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Checkoff: Sharing dairy’s story with classrooms across the country

Contributed by Chuck and Nora Feldpausch Published on 24 November 2017
Chuck and Nora Feldpausch family

Everyone dreams about their life as a movie, right? Well, perhaps everyone except most dairy farmers, who usually would prefer to remain unnoticed and not concerned with telling everyone about how well we do our jobs.

So when the call came last summer from the Western Dairy Association team asking whether my husband, Chuck, and I would be interested in opening our farm – and home – to a film crew from Discovery Education, I can’t say we immediately jumped at the opportunity.

Western Dairy explained it was working with Dairy Management Inc. (DMI), which manages the national dairy checkoff, to help students across the country understand where their food comes from. They wanted to highlight the care and attention we provide to our cows and our land and how we help nourish communities.

The final product would be a virtual field trip teachers could use in their classrooms throughout the year which would align with their science, math and language arts curriculum.

Of course, we are passionate about what we do, and we want people to know when they drink milk or eat cheese, they can trust dairy farmers care deeply about using sustainable production methods, and we all are trying to rely on the latest technology to produce safe, healthy dairy products.

But like most dairy farmers, we are busy, and we spend 100 percent of our limited time (when we are not rearing our kids or running to meetings or, in my case, working part-time off the farm) throwing our hearts, souls and energy into running our business and taking care of our cows.

We were a little worried, too, that we didn’t want to have our dairy at the center of a media spotlight, since it seems so many of those stories are looking for ways to demonize modern agriculture.

After a few days and some rather long discussions, however, we concluded that, as modern family farmers, it is our responsibility to help educate consumers about dairy. We felt we should add our voices to what seemed like a largely one-sided conversation about agriculture driven by folks who have never set foot on a farm.

We wanted to show that dairy farmers do great work and modern farming is still rooted in deep family traditions. We may not do it all perfectly, but we sure do try. The chance to tell our story and to represent the 42,000 dairy farmers across the country who dedicate every day to making milk in the best way possible was both humbling and important.

Quiet on the set

After deciding to participate, we worked with the checkoff and Discovery Education teams, outlining the script and key areas of the farm that needed to be shown. We set a production schedule for early August.

The team arrived seven days after we had planned because of uncooperative weather that sent us soaking rains every day of the week we had been scheduled to shoot. It was a bit of a crowd – full camera, sound and production crews, checkoff, association and co-op representatives, plus our nutritionist and veterinarian.

Chuck was worried about disrupting the cows or the milking crew, but the employees did great and the animals were mostly just curious to see (or lick) the new faces. We filmed for two days and, true to farm family tradition, even our four kids, Gil, Nina, Avelyn and Elthea, were part of the show.

With guidance from Western Dairy and DMI, we tried to help the audience understand what it means to be a dairy farmer, including how we take care of our cows, what they eat, where they sleep, and how and when they are milked.

We also tried to explain how, from recycling water and managing manure to choices of crops and farming methods, farmers prioritize preserving the land and resources for the next generation.

It was especially important to show this farm is really run by a team, not by a single family, and that many people from our community work together to produce our milk. We also wanted viewers to know most of the milk in their grocery store is local, and sustainability is as important to us as it is to the families who buy our milk.

That’s a wrap

The virtual field trip launched on Oct. 19 with more than 1,900 classrooms nationwide registering to watch and many asking questions over social media. We really enjoyed seeing farmers from across the country tuning in, making connections with students and teachers in their communities, and helping to answer questions about how things are done on their local farms that produce their milk.

Nora in front of the camera

Despite our worrying, all of the planning and endless reminders from Chuck and me for the kids to be on their very best behavior (or perhaps because of it), we are delighted with how the project turned out.

Although we are, honestly, just as happy to be back to farming and out of the spotlight, we must admit it was a lot of fun, a great learning experience for the kids and easier than we expected.

We hope the video says to all the great dairy families across the country that your voices are important, and they can make a big difference in helping consumers understand all the good work that goes into making dairy products healthy and sustainable.  end mark

PHOTO 1: Chuck and Nora Feldpausch family

PHOTO 2: Nora Feldpausch in front of the camera. Courtesy photos.

View the Virtual Field Trip and see additional resources that can be shared with your local 

Your Dairy Checkoff in Action – The following update is provided by Dairy Management Inc. (DMI), which manages the national dairy checkoff program on behalf of America’s dairy farmers and dairy importers. DMI is the domestic and international planning and management organization responsible for increasing sales of and demand for dairy products and ingredients.

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