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Students Learn About Milk through Partnership with Local Dairy

By Kendra Wills, Michigan Farm to Institution Network Outreach Committee Member

Located just an hour north of Grand Rapids, Country Dairy, a local dairy farm has been providing milk to students of Grand Rapids Public Schools for several years now.  The family owned dairy farm is unique in that it is one of only a few in Michigan that bottles its own milk on the farm.  Additionally the farm makes their own cheese and ice cream on-site!

Through a partnership with the farm, students at GRPS have been able to tour the dairy operation on school fieldtrips and see first-hand how milk is produced.  Additionally, Jeff Swanson and Will Hendrian from Country Dairy visited students in two elementary schools last fall during National Farm to School Month.  They shared a short video about the farm and gave students a chance to ask questions about the operation.  The following is a sample of the questions students asked: 

Question:  Why does a cow produce milk?
Answer: Cows produce milk after they have a baby cow, called a calf. A calf needs one gallon of milk each day. Since cows produce ten gallons of milk, there is a lot of extra milk for people to drink and make dairy products out of.

Question: Where do the boy cows live?
Answer: Only female cows produce milk so when a boy calf is born it is sent to another farm to live. Many times male cows are raised as beef steers.

Question: Why do cows wear ear tags?
Answer: Country Dairy gives each cow an ear tag, which is like an earring to humans, when they are young. Their ear tag has his or her name on it and a number so we can tell each cow apart. We also write the parent’s names on the ear tag. Every cow has a name because we think people take better care of animals when they are named. Mr. Will’s favorite cow is named Pizza and she is 15 years old, which is quite old for a dairy cow.

By sourcing from a local dairy and actively partnering with the producers, the students of GRPS receive the opportunity to make a connection to where their food comes from.  An important element to consider as we raise the next generation of eaters and consumers.

To learn more about the GRPS Nutrition services visit  Want to see the farm in action?  Check out this video made last year about Country Dairy and hear what selling locally means to the farm.