Adopt a Cow Program Connects Kids to Cows and Local Farms

Jill Hussels, RDN| View Author Bio

Four New England dairy farms shared their unique farm story featuring nine dairy calves to over 60,000 students across New England this school year. This is possible thanks to New England dairy farmers and Discover Dairy’s Adopt a Cow program.

Registration for the 2023-24 school year is now open and closes on September 15, 2023. Click here to register.

The Adopt a Cow Program is a year-long virtual experience for students to care for a calf and interact with a dairy farmer. Since October 2022, over 1,600 New England classrooms have participated 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, including an adoption certificate, 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 Fort Hill Farms in Thompson, CT, Luther Belden Farm in North Hatfield, MA, EMMA Acres in Exeter, RI, and Liberty Hill Farm in Rochester, VT are the New England dairy farmers who shared their stories this year through the Adopt a Cow program. Thanks to the words and photos from these farm families, all nine calves offered 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.

Calves pictured left to right:

  • Line 1: Piernik, Pollywonka, Liberty
  • Line 2: Fall Feeling, September Baby, Dorito
  • Line 3: River Walker, Violet, Swiss Miss

“We were so excited to be a host farm for the Adopt a Cow program this year, says Maggie Laprise of EMMA Acres. We know the importance of teaching kids about where their food comes from. This program allows us to connect with communities throughout state to reach kids who may never get the chance to see a cow up close. This program is the best way to learn about dairy farming if your school is unable to make a trip out to a dairy farm. It was fun to see the kids all year long come to our farm and look for their adopted calves too.”  

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.

“Through Adopt a Cow, my students had quite a bit of discussion with each other about the things they learned about a dairy farm and how we get dairy products. It tied in nicely with our social studies unit about producers and consumers.”  ~ Heidi, Middle School Teacher, MA 

“My students were so excited about our calf. They showed everyone who entered our classroom her picture (we have it hanging proudly on our board). They wrote letters (and drew pictures) and sent them to our farmer and she wrote back and sent us pictures back. It was a great, hands-on way for my students to learn about dairy farming.” ~ Cara, Elementary School Teacher, MA  
Our favorite part [of the program] is seeing the students engaged and asking every day how their calf is doing. Some have even written stories about our class pet. They get excited every time we tell them that there is an update. Some of them have even stated they would like to work and live on a farm one day.”  ~ Connie, Elementary School Teacher, NH 

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 last school year practiced English Language Arts standard by writing letters to Henna their adopted calf and farmer Ella of Tullando Farm.

Live Farm Chats

These last few months, each farm hosted a live chat to wrap up the program. After seven months of updates, students finally got to meet their calf in real-time and chat with the farmer. Each chat was 30 minutes long, and the chat feature was enabled so the farmer could answer students’ questions live. Live chat recordings can be viewed on the Dairy Excellence Foundation’s YouTube channel or by clicking on the link recording below.

Farm Watch live chat recording
Fort Hill Farms, CT
Luther Belden Farm, MA
EMMA Acres, RI
Liberty Hill Farm, VT

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