Dairy Focus: Celebrate Dairy Month

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National Dairy Month started out as National Milk Month in 1937 as a way to promote milk drinking. It was created to stabilize the dairy demand when production was at a surplus, but it has developed into an annual tradition that celebrates the contributions the dairy industry has made to the world. After the National Dairy Council stepped in to promote the cause, the name soon changed to "Dairy Month."

National Dairy Month (June) is a great way to start the summer with "3-A-Day" of nutrient-rich dairy foods. From calcium to potassium, dairy products such as milk contain nine essential nutrients that may help better manage your weight, and reduce your risk for high blood pressure, osteoporosis and certain cancers.

With protein to help build and repair the muscle tissue of active bodies and vitamin A to help maintain healthy skin, dairy products are a natural nutrient powerhouse.

Those are just a few of the reasons you should celebrate dairy production, not just in June, but all year long.

In the Midwest, dairy farms and families often open their gates to visitors for breakfasts and tours, while grocery stores and other businesses feature dairy products during the month. America's heartland - from North Dakota to Arkansas - is home to more than 11,000 dairy farms and the people behind the products: dairy farmers. And while these farms may differ, dairy farmers share a passion for their livelihoods and producing wholesome, nutritious dairy products for people of all ages to enjoy.

Did you ever think about what goes into that glass of milk, bowl of ice cream or piece of cheese? Each dairy farm has a unique story to tell. In North Dakota, you have a chance to see a family farm in action on Saturday, June 23. The Holle families of Kenton and Bobbie Jo, Andrew and Jenni, James and Michael Holle of the Northern Lights Dairy, Mandan, will host "Breakfast on the Farm." Drive on out to the dairy or catch a bus in Mandan.

June also is the month of dairy royalty. Are you aware that the North Dakota dairy princess program, initiated in 1946, is the longest-running one in the U.S.?

The princess, who serves as a goodwill ambassador for the state's dairy farmers, makes media appearances, talks with children about being healthy through consuming dairy products every day, and visits with consumers in various settings from county fairs to school visits to help them understand the dedication of North Dakota's dairy farmers to producing wholesome and delicious dairy products, and their commitment to the land and their animals.

Our reigning princess is Rachael Rott from Anamoose. She will be passing her crown during the 66th annual coronation held June 23 in Bismarck.

Other examples of dairy promotion in your area include Fuel Up to Play 60 in grades K-12. Or, in this era of social media, check out the Dairy Makes Sense blog, the many contributions to Twitter and Facebook, and the milk mustache billboards. And who isn't familiar with the most copied ad ever: "got milk?"

One of the greatest challenges of the next generation will be providing nutritious, affordable food to a global population expected to grow to 9 billion by 2050. Dairy is part of the solution. Not only are dairy products, such as milk, cheese and yogurt, nutrient-rich, they also are being produced using fewer resources, and are helping foster healthy people, healthy communities and a healthy planet. And at about 25 cents per glass, milk provides one of the richest sources of well-absorbed calcium in the American diet.

The health of the dairy farmers' checkbook is not as encouraging. The end of May marked five straight month of declining income and high feed costs. Because feed represents 50 to 60 percent of the cost to produce milk, this not good news for dairy farmers. While most of us just see the cost at the retail shelf and assume profit, the dairy producers have nowhere to pass on their costs. So when you see that dairy farm family member, thank him or her for his or her spirit and contribution to our health.

Here are some dairy facts:

* 98 percent of all North Dakota dairy farms are family owned.

* Dairy is the fourth largest agricultural business in North Dakota, generating $49 million a year.

* North Dakota dairy farms produce more than 44.7 million gallons of milk annually.

* Typically, milk takes two days to get from the farm to the grocery store.

* The dairy industry reduced its carbon footprint by 60 percent between 1944 and 2007.

* The U.S. dairy industry contributes only 2 percent of the total greenhouse emissions and has made a major effort to be even greener in the future.

Here's a cold glass of milk in a salute to the makers of the most nutritious food in the world: dairy products.


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