My family milks about 3,500 Holsteins in Hico, Texas, a small town southwest of Dallas-Fort Worth. My father, David, has been on the board of Dairy Management Inc., the farmer-driven organization that manages the national dairy checkoff, for several years. He always tells me about the programs he helps direct when he returns from the board meetings.
But I didn’t get a real sense of the power of what the promotion checkoff does for farmers until I participated in one of its long-standing programs, Fuel Up to Play 60 (FUTP 60). FUTP 60 is the nation’s premier in-school health and wellness program, launched 10 years ago by the checkoff’s National Dairy Council and the National Football League, in collaboration with USDA. FUTP 60’s primary focus is to encourage youth to consume nutrient-rich foods, including dairy, and get 60 minutes of physical activity each day.
My freshman year in college, as part of the dairy science club, I met some members of Dairy MAX, our local checkoff promotion organization. They taught us valuable ways to tell the dairy farming story to consumers. Probably sensing that I was eager to do more after that experience, Dairy MAX asked me to participate in a FUTP 60 event called “breakfast games” at a Houston elementary school.
At “breakfast games,” D.J. Reader of the Houston Texans and I passed out milk and breakfast bags to the kids, talked to them about a healthy lifestyle, answered their questions (they were amazed at how early we get up to milk the cows!) and played some Olympic-style games. It was awesome to talk about dairy with them and see they had an interest in learning more.
Reaching next generation
I was eager for more after this event! It really opened my eyes to what dairy is doing in schools. I love telling people about our farm and the great products we provide, and I did that with an energetic group of our next generation of milk consumers.
Knowing that FUTP 60 is in 70,000-plus schools across the country holding similar events – and tens of millions of young people are getting a better experience with dairy – that makes me very proud of the promotion checkoff.
I hope FUTP 60 is promoted even more among students, consumers and farmers because it shows the good work we do. And the kids take our dairy messages home to their parents, which means: Drink more milk!
We must continue seeking ways to promote dairy and engage more people. We need to have events that target the decision-makers in these kids’ households. At the end of the day, if milk isn’t in the consumer’s refrigerator, we as an industry did not do our job. We need everyone – especially kids – to know that milk is a healthy, wholesome and nutritious product.
Importance of telling our story
Promoting what we do, how we do it and the milk we produce is maybe more important now than ever as we face more competing products and anti-animal-agriculture activists. It’s crucial to our future as a dairy community that we open ourselves to consumers and tell our story. We’re feeding the world, taking care of our animals and the environment, and helping the next generation stay healthy.
I just graduated from Texas A&M with an agronomy degree and I’m interning this summer in Clovis, New Mexico, in the U.S. Dairy Education and Training Consortium. In the fall, I’m headed to Cornell to pursue a master’s in professional studies in animal science with an emphasis in dairy business management and leadership. Despite my busy schedule, I am eager to get more involved in the checkoff as a young leader.
I love dairy farming and I want to do it for a long time. I believe the checkoff will help secure a brighter future for us.