped purchase several years ago.
    Durand’s coaching staff have been happy to join the dairy promotion committee in encouraging students to take advantage of the vast nutritional benefits of consuming milk, reporting they see students choosing to consume milk on their own once the week worth of donated milk has passed.
    “At our team dinners, kids will bring in quart and half-gallon jugs of chocolate milk that they’ve picked up at the convenience store,” said Rod Rosemeyer, Durand High School head football coach. “They seem to like it and appreciate the benefits.”
    Durand High School cross-country head coach Ingrid Husmoen agreed.
    “Nutritionally, as a recovery aid, milk is better than sports drinks,” Husmoen said. “Sports drinks and water play roles in rehydration, but for muscle repair and recovery, chocolate milk is better.”
    Husmoen said the cross-country team takes coolers of milk and sports drinks along to their races and milk is consumed first by her runners.
    Koller sees the long-range benefits of encouraging milk consumption among students.
    “Student athletes are role models for younger kids,” Koller said. “We might be getting the high schoolers to drink the milk, but the elementary schoolers see them drinking it and want to be like them.”
    The next step in the project is working out the logistics of providing the chocolate milk to athletes at Pepin High School.
    “Pepin is a little harder logistically, because they have sports co-ops with another school district and alternate where they practice,” Koller said.
    The committee’s efforts in establishing this program netted them promotional funding from Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin that they are able to utilize in their work promoting dairy products in their county.
    Providing chocolate milk to athletes is not the only way the Pepin County Dairy Promotion Committee is working to put dairy products in the public eye.
    They also provide cheese curds for school’s concession stands during events. They have a Dairy Wagon, which they use to hand out dairy treats during parades and is made available to groups for fundraisers, providing they offer dairy products. The committee has also planned their county’s annual free dairy breakfast for the past 30 years.  
    One of the new promotional projects is working with a local cheese plant and store to use the Dairy Wagon staffed by area farmers to hand out samples at the store, allowing the producers to contact the consuming public.
    Both Weiss and Koller expressed appreciation for the communities and businesses in Pepin County; without the support, the committee would be unable to do the work they are, promoting the dairy industry.
    “We have a great product,” Weiss said. “We need to make sure we focus on our youngest consumers, making them life-long dairy consumers.”