Two years ago, I wrote a column in response to a question I received from a reporter on why I still believe in dairy. Since then, that column has gone viral online, with it coming up first in search engines if you search “reasons to believe in dairy.” I am not sure why it got so much traction, but its success did prompt us to start a June Dairy Month campaign this year to ask folks to share why they believe in dairy or why they do what they do to support dairy every day.
If you’d like to join the campaign and are using any social media platform, all you have to do is post your answer to the question above with a photo or a video and the hashtags #WhatsYourWhy and #JuneDairyMonth. It is fascinating to see the reasons why different folks within the industry first got involved in what they are doing and to learn more about everyone’s individual purpose and passion Seeing all the reasons why people believe in dairy also helps reaffirm how important the dairy industry is to the fabric of our communities.
Here are the original ten reasons I shared in that article from two years ago.
- Dairy’s Health Benefits. Milk is a naturally sourced nutrient powerhouse that contains the nine essential nutrients to good nutrition. Research shows that regardless of fat content, dairy foods like milk, cheese and yogurt are associated with improved bone health, especially in children and teens, and reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and lower blood pressure in adults.
- Our Product Versatility. When you think of how many products can be derived from milk, it’s nothing short of amazing – cheese, yogurt, ice cream, butter, cottage cheese, sour cream, and the list goes on. Then consider all the foods that have dairy as an ingredient or in the recipe. It’s used as a base for soup and in chocolate. It’s used in biscuit mixes and to add flavoring to snacks. I cannot think of any other natural food as versatile as milk.
- A Clean Label. One challenge we have in the dairy industry right now is the systemic decline in fluid milk sales. That is because of all the different competitors we have in the beverage aisle. But one advantage milk has that many of these competitors don’t is a clean label. We need to remind consumers that milk is all natural, and it doesn’t take a chemical process to make. The chemistry exists within the dairy cow.
- The Foster Mother of Humanity. I once saw an exhibit that called the dairy cow a “Modern Marvel.” If you look back through history, a dairy cow has been a part of our culture since before biblical times because of her ability to take forages and other things we can’t eat and transform them into a nutritious food.
- A Local Supply. Local is the new buzz word. Everyone wants to make sure the food they are buying is local. They’ll drive out of their way to the local farm market just to be sure they are buying local. Grocery stores even have special displays featuring local foods to prevent those lost sales. Milk is produced locally here in Pennsylvania 52 weeks out of the year, and it often is in the grocery store within three days of being produced.
- A Stronger Infrastructure. Dairy fuels jobs. In Pennsylvania alone, the dairy industry is responsible for 52,000 jobs across the commonwealth. A study conducted by the Center shows that 48 percent of those jobs come from the farm level, while 52 percent of them are in the post-farm dairy-processing activities. Those jobs depend on the strength and resiliency of our dairy farms and the broader industry.
- A Huge Economic Impact. Along with supporting good jobs, the Pennsylvania dairy industry contributes $12.6 billion in annual economic revenue to our state’s commonwealth. Every one dairy cow in the state contributes $24,000 to the local economy, and the average dairy farm generates about $1.9 million in annual economic revenue.
- The Backbone of Our Communities. Dairy farms provide other benefits to Pennsylvania’s rural communities – wide open spaces and natural water filtration. Farm families are often valuable members of the local community through being involved in civic organizations, active in their churches, members of school boards, and active in local government. Service is just something taught in a farm family from little on up.
- A Faith-based Heritage. Farming is about faith. We plant crops in the spring and have faith that God will provide the harvest we need in the fall. We nurture a newborn calf and have faith that she will one day be a productive member of our herd. Farm families have meals together, pray together and go to church together. That is something lost by much of our society that still exists in our farming culture, and it is the foundation of what our nation was built upon.
- Passionate Farm Families. Farm families care deeply for their farms, for the animals they raise, for the crops they grow and for the land they call home. It is easy to get frustrated at all the anti-farming rhetoric out there. We need to continue to tell our story and share that passion we have with our non-farm neighbors because they do not know what we do or how much we care.
To share your own journey within the dairy industry and to learn more about how to get involved in our social media campaign, you can contact Emily Barge, our communications and marketing manager, at 717-346-0849 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We also have Choose PA Dairy promotional static clings available if you are interested in promoting dairy within your local community.
Editor’s Note: This column is written by Jayne Sebright, executive director for the Center for Dairy Excellence, and published monthly in the Lancaster Farming Dairy Reporter.