Northern Colorado school kicks off Western Dairy’s Adopt a Farmer Program | TheFencePost.com

Northern Colorado school kicks off Western Dairy’s Adopt a Farmer Program

Rebecca Hirsch lifted a baggy of something mushy and yellow on Oct. 25, and asked a group of third graders what it was.

Their only hint was cows eat it. One student, Conrad, knew the answer.

"Silage," he said proudly.

But he had an advantage. Hirsch is his mom and she works on a dairy farm in Eaton, Colo.

Hirsch was at Range View Elementary in Severance, Colo., as part of the school's Adopt a Farmer kickoff event.

The Adopt a Farmer program is facilitated through Western Dairy Association, and it pairs a dairy farmer with a group of students, normally all within a certain grade.

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The third graders at Range View adopted Hirsch in her second year of the program. She also works with the elementary students at Severance Middle School.

"I just wanted to help the local kids learn about our local farming," Hirsch said.

Oct. 25 was the start of the program for Range View, and the kids got quick lessons about the dairy industry from experts in the field.

The kickoff included different mini lessons, including: pasteurization, how to make cream and butter and what the day-to-day looks like for a dairy farmer.

One of the advantages of this program is it brings people, who know about the industry, into the classroom to talk about the industry.

Along with Hirsch, one of the visitors who taught the kids was Gary Schlagel, community service director for Longmont Dairy. He talked about pasteurization and explained what dairy actually is, including this question, which tripped the class up: "Is milk a dairy product?"

The class thought yes, but dairy products are made from milk. Milk is just dairy, he explained.

That brought about an "oohhh" after the class seemed to understand the difference.

Schlagel knew it was a trick question, but he wanted to make sure the kids understood that milk is dairy and dairy products must include it.

The program allows schools to integrate lessons, like what Schlagel and Hirsch presented, about the dairy industry into units throughout the year, and at the end of the school year the students tour the dairy of the farmer the class adopts.

Throughout the school year the dairy farmers communicate with the classes, but how that looks depends on the school and farmer. Kristin Tucker is the program manager of curriculum development and consumer events for Western Dairy. She oversees the program and provides the preset curriculum for the schools interested in the program. She said in a phone interview on Oct. 24 even kickoff events like Wednesday's can start with the kids writing letters to the farmers or farmers who will make videos of different things they do on the farm for the kids to watch in class.

This is the second year for Range View, though. Tucker said the number of schools and farmers involved — there are four different dairies in the program — are dependent upon interest from the school and the ability to partner them with a dairy farmer.

The goal of the Adopt a Farmer program is to educate the students as best they can about the dairy industry.

"The goal is to educate from the farm to the table and from the farm to the fridge," Tucker said.

— Fox is a reporter for The Fence Post. You can reach her with questions, comments and ideas at sfox@thefencepost.com or (970) 392-4410. Connect with her on Twitter @FoxonaFarm.

Current Adopt a Farmer schools

Skyview Elementary, Windsor (Josh Cleland, Cleland Dairy)

Grandview Elementary, Windsor (Josh Docheff and Kristie Docheff, Blue Sky Dairy)

Range View Elementary, Severance (Rebecca Hirsch, Hirsch Dairy)

Severance Middle School, Severance (Rebecca Hirsch, Hirsch Dairy)

Cotopaxi Elementary, Cotopaxi (Carol Hammel, Camerlo Dairy)

Heurgano Schools, Walsenberg (Carol Hammel, Camerlo Dairy)