The Farmer Behind Your Milk

March 30, 2015

By the time many of us wake up in the morning and stumble to our coffee cups, dairy farmers have been up for hours working hard to bring people that milk for their coffee or yogurt to start their day.

As a registered dietitian and a dairy farmer’s wife, I hold a unique perspective on food and agriculture. My husband and his business partner operate our 900 dairy cow farm. I love to share my credentialed background and hands-on experience with fellow health and wellness professionals and the public to help them understand the farm to table process, especially when it comes to dairy foods.

Many people don’t know the details behind their nutritious dairy foods. According to the American Farm Bureau Federation, farm and ranch families make up only 2 percent of the U.S. population, but they help feed all of us.

With dairy farmers included in that 2 percent, they have a large responsibility producing all of that milk! Dairy farmers are responsible for feeding, milking, cow care (bedding, health check-ups), assisting with calf deliveries and continuous documenting to make sure every milking, pregnancy, delivery, treatment and vaccination is archived. In addition to those daily musts, dairy farmers have to pay the bills, order farm supplies, meet with the vet or nutritionist and much more. These are all important factors in making milk.

What can we do, as health and wellness professionals, to help people understand the farm to table story? First, try to connect with farmers, this includes beef, poultry, produce and dairy farmers; don’t let your connection stop at the farmers’ market or with your weekly grocery shopping. Many stores are beginning to highlight where their food comes from. Don’t be afraid to have a conversation about where your grocery purchases dairy, meat and produce and then connect yourself with those farmers to ask questions. Then, you can share this information and broader understanding with your clients and community.

On top of recommending people talk to local farmers, if you are not a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN), you can suggest they seek out a dietitian (like myself). Dietitians are credentialed professionals who use evidence-based knowledge to educate people about healthy living and eating. Some dietitians are already working with grocery stores to educate people on nutrition and agriculture.

We also need to relay this information to our clients and help our communities understand where their food comes from to better equip people to make decisions based on an evidence-based understanding, not media or emotions.

Knowing the people behind your milk is more than reading this post, it’s about taking action, helping the public get to know where their food comes from and make healthful food choices!

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