By Elizabeth Karides, 2021-22 Maryland Dairy Princess
In 1937, June was dubbed National Milk Month as a way to distribute extra milk during the hot summer. Since then, June has evolved into National Dairy Month. Though it may sound silly to dedicate an entire thirty days to this food group, National Dairy Month gives us a chance to reflect on the vital work dairy farmers do for our community and the environment.
For starters, our farmers work 365 days a year to provide milk, an undeniably healthy beverage packed with 13 essential nutrients like calcium, potassium, zinc, and Vitamin A, to neighborhoods far and near. These nutrients are linked to immune health, bone and muscle health, reduced inflammation, and reduced risk of chronic diseases like osteoporosis. From milk, we get some other delicious, and incredibly nutritious, products like yogurt and cheese which are both excellent sources of calcium to keep our bones and teeth strong.
In addition to providing our community nourishing foods, dairy farmers are also excellent environmental stewards. By incorporating buffer strips on their farmland to collect any manure or fertilizer-rich runoff before it enters waterways like Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay, making use of robotic feed pushers to reduce the need for gas-powered equipment by maximizing feed, and utilizing equipment known as methane digesters (which transform manure into a clean source of electricity to power their homes and farms), dairy farmers are truly dedicated when it comes to environmental stewardship. And given the fact that the U.S dairy industry’s carbon footprint shrank 19% between 2007 and 2017, the future of environmental protection through dairy farming seems bright. Not to mention, since practically all dairy farms are family farms, for farmers it is especially important to protect land, air, and water for future generations.
So there you have it, the next time you are enjoying a cool glass of milk, a warm grilled cheese, or a refreshing scoop of ice cream later this summer, think about the hardworking people who provided it.