Dairy farms are an iconic and essential part of the New England farm landscape. In 2012, sales of cow milk were just under $800 million, according to the last USDA Census of Agriculture. Milk sales accounted for 28% of total agricultural sales in New England during the same year. Across the region, there are over 2,000 farms with milk cows and 1,440 licensed dairy herds. Most New England dairy farms are family owned and, in addition to producing milk and dairy products, they contribute to the agricultural heritage and landscape of the region.
Students across New England learn about the importance of dairy farms in our region through dairy-focused education, farm to school programs, farm visits, and harvest of the month activities. The organizations and resources shared here provide a sample of dairy education initiatives in the region. Search the links below for classroom lessons, educator workshops, cafeteria recipes, promotional materials, funding sources, and collaborative networks!
Photo by Ben DeFlorio
State-Based Dairy Harvest of the Month Programs
Vermont Harvest of the Month is a partnership between Green Mountain Farm to School, Food Connects, and Vital Communities. They provide classroom lessons, recipes, promotional material, and suggested readings to promote seasonal eating, encourage healthy diets, and support the local economy. Educators, organizers, food service staff, and parents can use these resources to celebrate the Dairy Harvest of the Month in June.
Massachusetts Farm to School strengthens local farms and fisheries and promotes healthy communities by increasing local food purchasing and education in schools. Their Dairy Harvest of the Month resources include classroom lessons, recipes, suggested readings, and a newsletter. Educators, organizers, food service staff, and parents can use these resources to celebrate the Dairy Harvest of the Month in March.
Farm Fresh Rhode Island’s (FFRI) Harvest of the Month Program celebrates local foods, exposes eaters to seasonal foods and new recipes, encourages healthy choices, and supports local farmers in the community. They provide promotional resources for educators and organizers to promote dairy during the Harvest of the Month in March. FFRI also co-sponsors a Local Dairy Art Contest along with the New England Dairy & Food Council.
New Hampshire Farm to School runs a Harvest of the Month program to promote seasonal eating, encourage healthy diets, and support the local economy. Their resources include lesson plans and a poster for educators and organizers to celebrate dairy in June.
Additional State-Based Dairy Education Programs
The University of Connecticut’s Put Local on Your Tray program develops relationships and tools to empower school communities to source, serve, and celebrate local food. They provide dairy-focused promotional materials and recipes for organizers and food service staff to incorporate local dairy in schools.
Agriculture in the Classroom (AITC) is a USDA program with network partners in all 50 states. In New England, state agricultural agencies and nonprofit organizations coordinate AITC programming to promote the understanding of agricultural and natural resources among students, educators, and the general public.
Maine Agriculture in the Classroom (MAITC) hosts a searchable Agricultural Literacy Curriculum Matrix. The matrix includes a number of dairy-related lessons for educators to use in the classroom. MAITC also provides continuing education workshops for teachers and has grants to support various farm to school activities. Along with many partner organizations, MAITC provides teaching materials through Teach ME About Farms & Food, including a downloadable Dairy for ME book.
New Hampshire Agriculture in the Classroom (NHAITC) supports School to Farm Days for fourth-grade students across the state, including trips to dairy farms. NHAITC also provides continuing education workshops for teachers.
Connecticut Agriculture Education Foundation hosts Agriculture in the Classroom which supports an annual Ag Literacy Event and provides a Connecticut agriculture factsheet. The organization also supports a number of grants for teachers and schools.
Massachusetts Agriculture in the Classroom organizes conferences and workshops for educators, some of which focus specifically on dairy. They award mini-grants to expand agricultural education in the state. Their website also provides links to dairy themed classroom lessons.
Shelburne Farms is a nonprofit organization in Vermont that “links knowledge, inquiry, and action to help students build a healthy future for their communities and the planet.” They provide programs and workshops for traditional and farm-based educators and schools, including opportunities that incorporate learning at their grass-based dairy. Throughout the year, they host programs for youth and families, such as summer camp and a 4-H club.
The Farm-Based Education Network, administered by Shelburne Farms, strengthens and supports the work of educators, farmers, and community leaders who provide access and experiences of all kinds on working farms. Members of the free network can search for events in their area, post and view jobs, and access a wide range of resources, including educational activities.
Wolfe’s Neck Center for Agriculture & the Environment is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to “connect farmers, eaters, and learners to the land and animals at the core of our food systems.” The center has a demonstration farm and organic dairy herd on the coast of Maine where they host workshops, farm camp, and an apprenticeship program for those pursuing a career in dairy.
Vermont Breakfast on the Farm is an annual event that invites participants to visit local dairy farms and enjoy a free breakfast. At the farm, participants meet farmers and cows while learning about all aspects of milk production. Videos highlighting the event and other resources are available on the Vermont Agency of Agriculture YouTube page.
Dairy in the Classroom is a partnership between New England Dairy and Food Council, Shelburne Farms, and Vermont Agency and Agriculture, Food, and Markets. The program provides five classroom lessons, hands-on activities, farm field trips, and funding to Vermont PreK-3rd grade classes. Information and grant applications are available on the New England Dairy and Food Council farm to school page.
Photo by Chris Manzella
Dairy Education Initiatives Around New England
The New England Dairy & Food Council is a nonprofit nutrition education organization. They provide Farm to School resources including classroom lessons, school meal promotion materials, and dairy recipes for school meals.
American Dairy Association (Northeast)
The American Dairy Association provides a series of lessons on dairy and its relationship to animal health, milk safety, the environment, communities, and nutrition. The lessons include reading pamphlets, video clips, worksheets, and interactive games.
The New England Dairy Promotion Board is a not-for-profit organization that coordinates Must Be the Milk. The program supports June Dairy Month with recipes and video resources.
National Dairy Education Efforts
Fuel Up to Play 60 is an in-school nutrition and physical activity program launched by National Dairy Council and NFL, in collaboration with the USDA, to help encourage today's youth to lead healthier lives. In addition to providing funding and resources, the program has a Farm to School Play, which encourages schools to implement farm to school activities.
Header photo courtesy of the USDA