There's an entire month dedicated to dairy? Yes, yes there is.
Season 2 Episode 1 Blog: An Interview with Tara Vander Dussen aka the New Mexico Milkmaid
In this episode of the 'From Urban to Ag' podcast, I spoke with Tara Vander Dussen, also known as the New Mexico Milkmaid, about National Dairy Month and how the dairy industry incorporates sustainable practices. Tara is an environmental scientist, dairy farmer, wife, mom, and an extremely passionate advocate for her industry!
Photo courtesy of Tara Vander Dussen
National Dairy Month
Did you know that June is National Dairy Month? Well, now, you do!
National Dairy Month, known initially as National Milk month, dates back to the 1930s. According to Tara Vander Dussen, the purpose of this campaign was to "encourage families to use milk in their diets during the warm summer months." During the summer months, there would be a decrease in demand for milk and a surplus in supply. National Dairy Month encouraged milk consumption to equalize demand and supply.
In honor of National Dairy Month, Vander Dussen organized a virtual 'Milk Flip Cup Tournament' with farmers from across the United States competing. As of June 23rd, the tournament had raised almost three-thousand dollars to donate to Feeding America, and had 16 farmers competing from, "all across the united states…from Florida to New York, to California," says Vander Dussen.
But why do people encourage milk consumption at all? Why is it so important to include in our diet?
Milk has one of the highest biological values, aka it's good for you! One serving of milk has vitamin C, A, B, D, and other essential nutrients, including 8g of protein. If you're looking for more information on the benefits of milk, click here.
Before moving forward, I always feel the need to clarify; I am NOT saying that you should drink milk even if you are lactose intolerant.
Don't like the taste? You're lactose intolerant? Maybe downing a full cup of milk isn't for you, and that is a-okay. There are several medical or personal reasons why you might choose not to consume dairy, and I respect your right to making that decision for yourself.
But if you are someone who enjoys dairy products, but experience irritation when after consuming these products, are you confident that you are lactose intolerant? Some individuals who previously thought they were lactose intolerant are now finding that they can drink a specific kind of cows milk. Learn more about this in my blog post on a2 milk!
Do you want to hear more about National Dairy Month and milk consumption?
"The actual cow plays a huge part in our sustainability story," says Vander Dussen.
Agriculture tends to be one of the first things people point the finger at in regards to concerns about our environment (most likely a topic for another entire blog post). Over the past several years, the dairy industry has shown marked improvement in sustainability efforts. According to an article published by Progressive Dairy Editor, Karen Lee, "Dairy farmers have long been stewards of the land. Data shows producing a gallon of milk in 2017 required 30% less water and 21% less land and had a 19% smaller carbon footprint than it did in 2007."
'Sustainability' has become a buzz word, especially in environmental or agricultural conversations, but it is a word with many meanings.
When thinking of the word 'sustainability' within agriculture, your mind might automatically jump to regenerative agriculture and soil health, but the term can refer to more than just the quality of your soil (though that is an important aspect).
"People want sustainability to be something big, and it doesn't have to be. It is just simple, every-day management practices that can help a dairy be more efficient and sustainable," says Vander Dussen, "when you improve a system and make it more efficient, it becomes more sustainable as well."
Photo courtesy of Tara Vander Dussen
There are several ways that dairy farmers can incorporate sustainable practices; carbon sequestration, water conservation, digesters, renewable energies, and the cows' feed. You read that correctly, the cows' daily rations can play a huge role in sustainability.
Cows can consume "byproducts from ethanol, distillers grains, and breweries," says Vander Dussen. A cows' digestive system is much different than humans. Therefore, they can consume foods that a human wouldn't be able to. Whether that be citrus peels, almond hulls, vegetable scraps, the cows are, "eating things that would have otherwise ended up in landfills," says Vander Dussen.
According to Vander Dussen, "we are just scratching the surface on some of the technologies that are going to help propel us towards that 2050 goal."