HJ/EDJune 12, 2006

Local American Dairy Association chapters in full swing for Dairy Month

By Jenni Sebora

“Did you get your 3-A-Day today?”

That question is calling out from billboards, ads, schools, and other events across America promoting the “3-A-Day of Dairy – For stronger bones.”

This promotion is just one of the many activities or events the American Dairy Association, the Midwest Dairy Association (MDA), and the county ADAs – including McLeod, Wright, and Carver – host to promote the dairy industry and the sale and consumption of dairy foods.

The promotion is kicked up a notch this month, as June is dairy month.

A major part of this promotion, and the county ADA boards’ activities, focus around the dairy princess program. In fact, Sherry Newell of the Midwest Dairy Association, noted that the dairy princess program is the single most visible event or activity a county ADA board does to promote the dairy industry.

McLeod, Wright, and Carver counties all have princess committees devoted to taking care of the dairy coronation banquet and the other princess program duties.

Teresa Feist, who serves on Carver County dairy princess committee, noted that the search for candidates begins in January. One of the main qualities that is sought after in a dairy princess is a someone who will represent the dairy industry well, and who has general knowledge of the dairy industry, Feist added.

Those qualities are major reasons why Becky Dammann of McLeod County was crowned last August as the 52nd Princess Kay of the Milky Way, and continues her reign until the next princess is crowned this August.

Roger Rolf, who serves on the McLeod County ADA board, has enjoyed seeing McLeod County dairy princesses take advantage of their opportunities.

“The highlight of being on the board has been having Sarah Olson in 2002 and Becky Dammann last year getting Princess Kay,” Rolf said.

Wearing the Princess Kay crown involves a strong commitment to the dairy industry. Dammann is involved in a dairy industry event or activity approximately 10 to 17 days a month, Dammann explained.

Since June is dairy month, it is one of the busiest times of the year for Princess Kay and the county dairy princesses, as well as for the various ADA boards and councils.

The McLeod County ADA gives away a dairy basket to the first baby born and his/her mother at the Glencoe and Hutchinson hospitals in June.

The dairy association also works with KARP radio in Hutchinson to give away dairy product gift certificates to people in McLeod County during June.

During specified times of dairy month, one can enjoy a glass of milk or another dairy product served by dairy princesses at various locations throughout the state, including the counties of Wright, Carver, and McLeod.

Although June is a busy dairy month, dairy promotions and events occur throughout the year. During the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday seasons, the McLeod County ADA works with the Glencoe and Hutchinson grocery stores to give away dairy gift certificates, Rolf noted.

Carver County has its own Dairy Days committee that hosts various dairy promotional events throughout the year. Newell noted that this committee is unique to Carver County.

“This committee has injected continued enthusiasm for the dairy industry,” Newell added.

Fair time is a busy fundraising time for the dairy associations. Board members and other volunteers take their turn at running the malt stand at their respective fairs.

Malt wagons with the words inscribed “Got milk?” are a popular tradition at nearly all Minnesota fairs, including Wright and McLeod (Carver has its own building). Dairy farmers began operating the wagons in 1976 as part of their demand-building programs.

Local dairy promotion groups rent the wagons for events and sell malts and shakes. Last year, malt wagon operators used 15,876 gallons of malt mix, which equates to about 190,000 malts and shakes, Newell noted.

Whatever time of year it is, dairy enthusiasts are hard at work promoting what they know best, dairy projects and the dairy industry.

One way of doing that is through billboards. In McLeod County, a billboard west of Hutchinson promotes the dairy industry with the 3-A-Day (of dairy) logo. If one drives by Riteway Mechanical on Hwy 7 by Lester Prairie from July 25-Aug. 25, one will see the 3-A-Day promotion on the billboard there, as well. These advertisements are sponsored by the McLeod County ADA.

Working across the country

The parent of these county ADAs is the MDA. The MDA is a non-profit organization, funded and directed by the dairy producers in nine states – Arkansas, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota, and eastern Oklahoma.

Today, MDA represents 12,527 dairy farmers, about 20 percent of all US dairy operations. MDA programs reach nearly 35 million consumers through marketing, such as the billboards, promotion, nutrition education programs, and public relations campaigns. Offices are located in St. Paul, Ankeny, Iowa; and Overland Park, Kansas, according to the MDA’s website, www.midwestdairy.com.

Since the program began in 1984, dairy promotion programs have helped sell more than 225 billion pounds of milk above the amount projected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. During the same period, per capita consumption of dairy products has grown from 519 pounds to about 600 pounds.

MDA programs are implemented with partnerships to extend the health message: milk, cheese, and yogurt for a lifetime of good health.

Partners include McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Domino’s, Burger King, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, Kraft, General Mills, Cub Foods, HyVee Foods, Jewel-Osco, Wal- Mart, Schnucks, School Nutrition Association, National Education Association, American Association of Family Physicians, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Dietetic Association, National Medical Association, and the National Football League.

Culvers also recently got on board, and soon Burger King will join the partnership, Midwest Dairy Promotional Council Chair and Winsted dairy farmer Jeff Fasching noted.

These partnerships have reaped benefits, as well. Since their formation in 2004, dairy sales went from 690,000 units per week to 5.2 million at McDonald’s and Wendys, Fasching explained.

Programs such as these are what the dairy farmers’ money is used for, Fasching noted.

Fasching was elected by the local district, McLeod and Carver counties, to serve on the 22-person promotional council, and was further elected by the council to serve as an officer. He has been serving in some capacity (including the McLeod County ADA) on a dairy council or board for approximately 12 years.

The Midwest Dairy Promotional Council, which is overseen by the Dept. of Agriculture, was formed in 1982 as a place for the farmers’ check-off dollars to go to.

These check-off monies actually go into the Minnesota division, and 15 cents of each dollar goes to help promote the dairy industry with such programs as the partnerships, malt and milk stands at the state fair, and local dairy princess programs.

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