Midwest Dairy has started a new partnership with Spark-Y, a nonprofit in Minneapolis focused on empowering underserved youth and communities through hands-on education rooted in sustainability and entrepreneurship. Midwest Dairy is proud to be their first partner focused on animal agriculture, as this partnership will provide multiple touchpoints throughout the fall to bring educational activities to the classroom and the farm.
In July, checkoff hosted these summer interns at Autumnwood Farm and Creamery in Forest Lake, Minnesota. From the pre-survey, all participants indicated that sustainability was important to them, and they would change buying decisions based on sustainability. Over 60 percent of the students rated negative perceptions of animal care, consumer best interest, use of resources, and overall sustainability, which gave checkoff a great opportunity to change attitudes.
The students were able to learn and experience how dairy went from farm to their table with an overview of the onsite micro-creamery from the Daningers. They participated in a taste test of the various milk flavors in the on-farm store, revealing the Cappuccino milk to be a big hit. During the farm side tour, the students were very engaged, asked a lot of thoughtful questions, and were able to experience animal care, technology, and sustainability practices used at the farm.
In the post-survey, there was a definite shift in attitude and learning, with 100 percent agreeing the event increased their knowledge of the industry. Overall, the opinion on environmental sustainability, animal care, and consumer best interest was scored positive by 92 percent of the students. Survey Comments included that the tour was insightful and improved opinions and showcased how big of a role technology plays on the farm. Others noted how well the cows were maintained and treated, and one student even admitted to how the experience filled a knowledge base they didn’t know they needed.
On August 3rd, Midwest Dairy was also asked to send two professionals from the dairy industry to participate in a Professional Development Panel to provide career insights to the same students and many Spark-Y staff. Dana Adams, M.S., Livestock Extension Educator with the University of Minnesota Extension, and Patty Sinclair, PAS, Ruminant Account Manager, Arm and Hammer Animal and Food Production, shared their background professional journey and brought to life career options that support the dairy industry.
Through this partnership, youth will continue to gain knowledge about sustainability and farming, learning where their food and dairy products come from in a hands-on, action-focused way.