Earth Day Is a Daily Commitment for Dairy Farmers, Checkoff | U.S. Dairy

Earth Day Is a Daily Commitment for Dairy Farmers, Checkoff

  • April 19, 2021
  • Marilyn Hershey
  • DMI Chair

When my kids were younger, Earth Day often meant they’d come home from school with a seedling in a Styrofoam cup for us to plant at the farm.

These days, Earth Day is much more. It’s taken on a holiday-esque feel, complete with global celebrations and opportunities for awareness campaigns. But for farmers, we never saw Earth Day differently from any other day. It’s because it’s in our nature and our legacy to care for the planet and its precious resources.

Simply put, the earth is the pulse of our farm.

Farmers understand Earth Day has expanded far beyond the Styrofoam cup days. We see it as another opportunity for dairy to showcase all that we have done for generations and continue to do in the name of planetary health.

To my fellow farmers, you understand well the many ways we conserve and care every day. I love looking out on our land and seeing the result of the stream bank fencing we installed along a creek on our property a couple decades ago. It has created a lush habitat where wildlife now lives. I saw an eagle fly overhead the other day and that would have been a rare site years ago. The fencing was installed to help preserve the quality of water that makes its way to the Chesapeake Bay, but the nature aspect of it is beautiful to see.

We also cherish our soil and maintain its quality for two key reasons. One, healthy soil leads to healthy crops and that leads to healthy feed for our cows. Two, our soil is an important source of carbon sequestration that lowers our farm’s footprint. We follow best management practices and work with experts who guide us on the appropriate amount of nutrients we can apply to our soil.

These are just two ways of many that our industry of 31,000 dairy farm families can collectively share, though we haven’t always been the best at telling these stories over the years and being at the table when decisions are being made that impact us.

It’s why we’re excited about the 2050 Environmental Stewardship Goals and Net Zero Initiative that will illustrate our commitment and provide the proof points to consumers who seek and demand the best from industries such as ours. We’re eager to showcase dairy’s vital role in sustainable, equitable and secure food systems.

Shining a light on our sustainable ways is a year-around priority for the Dairy Management Inc. (DMI) team. Earth Day is more than a day circled on the checkoff’s calendar, but efforts certainly ramp up this time of year. The work zeroes in on three priority audiences:

  • Thought Leaders – Those who consider themselves informed on the issues of the day. They are leaders and decision-makers within their organizations, and they expect stakeholders to understand the climate challenge is a systemic problem interconnected with multiple global issues.
  • Conflicted Health Seeker Millennial Parents – They’re concerned not only about what they’re feeding their kids but how it’s made. They’re expecting organizations and the people who make their products to help them be more environmentally friendly and ethical in their everyday lives.
  • Gen Z (aged 10-23) – They’re looking for authenticity and expect companies and brands to help them navigate the anxieties they face, particularly when it comes to global issues such as the environment. In fact, according to a YPulse Sustainability Report of Gen Z and Millennial audiences (captured here as 13-39 years old), two in five young people worry about climate change every week.

You’ll see us make use of our channels to reach these audiences, including www.USDairy.com and its social media properties where we’ll publish videos, articles and infographics highlighting farmers’ sustainability efforts, such as this piece on Washington farmer Austin Allred.

DMI experts and farmers also have been engaged at important events, including the World Economic Forum and The Economist Global Sustainability Week in March.

Other strategies include cultural influencers publishing dairy sustainability content via their social channels and a new video from media partner VOX examining what happens to nutrition and the environment if the U.S. dairy cow herd was removed. The video is based on the recent U.S. Without Cows study. The first VOX video on Cow Power was released last fall.

Finally, we are continuing efforts with media members, including inviting influential sustainability reporters on farm tours and creating a resource guide with key information.

Consumers’ focus on climate issues and the quality of the earth are here to stay and will only intensify. The efforts led by the checkoff and others in our industry are more critical than ever.

We’re more than ready. Dairy has a rich story and it needs to be shared with those who may not know that Earth Day is something we’ve been celebrating every day for quite some time.