News: The Iowa Dairy Story reaches 10,000th student milestone

On Tuesday, April 27, the Iowa's Dairy Story program reached the 10,000 student milestone.

This curriculum and field trip to Northeast Iowa Dairy Foundation Center helps students learn that dairy foods are produced in Northeast Iowa on family-based dairy farms and that the industry supports the economy with a variety of jobs.

The students not only tour the 250-cow dairy at The Dairy Center, they learn the history of dairying, how the ruminant digestive system functions, the leading state and national milk-producing regions, the seven breeds of dairy cows, and the health impacts of consuming dairy foods. They see how cows are cared for from the calf barn to the milking parlor. Each group makes homemade ice cream in a can and spins a Milk Cart Quiz to re-enforce their learning.

After the day of learning and fun, the students, primarily third, fourth and fifth graders, have an appreciation that milk is not just purchased in the store -- it comes from cows, on farms, within an industry that supports families and communities.

The Iowa's Dairy Story program was established and coordinated by a three way partnership between Northeast Iowa Community College, Northeast Iowa Dairy Foundation, and Iowa State University Extension and its county Extension Councils.

There have been a total of 38 schools that have participated in the program, plus after-school and summer programs. Many schools receive funding for the bus costs from Farm Bureau Agricultural grants.

Other schools attending Dairy Story this spring include Decorah, St. Patrick's, Waterville Elementary, West Central, North Fayette, CFS, New Hampton, Valley, Postville, St Joseph's, Waukon Elementary, Central, Howard-Winneshiek and Nashua-Plainfield.

Since the program started about 10 years ago, an average of 1,000 elementary students a year have learned about the dairy industry, where the dairy products they consume originate, and much more.

Much of the Iowa Dairy Story program was developed by the late Jim Hosch of Iowa State University Extension in Clayton County. Fran Passmore and later Barb Sauser of Iowa State Extension coordinated the program with area schools for many years, and this past year Dan Lane of Iowa State Extension Region 4 Program Specialist took the lead of the program.

In addition to the youth program, group tours for people of all ages are welcome at The Dairy Center. Please call the Northeast Iowa Dairy Foundation at 563-534-9957 or go to www.iowadairycenter.com. Individuals or families seeking free self-guided tours are welcome weekdays 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Although guided tours are generally limited to weekdays, the viewing platform for the milking parlor is always open. Milking times are 4:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m. and 8 p.m., with each milking shift taking about three hours.

The Dairy Center is located at 1527 Highway 150, Calmar.