Milk means more for 4-H youth: celebrating National Dairy Month

June is National Dairy Month, but Michigan youth involved in the 4-H dairy project celebrate and work hard every day of the year.

Michigan 4-H dairy projects mean friends, education, travel, scholarship and limitless possibilities for Michigan youth! Photo credit: ANR Communications | MSU Extension

Michigan 4-H dairy projects mean friends, education, travel, scholarship and limitless possibilities for Michigan youth! Photo credit: ANR Communications | MSU Extension

June is National Dairy Month; a time when we can all have that extra scoop of ice cream, a little more cream in our coffee, or a really cheesy piece of pizza with pride. For youth enrolled in dairy projects through Michigan 4-H, the youth development branch of Michigan State University Extension, National Dairy Month is a time to celebrate the dedication, hard work and commitment to the dairy industry they display every day. Milk means more than a delicious, wholesome drink for youth engaged in dairy science; milk means friends, education, travel, scholarship and limitless possibilities.

There are more than 2,400 youth enrolled in dairy projects throughout the state of Michigan. Some may live on a farm and be the next generation to produce high quality milk for the state and country, while others could be the first in their family to venture into agriculture. No matter their background, youth play an important role in the dairy industry, a leading segment in Michigan agriculture.

''For youth interested in learning more about the dairy industry, there are an infinite number of ways youth can be involved at the local, state and national levels. Contact your local Extension office to find out about dairy 4-H clubs in your area or in neighboring counties. This is a great place to start learning and meeting other youth, parents and volunteers with a similar interests in the dairy industry.

Open to all youth in Michigan, from novice to expert, there are several events and programs throughout the year to help further dairy science, industry, advocacy education and personal development for any experience level. These include:

  • 4-H Exploration Days: This three-day pre-college program is held every June on Michigan State University’s campus. More than 200 educational sessions are offered, including multiple dairy science sessions for those just getting started as well as for youth with more advanced knowledge.
  • 4-H State Awards Program: Occurring during the first part of Exploration Days, the 4-H State Awards Program is the highest honor a youth in Michigan may receive in their project area. Dairy is one of 19 project areas youth may apply for in either the junior or senior division.
  • MMPA/4-H Milk Marketing Tour: This two-day tour is hosted by the Michigan Milk Producers Association and provides youth an in-depth look at milk marketing through tours, presentations and activities. The event is taking place June 25-26.  All food and lodging costs are covered and youth who participate in this tour may earn a scholarship to attend the National 4-H Dairy Conference in Madison, Wisconsin during World Dairy Expo, September 28 – October 1, 2014.
  • ''Michigan 4-H Youth Dairy Days: This is the largest, state-wide event for 4-H dairy youth in Michigan and happens every July at the Pavilion for Agriculture and Livestock Education, running concurrently with Michigan Dairy Expo and Ag Expo. More than 200 youth congregate at the Pavilion for four days of educational competitions, including the state dairy management/skill-a-thon contest, dairy quiz bowl, dairy judging and dairy showmanship, in addition to breed shows and the Great Dairy Adventure, a consumer education day. Multiple scholarships are awarded to youth to help further their dairy science education in either two- or four-year college programs. In addition to hosting the state contests during Dairy Days, winning senior teams earn the opportunity to compete in national dairy science and judging contests in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania during the All-American Dairy Show, Louisville, Kentucky at the North American International Livestock Exposition, and Madison, Wisconsin at the World Dairy Expo.
  • Michigan Dairy Ambassador Program: A part of the Great Lakes Regional Dairy Conference in February, the Dairy Ambassador Program is a scholarship opportunity for youth to gain experience in agricultural advocacy, receive training in media relations and network with industry representatives. In 2014, 12 youth completed the training program and three were named Dairy Ambassador representatives for the year.
  • ''Michigan 4-H Dairy Conference: Three days of learning, fellowship and fun are in store for youth and chaperones who attend this annual conference. Held in the spring, the event moves around the state to allow youth the opportunity to see how dairying can differ throughout Michigan. Youth participate in a variety of dairy science related activities, including a practice dairy management/skill-a-thon contest and dairy quiz bowl, a visit to a local dairy farm and interactive educational presentations from Michigan State University faculty, large animal veterinarians and industry experts. The conference is a great way for youth to meet fellow 4-H members outside of their county and learn about new activities from other clubs.

The opportunities for youth to become engaged in Michigan’s dairy industry are endless and extend well beyond National Dairy Month! While you are enjoying your frozen yogurt, drinking that glass of ice cold milk or melting cheese on a hamburger during a summer cookout, remember the hardworking, dedicated youth and adults who brought that delicious dairy product to your table.

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