HARRISBURG, Pa. — On Friday, October 9, the Dairy Leaders of Tomorrow program, managed by the Dairy Excellence Foundation, hosted its first-ever virtual farm tour. Approximately 28,000 people streamed the virtual farm tour, which included in-depth tours and career explorations at two dairy farms in the Somerset, Pennsylvania area. Students from kindergarten through 12th grade participated in the virtual learning opportunity, joining from traditional classrooms and home school classrooms across the nation.
“This year has been challenging for teachers and students in a lot of ways, but one of the best things to come out of it has been the new opportunities to connect with classrooms across Pennsylvania and beyond,” said Brittany Snyder, dairy education program manager at the Dairy Excellence Foundation. “Our virtual farm tour was a great way to give students a firsthand look at the Pennsylvania dairy industry while introducing them to the multitude of career opportunities that are available – whether they have grown up in the industry or not.”
(Andrea Stoltzfus of Pennwood Farms gave a virtual farm tour of her family’s dairy operation)
Students heard from a variety of agriculture professionals, including dairy farmers, veterinarians, nutritionists, agriculture accountants, robot technicians, and crop specialists. Students received a glimpse inside their daily responsibilities and had opportunities to ask live questions about dairy nutrition, herd health, robotic milking technology, cheese-making, agritourism, animal care, and more.
The first stop on the farm tour was at Maple Bottom Farm in Dawson, Pennsylvania. Students learned about the farm’s robotic milking technology and talked to the technician who manages the technology on a daily basis. They also learned about the farm’s cheese-making process, marketing efforts, and agritourism initiatives, including a bed and breakfast and sunflower maze.
“My girls were so excited and intrigued to see and learn about the cows, calves, and the robotic milking process. They were asking me so many questions, and this tour being virtual was perfect because I could hit pause, go point to things on the screen, and stop to explain different things to them,” said a home school teacher from Alabama. “I look forward to all the fun learning experiences this program offers and what my home school will get from them! Thank you to Dairy Leaders of Tomorrow and Maple Bottom Farm for the awesome virtual tour of your dairy farm.”
The second part of the tour took place at Pennwood Farms in Berlin, Pennsylvania. After enjoying a tour of the Stoltzfus family farm and meeting the cows and calves, students heard from the farm’s veterinarian and learned about herd health, animal care, the farm’s methane digester, and the In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) process.
(Kevin Hohal, robotics technician at Maple Bottom Farm, discussed robotic milking technology during the virtual farm tour)
“I loved the variety of information that was given during the tour. My students are very curious. They actually were interested in parts of the tour I would have considered too in-depth, such as the nutrition information, but they were paying attention, listening and asking questions. Therefore, it was all great information,” shared another teacher who participated in the virtual tour.
Hydrite Chemical Co., a company offering expertise in chemical distribution and food and dairy sanitation, sponsored this year’s farm tour. Zoetis, a global animal health company, also provided support.
“I’m so thankful that so many people were interested in learning about both farms. We both have so many things in common, yet we’re so unique. It’s great that everyone had a chance to learn about these two Pennsylvania dairy operations,” said Andrea Stoltzfus who led part of the virtual tour at Pennwood Farms. “To know that each farmer is working so hard to produce the best, safest food source possible and take the best care of their animals, that’s an important lesson that everybody can learn – no matter if you’re in southwest Pennsylvania, the northern roads of Maine, or anywhere out in the Midwest.”
To learn more about future virtual farm tours and other learning opportunities, visit www.dairyleadersoftomorrow.com. Students and teachers can also watch recordings of the virtual farm tours by following the Dairy Excellence Foundation on YouTube.
Dairy Leaders of Tomorrow is a curriculum designed specifically to prepare high school students to work in the dairy industry. Managed by the Dairy Excellence Foundation, the program provides dairy business and herd management courses to high school educators and students interested in a dairy production career.
–Emily Barge, Center for Dairy Excellence