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Promoting dairy with ‘Moowiches’ and baby baskets

Alisa Anderson Published on 05 June 2009

Promoting dairy all year long is what the Dairy Women of Whatcom County, Washington, do best.

But in June they do a little extra something to make Dairy Month more special.

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On the first day of June, they present a basket filled with dairy-themed baby items, milk and other dairy products to the first baby born in the county that day. Last year was their 45th year celebrating the tradition. The acting dairy ambassador of Whatcom County, a dairy-raised young woman between the ages of 16 and 24, delivers the basket.

“We’ve had positive feedback from it, and it usually gets a picture in the paper. It’s a way of promoting the dairy industry and reminding people that June is Dairy Month,” says Jackie Blok, a chaperone for the dairy ambassador program.

Brooke Vander Veen, the 2008 dairy ambassador, delivered last year’s basket. “I think it’s fun to watch the mother’s face. Most people don’t realize that June is dairy month. We’ll bring this huge basket of dairy products, and the mother is overwhelmed by it because she had no idea it was coming,” she says. But her favorite part was seeing the baby that was only 12 hours old.

Current Whatcom County Ambassador Amber Tjoelker, the 53rd to hold the position, is excited to see the new baby that will get this year’s basket. She agrees that seeing the baby is what she is looking forward to most.

Every year the Dairy Women of Whatcom County participate in the county’s annual Farmer’s Day Parade, which occurs the first Saturday of June. The dairy ambassador and her alternates ride on a float in the parade. Traditionally the float is a Dutch wooden shoe, celebrating the county’s dairy and Dutch heritage. After the parade the ambassador and her alternates pass out dairy promotional items to the kids.

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Brooke says celebrating June Dairy Month is beneficial to the dairy industry. “It makes everyone aware of the dairy industry and how vital it is to get your 3-a-day of dairy products. It is important for everyone to get their dairy products, and the more people hear about the dairy industry, the better it is for them in general.”

But the Dairy Women don’t confine promoting dairy to just the month of June. In April of eac year they invite all the first-graders in the county to participate in a three-day Milk Makers’ Fest. The state and dairy ambassadors and their alternates give 15-minute presentations about how important it is to consume dairy products. “We gave chocolate milk to each of the kids, taught them little songs about dairy products and got them all riled up about dairy,” Brooke says.

The students also visit a milking parlor, learn how to feed calves and go through a hay maze, visiting eight stations in all. Each year 1,500 to 2,000 students attend the event.

“It’s a very efficient way of showing students how the dairy industry works, letting them see animals, and getting them to have fun and learn,” Jackie says.

The organization reaches out to students right in the classroom, too. Any county dairy ambassador or alternate who wants to compete for the state dairy ambassador title, must give at least two school presentations or civic speeches promoting dairy products. They choose their own topics to present and pass out pencils, pens and cow-shaped erasers to the kids. Maija Haggith, a 2008 alternate, gave 15 school presentations and three civic speeches at community events about growing up on a dairy farm.

“I think that educating kids about dairy is important because a lot of kids are not getting the experience of living on a farm. They just assume that dairy products come from the grocery store. I think it is important that everyone understands all the work behind making food. It’s not the fault of the public if they don’t know what’s going on – it’s our fault for not helping them understand,” Brooke says.

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Presenting at schools is one thing that Amber is looking forward to this fall. “The kids are actually interested in who I am and what the dairy industry is,” she says.

The organization also reaches out beyond the classroom. In the first part of every June, they run an ad in the local Lynden Tribune promoting dairy month and local dairy producers. “Last year they had a picture of me drinking a glass of milk with a statement that milk is important, and ads and statements from local businesses and farms,” Brooke says.

Ever year at the Whatcom County Fair, the ambassador and her alternates assist the Dairy Women to run an ice cream booth and sell their own, patented Moowiches, soft and hard ice cream cones, milkshakes and chocolate milk. Last year they made 5,000 Moowiches that were sold out before the day was over. “We are always kept very, very busy at our booth,” Jackie says.

Even with all that they do already, Amber says she thinks that more could be done to promote dairy, especially during June Dairy Month. “I’d encourage people to support the industry and learn more about it,” she says. PD

Alisa Anderson
Staff Writer
Progressive Dairyman

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