Lorilee Schultz has been farming with her grandparents at Mil-R-Mor Farm in Orangeville, Illinois, for the last decade. Because she oversees the dairy production side of the operation, including 55 milk cows, she knows the importance of bringing dairy to life in the community.
That’s why Schultz participates in Adopt-A-Cow, a program through Discover Dairy and Midwest Dairy that brings dairy into school classrooms around the Midwest Dairy region. Students are connected with a dairy farmer who shares pictures, videos, and information about a cow throughout the year, providing details about life on the farm and how they care for their animals, the environment and their communities.
Schultz has seen many benefits from the program and how it offers her a platform to share her story and keep dairy farming relevant for the next generation. But the biggest benefit is making a personal connection with students, many of which are disconnected from the farm. Adopt-A-Cow gives them a first-hand look at what life is like on a real dairy farm and Schultz says she can see how engaged and curious the students are through the inquisitive questions they ask and the excitement over new photos or videos of their classroom’s adopted cow.
“When I introduce them to Pearl, a calf from our farm, the kids are really engaged and ask a lot of great questions like, where does she live? Does she exercise? And everything in between. It shows how curious and eager they are to learn about life on the farm—especially since so many have never been,” says Shultz. “Bringing the farm directly into schools is such a great way to connect with kids about where their dairy products come from. Anything we can do to make those personal connections is going to leave a positive impression of the dairy industry and create life-long dairy fans.”
Adopt-A-Cow is just one example of how students and farmers are having meaningful connections using technology, and because it’s easily accessible, these conversations can have an exponentially larger reach than a traditional on farm visit. In 2020, information about cows in the Mil-R-Mor Farm was shared in 100 classrooms, reaching about 4,000 students. This year, those numbers have grown to 6,600 classrooms and 170,000 students. Because of the program’s large reach and how easy it is for farmers to participate, Schultz encourages other dairy farmers to get involved, too.
“There are so many things I love about this program,” Schultz adds. “The demands of the farm can be difficult, but Adopt-A-Cow makes it easy for me to share our story and help make authentic connections with more people.”