Adopt A Cow initiative pairs newborn calves with Virginia students
The Adopt-A-Cow program is bringing the reality of dairy farming to children in Virginia, as they “own” a cow during the school year.
The Dairy Alliance is working through Discover Dairy, an initiative of the Center for Dairy Excellence, to help students in rural settings and in urban areas learn about the dairy industry and its cows.
Elizabeth Moretz, Senior Manager of Farmer Relations at the alliance who runs the program in Virginia, said the program reaches into the eight Southeastern states. With this year its first, the program has seen 24,838 classrooms enrolled with 228,335 students in the region learning about life on a dairy farm. Of these, 2,693 of these classrooms are in Virginia with over 28,000 students who have adopted a calf.
Participating students received information in November about their newborn calves, including an introductory video and kit about the calf and the dairy farm she lives on, photos of the calf, activity sheets, a PowerPoint presentation, and a suggested lesson that follows Common Core standards.
Moretz said the calves in the Virginia program live on Kim Martin’s Catawba View Dairy in Fincastle, Va. In the spring the students will be able to take a virtual tour of the farm, interact with Martin, see their calves and learn more about the farm.
“I am really excited to be participating in this year’s Adopt-A-Calf program,” Martin told The Virginia State Dairyman, a publication of the Virginia State Dairymen’s Association. “It is truly a great example of forward-thinking education to help kids better understand the production aspect of where their dairy products originate. This strategy of combining fun and facts is a great tool for use as farmers and dairy advocates.”
During the school year, the students received three updates on how their calf was doing on the farm. The virtual tour in April will give them a final view of what is happening to their calf, how it has grown and how it is cared for by the farmer.
The virtual tour falls into a traditional pattern of farmers welcoming classes to visit, especially as an end-of-year field trip. Moretz said the virtual tours will continue as they let so many more children be part of a tour than an on-site visit.
The Adopt-A -Cow program is free. It is available for use by teachers, homeschool teachers, after school programs, library programs and youth agriculture programs.
The program is designed to let students have updates on their own calf. They learn about agricultural practices and the importance of both dairy and dairy cows, Moretz said.
Asked if the pandemic and its changes to education has had any effect on the program, Moretz said there is no way to compare since this is Adopt-A-Cow’s first year.
“It’s a perfect time to start it,” she maintained. “It’s a great way to get the message to students even though they are not in the classroom.”