Midwest Dairy recently collaborated with Jennifer Schmitt, Ph.D., and Senior Research Scientist in Sustainability at the Institute of the Environment, University of Minnesota, to lead discussions during a sponsored virtual dairy farm tour with 40 graduate students from sustainability, public health, and dietetic intern programs at the University of Minnesota and the VA Hospital. Joanne Slavin, Ph.D., RDN, from the Food Science and Nutrition department, was also in attendance and provided great insight during the discussion.
Midwest Dairy’s goal was to showcase dairy farmers’ commitment to animal care and sustainable practices on the farm to build trust and meet core learning competencies on sustainable food systems. To achieve this, we had different farms develop two 5 minutes videos, each focusing on animal care and sustainable practices. After each set of videos was shown, a Q & A and compare and contrast discussion was led by Schmitt. Three DEAL participants, including Paige Roberts, Kevin Borst, and Lindsey Borst, DVM, joined the group remotely as farmer experts to help field questions.
The group was very engaged and asked many questions, mainly focusing on animal comfort and care, food safety, antibiotics, and on-farm practices, resulting in transparent dialogue. This proved to be a very positive and interactive learning module. From the results of the pre- and post-surveys, participants voiced that they walked away with a positive experience and a better understanding of animal care and sustainability practices on the farm. Through conversations and this survey, we heard comments such as, “I was surprised that they are voluntarily trying to protect water and natural resources.”