Hi, my name is Megan Johnson and I am a dietetic intern with the Idaho Dairy Council. I am a senior in the University of Idaho Coordinated Program in Dietetics, and will graduate with my Bachelor’s degree this May. When I found out that I would have the opportunity to intern with the Idaho Dairy Council I was ecstatic. Growing up in agriculture has given me the unique perspective of understanding where our food comes from and who produces it. I am passionate about advocating for our producers and instilling confidence in the food our state produces, which made the Dairy Council a perfect fit for me. While I knew that working with the Idaho Dairy Council would be an amazing opportunity, never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined all of the unforgettable experiences that I would be able to take part in during my time here.
The Idaho Dairy Council supports a wide range of youth wellness programs, the biggest being Fuel Up to Play 60. Schools that are awarded Fuel Up to Play 60 grants are eligible to receive up to $4,000 for physical activity and healthy eating. I have had the privilege of tagging along on several different school visits, during which I have met the passionate facilitators behind these innovative programs. My very first day as an intern I was able attend a visit with a school in the Treasure Valley. Right before we left, we were informed that the school was in lockdown! We ended up having to sprint to our car carrying a giant cardboard check! Talk about starting off with a bang!
Another fantastic experience that I have been able to take part in was a tour of a dairy farm. We toured a large-scale dairy outside of Nampa that has been owned by the same family for three generations. Our first stop was the milking barn. I was amazed at all of the technology that was utilized by the dairy farmers. The cows calmly entered the barn and stepped onto a giant rotating platform, just like a carousel you would see at the county fair. The cows all waited for their turn, it was clear they enjoyed this part! They were milked and then returned to their pens, which provided shade, clean water, and nutritious food. The safety and comfort of the animals was of upmost importance to the dairy farmers. Fans were installed throughout the barn to ensure that the temperature was kept at a comfortable level. There was a veterinarian on call 24 hours a day, especially during calving season! If a cow did contract an illness, the farmers would be able to pinpoint the exact cow that was ill and separate their milk from the rest before it reached the tank. In fact, if a dairy farmer sends a tank of milk to a processor that isn’t up to industry standards, the whole tank is discarded and the farmer is financially responsible!
I was also able to visit the Meadow Gold processing plant. All of the milk that is processed in the Meadow Gold plant comes from Idaho dairy farms. Most people don’t know that milk is actually Idaho’s greatest export! Milk is one of the most tightly regulated foods, meaning that it must pass strict requirements before it is sent out for distribution. When the milk tanks arrive at the processor, they are carefully tested and then retested for any antibiotic residue. If a tank of milk fails, it is not accepted. It was fascinating to see the different technology that was used to pasteurize the milk, create the milk jugs, and to attach labeling. The milk that we buy in grocery stores is such a pure, nutritious product. Meadow Gold distributes milk and other dairy products to stores and schools across the state. How cool is it that we can actually know where our dairy foods come from?
As a future nutrition professional, I think that knowing about where our food comes from is essential. We are so fortunate to live in a great agricultural state that is constantly using innovative techniques to produce safe, healthy, and delicious food for us to eat. The Idaho Dairy Council does an excellent job of telling the story of Idaho dairy farmers and instilling confidence in dairy throughout the state. It has been such an honor to be able to serve as an intern among their ranks.