As National Dairy Council (NDC) looked forward to a second century of evidence-based nutrition education, it became evident that the definition of health and wellness was evolving to include the entire food system. Consumers now want to know where their food comes from and whether the people who raise or grow it do so ethically. To demonstrate NDC’s leadership in sustainable food systems from farm to table, they hosted a Thought Leader Summit where more than 200 national and local health professionals from the culinary, nutrition, health and wellness and agricultural communities for immersion into the science and insights on dairy’s role from farm to table. This interactive Summit was packed with educational and application sessions ranging from scientific presentations to an agricultural experience at Fair Oaks Farms in Indiana.
Arizona was represented by four registered dietitian nutritionists that have influential positions in the nutrition field:
- Jennifer Hernandez, MS, RD. Dietetic Internship Director, Maricopa County Department of Public Health
- Ashlee Linares-Gaffer, MS, RDN. Assistant Professor of Practice and Dietetic Internship Coordinator, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, University of Arizona
- Traci Grgich, MS, RD, SNS. Associate Professor, School of Nutrition and Health Promotion, Arizona State University
- Carol Weekly, RD, SNS. Director of Child Nutrition, Queen Creek Unified School District
These leaders in the Arizona nutrition arena were overwhelmed with the depth of scientific information presented as they listened to the state of the science on dairy including protein, calcium, dairy fat, lactose, meal patterns, aging, blood pressure and bone health. They also heard about sustainability, food waste and global food needs. Presentations on the FARM program (Farmers Assuring Responsible Management) and NEWtrient, an agricultural sustainability company, were new areas for dietitians as they are not typically informed about agricultural programs aimed at responsible land and animal care or sustainability and recycling of a variety of ag waste into new, usable products. We learned about several uses of manure from fertilizer to planting pots to electricity and even aviation fuel. Recycling waste from dairy farms into usable, beneficial products a win-win for the dairy farmers, the community and the planet.
But wait, there’s more… A trip to Fair Oaks Farm in Indiana! Fair Oaks was established in 1999 by Dr. Mike McCloskey, a veterinarian and dairy farmer, and his wife Sue, and is made up of 11 family-run dairy farms milking approximately 30,000 cows. In 2004, Fair Oaks opened the 200 acre campus to the public for tours of an interactive education center to learn about dairy farming. In addition to the modern dairy, visitors can also learn about modern pig farming and modern crop production as well. Fair Oaks has implemented several innovative ways to manage manure in a way that is good for their farms, the community and the environment to “honor the harvest.” They use manure to generate enough electricity to power the entire farming and education operations, and sell extra energy back to the grid to power 750 homes every day. They also produce compressed natural gas to fuel all the trucks and tankers used by the farm.
The Fair Oaks Farm tour was a highlight of the trip for the AZ attendees! They even were able to witness a calf birth, a first for all of our Arizona dietitians!
The Honor the Harvest Summit really helped to educate these dietitians on dairy from farm to table so they can now share that information with all the interns, students, clients and colleagues with whom they work.