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‘Adopt a Cow’ program achieves immense growth, impacting more than 1.6 million students this school year

Published on 16 June 2021

As the school year comes to a close, Discover Dairy’s “Adopt a Cow” program has impacted more than 1.6 million students worldwide. With more than 71,000 classrooms that participated, the program offered an exciting learning experience and inside look at dairy farming to elementary students, home school families, scout troops, nursing homes, library groups and many other organizations.

Throughout the 2020-21 school year, the Adopt a Cow program grew by more than 1,500% compared to the previous year.

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Read also: Cows in the curriculum: How one school program is bringing the farm into the classroom.

Classrooms from all 50 states participated in the program, and a total of 45 countries joined the movement as well, including the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, Costa Rica, France, Germany, Mexico, South Africa and more.

“We never expected the Adopt a Cow program to impact this many people from across the globe. We couldn’t have done it without all the support from our partners and the entire dairy industry,” said Brittany Snyder, dairy education program manager for the Dairy Excellence Foundation. “At the heart of the Adopt a Cow program, and the reason it’s so enjoyable for students, is the ability for them to watch a baby calf grow in front of their eyes throughout the school year. By the end of the program, they feel a strong personal connection to their calf and are able to make connections to their health, where their food comes from, the dairy farms in their community and so much more.”

The annual Adopt a Cow program is managed by the Dairy Excellence Foundation in partnership with American Dairy Association Northeast, Midwest Dairy, The Dairy Alliance, Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin, New England Dairy, Dairy Farmers of Washington, American Dairy Association Mideast, Dairy Council of Florida and American Dairy Association of Michigan. The interactive program is free for classrooms that register in order to expose as many students as possible to local agriculture and dairy farming practices. Each classroom that enrolled in the program was paired with a calf from one of 22 dairy farms across the U.S. that volunteered as host farms. Teachers and students received photos, video updates and activity sheets throughout the school year that allowed them to watch their calf grow.

The program also offered 23 live chats where students and teachers could virtually meet their calves and ask real-time questions to dairy farmers from each host farm. A total of 24,250 people viewed the live chats, leading to more than 187,000 impressions.

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“We’ve participated in the Adopt a Cow program for a couple of years now. We believe it’s very important to share our farm experience with consumers,” said Katie Sattazahn of Zahncroft Dairy in Berks County, Pennsylvania. “We want to make sure consumers know where their food comes from and explain why we do what we do. We like sharing the goodness of the highly nutritious product we produce and showing students what really happens on a farm.”

This year’s Adopt a Cow program not only helped introduce dairy farming to more than 1.6 million students, but it also forged connections and inspired creativity during a year where the COVID-19 pandemic impacted many families and school systems. The program helped: 

Connect students during virtual learning

“This program was definitely a blessing. It gave my students something to look forward to. Even when we were back in person, there were some kids who were still doing online learning. The Adopt a Cow program was a good way to connect all of us, whether we were at home or in the classroom. Kids love animals, so it was a great way for them to engage and learn new facts.” 

—Fredie Boudrie, Summit School teacher in Phoenix, Arizona

Build connections in the community

“This program helped us celebrate our rural location and learn more about our community. It was great to include my distance learners as well, and the calf photo and video updates that we received were very easy to share digitally. We thoroughly enjoyed this program, and we even had a page about it in our yearbook this year.” 

—Abby Hennington, a visual arts teacher at a middle school near Atlanta, Georgia

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Promote positivity and creativity

“I wholeheartedly think this program was a success this year. It made virtual learning more exciting. The kids were enthusiastic, and they wanted to go research things about the calf and the farm right away.”

—Angela Eyth, a fourth-grade teacher at Summit Township Elementary in Butler, Pennsylvania

"I have never heard a class ask about a cow so much. They were very inquisitive when it came to the calf, but normally it's hard to get them to talk. Thanks for giving us something positive to look forward to during this time." 

Tiffany Williams, S.L. Mason Elementary in Valdosta, Georgia 

Help with memory loss in nursing home facilities

“When [our resident with cognitive memory loss] saw the virtual farm tour, she started talking about how she used to grow up on a farm. It was really good for her to deeply connect to her memory. She gave us a great lecture about the farm and how she used to take care of the animals every day.” 

Kyoko Marrone, the Kensington club coordinator at Kensington Park Nursing Home in South Kensington, Maryland

Give libraries new tools and ways to connect

“We used the Adopt a Cow program as an opportunity to promote some of our nonfiction material about farms, cows, dairy and the farm-to-table movement.” 

Laura Sarge, children’s librarian at the Centre County Library in Pennsylvania

The Adopt a Cow program will open for enrollment on Aug. 1, 2021. To learn more about the program and its impact on the Pennsylvania dairy industry, email Brittany Snyder or call (717) 346-0849.

Discover Dairy is an educational series managed by the Center for Dairy Excellence Foundation of Pennsylvania in partnership with American Dairy Association Northeast, Midwest Dairy, The Dairy Alliance, Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin, New England Dairy, Dairy Farmers of Washington, American Dairy Association Mideast, Dairy Council of Florida and American Dairy Association of Michigan.

Learn more about how to support the program at the Discover Dairy website.  end mark

From a Center for Dairy Excellence news release

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