Yesterday, in spite of questionable weather, delays because of a traffic accident, a few minor technology glitches, and high humidity; Kenton County Public Library and the City of Erlanger engaged nearly 200 people in one of our most unique and educational outdoor programs so far this summer! The Southland Dairy Farmers have an educational program-on-wheels called the Mobile Dairy Classroom, and it will come to your school or event (within their service area, which covers several states) for free! The Mobile Classroom is a self-contained fully modern milking station and educational tool, which arrives with a highly knowledgeable dairy farmer/educator, give-aways, and a live cow!
The Mobile Dairy Classroom is a 32 foot long trailer, pulled by a pickup truck. Inside the trailer is space for the cow (Daisy, a Jersey cow, visited us) to ride, some storage, the automated milking equipment, and an area for the demonstration which has a removable side. The Classroom is completely self-contained, and not even electrical hook-up is required. The presenter (Megan, in our case, who was fantastic!) will set up the trailer, set up the milking equipment, talk about the nutrition in milk, the anatomy and needs of the cow, how the cows are fed, housed, and cared for, and how the milking process works. She then demonstrates how the cow is prepped for milking, hooks her up to the milking equipment, and demonstrates how the milking process itself actually works. The program includes a monitor-enhanced presentation; while the pertinent facts are delivered in an entertaining and interactive way by the presenter, she also uses images and information on a screen attached to the side of the Classroom to enhance and support the points she makes. Among other things, many images of dairy farms and milk processing centers are included. Visit their website here: https://www.southwestdairyfarmers.com/pages/mobile-dairy-classroom for more information. In an urban/suburban area like we are, it is likely that many of those who attended had no idea what a dairy farm involved prior to this program!
At the end of her presentation, Megan had reusable bags and cups to give away, and she did a great job of answering a variety questions from both the kids and the adults who were present. She answered questions ranging from “How many cows are on a typical dairy farm in our state?”, to “Have you ever had a blind cow on your farm?” She even handled the “Where do the cows go when they don’t give milk any more?” question gracefully, honestly, and unflinchingly. Ironically, hamburgers were the on the menu for the lunch service yesterday. Even though some of the kids, and most of the adults, made the connection, the question was handled in such a way that no one seemed to find the information too upsetting.
We also offered an “ice cream social” as part of the program. Our original plan was to serve lunch first while the Classroom was being set up, host the presentation, then serve ice cream while she finished up and prepared to leave. However, she got held up on the interstate by an accident -stuck in traffic- and ended up arriving 40 minutes late. She did call several times to keep us apprised of the situation, and upon arrival, got set up and was prepared to deliver the presentation surprisingly quickly. Her phone calls allowed us to keep the attendees informed, and everyone seemed content to wait. While she was preparing the cow and Classroom, we were serving the ice cream; which gave the kids something else to do and kept them out of her way. The ice cream was delivered for us by the lunch service staff in charge of the state Summer Feeding Program lunch, and we supplied various toppings. The ice cream was in individual-serving cups; this helped us to control portions (which Megan also addressed in her talk!) and helped to keep the mess to a minimum.
Because of the weather- it was raining prior to (and following!) the program, and was extremely humid during program time- and the self-contained nature of the program, I had almost decided not to take books with me. I decided at the last minute that I should “just in case” and was glad I had them to share. While we were waiting for Megan and Daisy to arrive, and while cycling through the large numbers of people using the lunch service, I read two books. The Eric Litwin book Groovy Joe: Ice Cream and Dinosaurs was a big hit and a lot of fun. I told the kids that “Just this once!”, I was giving them permission to talk with their mouths full, since they were still eating lunch. I had them repeat the musical refrain found throughout the book as I read. I also shared the book Ice Cream, by Elisha Cooper, which follows the commercial production of ice cream from cow to store.
It was a great program; well-attended and very educational. The kids had a lot of fun, and even the adults seemed very engaged. Megan did a terrific job, and so did Daisy, who didn’t complain even when a noisy train ran through the depot right behind us! The only cost to the library was for the ice cream, which we got at the highly reduced food service cost, and the toppings. It was a great event, in spite of its set-backs! Perhaps the best photo from the day was of this boy, who wanted to be absolutely sure he had the very best seat when Daisy was ready. He may have even skipped the ice cream for this!