WELCH, Minn. – If Minnesota dairy farmers have ideas for promotional events, there is money available to help.
    Up to $3,000 for a single project is available to checkoff paying dairy farmers through the Undeniably Dairy Grant program through Midwest Dairy. Shannon Seifert, Minnesota farm relations manager for Midwest Dairy, presented about the grant program during the Minnesota Milk Dairy Conference and Expo Dec. 3, 2019, in Welch. Seifert also moderated the round table of five dairy farmers who explained four projects completed with the aid of the Undeniably Dairy Grant.
    “Last year (2018) was the first year we had this program,” Seifert said. “We’re super excited about it because it allows us the opportunity to use checkoff dollars at a local level and allows us to do promotions in unique ways and target specific audiences.”
    The first year funded 65 applications, with 22 of them happening on farms. Two consumers were reached for every $1 spent on the program.
    “Our goal is to bring dairy to unexpected places,” Seifert said.
    Dairy farmers and county ADA groups can apply for this grant along with agricultural organizations such as 4-H and FFA; however, priority is given to dairy farmers.
    Requirements for the event to be eligible for the grant include focusing on an audience of youth or urban consumers removed from agriculture.
    “These projects don’t have to be big and grand,” Seifert said. “They can be smaller too.”
    The grant replaces Minnesota’s outdated county payback program.
    “We know there are some counties that have zero farmers, some counties that have a bunch of farmers and some counties with just a handful of farmers who are doing really great work, but because of their location, that old (county payback program) formula, and their county demographics, they were at a disadvantage,” Seifert said. “Sometimes, farmers do a project on their own and just need a couple hundred dollars, this is a great way to apply for money.”
    The new grant helps allocate funds more accurately, Seifert said.
    The roundtable included five dairy farmers talking about four projects.
    Mindi Arendt, a dairy farmer from Mazeppa, shared about her “Farm to school to fork” project. She and a local beef farmer teamed up with their school district’s family and consumer science class to teach teenagers about agriculture, offering a program for the class in the spring and the fall.
    “Our farm does kindergarten tours every year, but we were trying to figure out a way to reach teenagers,” Arendt said.
    The spring class had a week-long event that included an in-classroom presentation of  a local beef farm, a virtual tour of a local dairy farm, a visit from the local locker with a half beef carcass to explain cuts of beef, a demonstration from a chef to show how to cook with dairy and beef, and a cookoff between the students.
    The fall class included a field trip to a local locker, a beef farm, a dairy farm and a meal with every aspect explained in detail.
    Angie Tauer, a dairy farmer and librarian from Sleepy Eye, created the Brown County Ag Literacy Initiative. It brought dairy and agriculture books to every school and city library in the county along with dairy-related events at the library where Tauer works.
    “There aren’t a lot of good quality children books out there that tell the story of the farm. … They’re basically all old and dated,” Tauer said.
    Amanda Hartung, a dairy farmer from Freeport, and her family hosted the Catholic Diocese of St. Cloud’s Rural Life Celebration with Mass with the bishop and a lunch.
    “We wanted to keep a dairy focus to make it a promotional event,” Hartung said. “We wanted to make sure it was a positive experience for anyone who came and put a good face out for our fellow farmers to make sure we have the good reputation we deserve.”
    The mother, daughter duo of Tracy Braun and Emily Hanson, dairy farmers from Cologne, shared about the bulk milk dispensers they helped to install in their school district. The bulk dispensers helped reduce district-wide waste of milk from 20 gallons per day to 2 gallons. Likewise, the district no longer has 500,000 cartons from milk in the garbage every day.
    “It definitely was not easy, but it was successful,” Braun said about the $26,000 investment.
    Other projects included tours on the farm for elementary school students, hosting breakfast on the farm, bringing a calf to school, classroom visits, a booth at a women’s health fair, working with a baseball team to host a dairy night, and a beer and cheese tasting at a brewery, among others.
    Overall, Seifert said the projects have all been successful.
    “It’s inspiring innovation in checkoff, and it’s helping farmers think creatively,” Seifert said. “With the more target focus towards kids and the urban consumer, it’s helping them (dairy farmers) rethink who are they doing their work for and where are they best using their time in addition to their money.”