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Great Dairy Adventure maps milk from farm to table

OKEMOS, MI — Consuming milk and dairy foods is a convenient and nutritious way to increase your intake of quality protein, calcium and seven other essential nutrients, but did you know that in Michigan, milk is locally produced and among the safest foods available?

Those attending this year's Great Dairy Adventure from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. on July 22 at the Michigan State University (MSU) Pavilion for Agriculture and Livestock Education will have an opportunity to experience the multiple steps milk takes on its journey from the cow to the kitchen table and sample numerous dairy treats from Michigan-based businesses.

The 18th annual family-oriented and volunteer-operated educational event is a fun family outing, a popular field trip destination for many summer children's programs and families enjoying a Michigan staycation. There is no admission fee to attend the Great Dairy Adventure, and parking is free.

In addition to learning how milk travels from a local farm to one of Michigan's 90 dairy processing plants to your local grocery store, school or institution within 48 hours of leaving the dairy farm, there will be a series of interactive displays and hands-on activities including the "I milked a cow!" booth presented by the MSU Dairy Club, visiting one-on-one with MSU large animal veterinary students during hands-on activities with cows, experimenting with dairy recipes and creating craft projects, petting baby calves, and touching and smelling the feeds that cows eat.

"Our hope is that event attendees leave the event with a better understanding of the multistep journey milk takes from the farm to our refrigerators," said Carla McLachlan, MSU animal science event and program manager.

"We'll share the importance of including milk and dairy products as part of our family's balanced diet, in addition to introducing visitors to the farmers who care for their cows 365 days a year to ensure safe and wholesome dairy products."

The Great Dairy Adventure will offer a variety of take-home craft projects and educational stations suitable for kids of all ages ranging from making and eating "cheese critters" to coloring stations and lace-up cow crafts. There will be numerous photo opportunities, including posing with family and friends at a "selfie" milk mustache photo booth. MSU athletes will be on site for autographs and to pose for photos.

There will also be plenty of free, locally sourced dairy treats, including pizza served by Domino's Pizza. Several other Michigan-based businesses will be distributing free samples of milk, cheese and yogurt produced using milk from Michigan farm families.

Parents and people who work with children will receive nutrition education materials offering simple ideas for teaching kids about the importance of including dairy in their daily diets. They will also receive tips on adding physical activity to their daily routine to help develop stronger bones as part of a healthy lifestyle.

The Great Dairy Adventure is part of the state's largest annual dairy event, the Michigan Dairy Expo, a five-day event that brings together young people from across the state to compete in different contests. Youth compete in breed shows and showmanship contests; vie for awards in dairy cattle evaluation, quiz bowls and management contests; network with friends and industry colleagues; and celebrate the dairy industry. Winners of the youth contests earn an opportunity to represent the state at national contests later in the year. Additionally, dairy producers from across the state compete in open class breed shows organized by the Michigan Purebred Dairy Cattle Association.

This year's expo takes place July 20-24, and all activities take place at the MSU Pavilion.

For more information about the Great Dairy Adventure or the Michigan Dairy Expo, contact Carla McLachlan at 517-432-5402.