By: Meggan Rush
October is not just about pumpkins and leaves changing color; it's also a time to celebrate Farm-to-School Month! While Farm-to-School Month recognizes the incredible work of all farmers across the country, we want to shine a spotlight on dairy farmers in California. These unsung heroes work tirelessly to provide fresh and nutritious dairy products that are essential for health and well-being. Join us as we explore the important work and dedication of dairy farmers.
Supplying Nutritious Milk
Dairy farmers play an important part in California’s school lunch programs, providing milk that helps ensure students receive the nutrients they need to thrive. Milk is a vital source of 13 essential nutrients including calcium, vitamin D and protein, all of which are necessary for growing children. School lunch programs rely on dairy farmers to provide schools with a steady supply of high-quality milk.
“Dairy farmers love providing milk to schools! Fresh milk is one of the most wholesome and nutritious products in the grocery store, and I’m so thankful that we have a part in making that available to students.”
–Anthony Agueda: third-generation California dairy farmer at Alberto Dairy and Fresno State Agricultural Business student
One of the key principles of farm-to-school is sourcing food locally. Dairy farmers supply schools with fresh milk that doesn't need to travel far, going from farm to school in just two days. This supports local economies and reduces the carbon footprint associated with transporting milk products long distances.
Commitment to Animal Welfare
Dairy farmers go to great lengths to ensure their cows are well-cared for, prioritizing the humane treatment of their cows that includes comfortable housing and access to clean water and nutritious foods. Regular veterinary check-ups and expert nutritionists are often part of the care routine, ensuring that each cow receives personalized care and attention.
Sustainability is a fundamental aspect of modern agriculture and California dairy farmers are leading the way. Many have implemented innovative practices to reduce their environmental impact, such as using energy-efficient technologies, recycling water and managing waste responsibly. Farm-to-School programs support these efforts by recognizing that California dairy farmers have made significant progress in implementing sustainable farming practices.
Educating the Future Generation
Farm-to-School Month isn't just about the food on students' plates; it's also about agriculture education. Dairy farmers often participate in school programs, teaching students about the importance of agriculture and dairy production. This connection helps students understand where their food comes from and the hard work that goes into producing and preparing meals and the farmers behind it all.
“My family just hosted a milk drive at the elementary school in our community where we gave away 250 gallons of milk to those in need. I cannot overstate the value of milk in our schools. It is so important to educate children on the irreplaceable value of dairy in their diets.”
–Maureen Lemos, owner Lockwood III Dairy
Challenges Dairy Farmers Face
Dairy farmers face a variety of challenges including fluctuating milk prices, unpredictable weather and rising operational costs, all of which can make it difficult for dairy farmers to maintain their livelihoods. Recognizing these challenges and supporting dairy farmers is crucial to their success today and in the future.
“Support of farm-to-school is furthered in California's recent allocation of $100 million to California Department of Food and Agriculture's (CDFA's) California Farm to School Incubator Grant Program, which will enhance and extend farm-to-school programs throughout the state. During the CDFA’s Farm-to-School 2023 conference this month, it was clear that many of the attendees are eager to incorporate dairy agricultural literacy into their farm-to-school efforts. Through the dairy community’s philanthropic support of Dairy Council of California, we are able to equip all schools with dairy nutrition and agricultural practices education solutions.”
–Efrain Valenzuela, Dairy Council of CA Mobile Dairy Classroom Program Director
Thank You Dairy Farmers
Farm-to-School Month is a time to celebrate the dedication and hard work of all farmers who contribute to our school food programs, including the indispensable role dairy farmers play in providing nutritious, local and sustainable dairy products to our schools. As we celebrate Farm-to-School Month, we thank the tireless efforts of dairy farmers who continue to support programs that connect students with the source of their food while fostering healthy and sustainable eating patterns.
Communications Manager Meggan brings professional expertise in leading successful communications for media, public relations and marketing programs.
Dairy Council hosted dairy tours at Konyn Dairy Farm in Southern California to educate on the importance of dairy’s role in a sustainable food system.
From battling rickets in 1919 to promoting nutrition security in 2023, join us in celebrating World School Milk Day on September 27!