ALBANY — It is a highly anticipated time of year, the time of year when spring weather finally arrives and productivity on our Northeast farms runs rampant. As we round the corner into June, the bulk of the corn and soybean crop is planted and many farms have successfully completed first cutting hay harvest. The month of June is notoriously known as Dairy Month. First introduced to consumers as National Milk Month back in 1937 as a way to promote and encourage milk consumption during times of peak supply. Dairy Month still resonates with consumers and serves as an annual tradition to celebrate the wide variety of contributions from our local dairy industry.
Another approach to the promotion and recognition of local dairy farms was established nearly forty years ago with the North East Dairy Farm Beautification Program’s Dairy of Distinction Award. Since 1983, the Dairy of Distinction Award has been awarded to dairy farms that strive to maintain an attractive farmstead. The award is based on the premise that clean and attractive farmsteads promote a positive dairy industry image and encourages dairy product consumption. While recipients of the award predominantly hail from New York and Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Vermont and Maryland also offer this recognition to their deserving dairy producers. Qualifications for receipt of the award, which is a metal Dairy of Distinction sign that is displayed roadside, are as follows: completion of an application, farms must actively ship milk and must score a 90 or above out of a possible 100 points on the evaluation. Volunteer judges typically conduct evaluations during the month of May or June. Farms awarded the Dairy of Distinction Award are reviewed annually to ensure they are in good standing with the program’s requirements. Here in New York there are roughly 500 Dairy of Distinction farms. An aging farming population combined with shrinking profitability margins and limited milk marketing options have significantly influenced the number of dairy farms that call New York home.
The NY Dairy of Distinction Program is a volunteer run organization that continues to oversee both the award process as well as the annual re-evaluation of farms. The continued effort to maintain the integrity of this long established program is made possible with help from volunteers that cover ten districts across NY State. We are fortunate to have the help of several Cornell Cooperative Extension personnel with ties to the dairy industry that provide much needed assistance. American Dairy Association- Northeast (ADANE) generously provides significant financial support. The financial contributions allow us to supply winning farms with signage, district representatives plan recognition events for farms and mileage costs incurred from judging will be reimbursed to drivers. In addition to the regional Dairy of Distinction Awards awarded across the state, our organization participates in the annual Dairy Day Celebration during the New York State Fair. During this event, awards for Person of Distinction and Business of Distinction are presented as a way to recognize those individuals and organizations that support the Dairy of Distinction’s missions and values.
On behalf of the NY Dairy of Distinction Program, I would like to invite you to become a part of our organization by volunteering. District representatives and judges are needed in various regions across the state. Our Board of Directors will have an opening for secretary after July 1 2021. This is the only paid position in our organization. Please feel free to contact NY State Dairy of Distinction President, Marylynn Collins, for more information on volunteering or to apply for the secretary position. Email Marylynn at email@example.com.
–Cornell Cooperative Extension of Oneida County
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