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0908 PD: Minnesota celebrates June Dairy month online

Published on 16 June 2008

The Midwest Dairy Association launched “ExploreDairy.com,” a promotional website designed for curious dairy consumers in Minnesota, to kick off June’s National Dairy Month.

The site will run until Labor Day and features a calendar of events listing summer dairy activities that consumers are invited to attend throughout the state.

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Some of the publicized events include the Minnesota State Fair, a joint promotion between the Midwest Dairy Association and the Minnesota Zoo, and the Princess Kay of the Milky Way competition.

The website also features a Dairy Diary, which presents photos and journal entries submitted by Minnesota dairy farmers. The producer-generated content aims to educate consumers about daily life on a dairy farm. The Midwest Dairy Association says it hopes to open new lines of communication with the non-agricultural public and provide them with a better understanding of the Minnesota dairy industry.

“The public wants to connect with dairy farmers,” says Donna Moenning, vice president for industry and image relations at Midwest Dairy Association. “And there’s no one more qualified to help with that connection than the dairy farmers themselves.”

As one of the website’s initiators, Moenning saw the need for ExploreDairy.com after seeing the amount of interest and web page views generated from the Minnesota section of the Midwest Dairy Association’s website (www.midwestdairy.com).

According to Moenning, many producers have already agreed to help contribute to the site. One of these producers, Barb Liebenstein of Dundas, Minnesota, is looking forward to participating in the Dairy Diary feature.

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Liebenstein says, “We’ll be commenting on what we’re doing on our farm throughout the summer.” Some of the farm’s highlights she is planning to share via the web include their Day on the Farm Event to celebrate June Dairy Month and her daughters’ preparation and participation in the Rice County Fair in July. She also plans to talk about the importance of their 12 part- and full-time employees who work on their 400-head operation. For Barb, her husband, Paul, and their daughters Grace and Mary, preserving the image of the dairy industry is a passion and a responsibility.

The Liebenstein family is especially excited about their Day on the Farm Event. The educational experience attracts as many as 600 people and is sponsored by the Rice County American Dairy Association and the Scott and Le Sueur County American Dairy Association. The Liebenstein family will give tours of the farm throughout the day and will serve cheeseburgers, malts and milk for lunch. Local county dairy princesses will also be in attendance to help answer questions and promote dairy.

Liebenstein believes ExploreDairy.com is a wonderful opportunity for Minnesota producers. Liebenstein says, “If we don’t tell our story, someone else will happily do it for us, and they won’t portray our industry in an accurate way.”

Although both women are excited for the website’s premiere, Liebenstein and Moenning recognize that not all Minnesota producers share their enthusiasm for publicizing daily life on a dairy farm.

“I think that farmers are busy, and it’s hard to come up with the time to devote to a website. Plus, the media isn’t always friendly to production agriculture,” Liebenstein says. She also says many producers might avoid the limelight because they fear the wrong person will take a partial sound bite or negative photo to depict the industry in a harmful way.

“Every producer needs to weigh that risk, but we can’t let that prevent us from telling a good story,” Moenning says.

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Moenning knows that not all producers are comfortable with showcasing themselves on the worldwide web, but she feels it is important for them to provide a quality image of the dairy industry whenever possible. She encourages producers to determine their strengths in communicating with consumers. She says it is very important to “make every conversation count.” Liebenstein agrees with Moenning and advises fellow producers to take a chance and search out media sources, both local and regional, who want to help the industry.

As far as promoting the website, producers have been delivering press packets to local media outlets and have discussed ExploreDairy.com during media interviews. Minnesota’s Princess Kay of the Milky Way, Ann Miron of Hugo, Minnesota, has also been encouraging consumers to check out the website during her promotions this past spring.

Along with Minnesota producers, Miron is also featured on ExploreDairy.com. On the homepage, Miron welcomes viewers to the website and describes its features in an introductory video. Another video on the website shows Miron giving viewers a tour of her dairy farm while explaining the importance of the dairy industry.

“The website has a wealth of knowledge for people who are curious about our wonderful dairy farms and the animals we care for. I think consumers will find it interesting to see how a dairy farm works and to learn about how milk is produced,” Miron says.

Whether online through the Internet or in line at a grocery story, Barb Liebenstein feels producers need to take advantage of every opportunity to communicate with consumers.

“The thought in the back of everyone’s minds should be, ‘We need to tell our story before someone else does,’” she says.

Entries for Dairy Diary can be submitted from May 26 through Sept. 1 to .

For more information about how to get involved in ExploreDairy.com, contact Sherry Newell, Midwest Dairy Association, at (320) 363-4829 or . PD

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