Adopt a Cow Program Connects Kids to Cows and Local Farms

Jill Hussels, RDN| View Author Bio

Four New England dairy farms are sharing their unique farm story featuring 16 dairy calves to over 36,000 students across New England this school year. This is possible thanks to New England dairy farmers and Discover Dairy’s Adopt a Cow program.

The Adopt a Cow Program is a year-long virtual experience for students to care for a calf and interact with a dairy farmer. From August 2021 – September 2022, over 1,200 New England classrooms enrolled in the program and were paired with a calf from a local dairy farm. After registering for the program, teachers received an introductory update with details about their host farm and calf followed by a series of updates and photos provided by their farm families that allowed them to watch their calf grow.

The dairy farmers at Fairholm Farm in Woodstock, CT, Fletcher Farm in Southampton, MA, Tullando Farm in Orford, NH, and Lambert Farm in Washington, VT are the first New England dairy farmers to share their stories through the Adopt a Cow program. Thanks to the words and photos from these farm families, all 16 calves offer students a glimpse into the life of a dairy calf, what environment they live in, what they eat, and how they are cared for to the delight of thousands of classrooms.

The 16 calves in the 2021-2022 Adopt A Cow Program

Calves pictured left to right:

  • Line 1: Clancy, Demi, Farmall, Angelica
  • Line 2: Lulu, Diane, Shine, Henna
  • Line 3: Daisy, Melinda, Piper, Sassy
  • Line 4: Peanut, Capri, Rebel, Sparkle

“We decided to be a host farm for the Adopt a Cow program because we love interacting with our community to show them how we care for our animals, says Nicole Fletcher of Fletcher Farm in MA.

It’s really fun for us to welcome kids into what a day in the life of a farmer looks like. We also believe in the importance of our community and consumers understanding where their milk comes from. Dairy farmers have a great story to share, and in-school programs like Adopt a Cow are a great way to get that story out there.”

 

Building trust in dairy

The interactions between farmers, calves, and kids lay the groundwork to increase trust and appreciation of dairy farming. It brings dairy to life for the next generation of dairy consumers and helps kids develop a connection with where their food comes from and showcase why dairy is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. Through updates, hands-on learning activities, curriculum, and virtual visits, students and their teachers gain a deeper understanding of the dairy industry and how milk is produced on a farm before it reaches their table and schools.

“This program has helped my students learn more about dairy and all the hard work that goes into farming said Stephanie C., a kindergarten teacher at Barre City Elementary Middle School in VT. We spend time learning about what cows eat and how to take care of them so they can produce milk. We also talk about how important dairy is for all of us. This year we were lucky enough to have our host farm in the next town! I am hoping to arrange something with our farm this year since they are local and really build upon this experience.”

“A lot of the program is picture-based and video-based, which is nice for the students,” said a participating teacher in Nashua, NH. “They like seeing all of the visuals, and they like to come up with questions about what’s going on with the calf.”

 

Since the program kicked off, kids and educators have communicated directly with the farms through an interactive “Contact Your Farmer” portal to ask questions about the calves and farming, including:

  • “How often are calves fed?
  • “What have you been eating since you were born?
  • “What’s the hardest part being a farmer?
  • “How does a cow make milk?”

Each program update includes suggestions on components of the Discover Dairy curriculum that teachers can incorporate into their lesson plans. Several of the lessons in the curriculum follow Common CORE standards in Math, Reading, and Science.  Second grade students from Hillsborough Elementary School in NH practiced English Language Arts standard this year by writing letters to Henna their adopted calf and farmer Ella of Tullando Farm.

Live farm chats

This spring, each farm will host a live chat to wrap up the program and enable kids to virtually meet their calf and share updates about her progress.  After seven months of updates, they finally get to meet their calf in real-time and chat with the farmer.

Each chat will be 30 minutes long, and the chat feature will be enabled so the farmer can answer students’ questions live.  Live chats will take place on the following dates and times (EST):

Farm Date Time 
Fairholm Farm, CT Tues. April 19 1:30pm
Fletcher Farm, MA Thurs. May 5 2:00pm
Lambert Farm, VT Wed. May 11 2:00pm
Tullando Farm, NH Wed. May 18 2:00pm

The sign-up period for the 2022-23 school year opens on May 1 and closes on September 15, 2022. To learn more about the Adopt a Cow program, visit DiscoverDairy.com/adopt.To join one or more of the live chats being held in April and May, go to the Dairy Excellence Foundation’s channel on YouTube. Visit the channel link or search “Dairy Excellence Foundation” at YouTube.com

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