For the love of dairy: Graphic design student uses skills to promote

Kayla Koenigsknecht grew up in the farming community of Fowler, Michigan. For her senior thesis project at Grand Valley State University, Koenigsknecht was challenged to choose a topic that was meaningful to her.

She saw an opportunity to combine her skillset with her passion for her country roots. The result was a large infographic wall display and a 28-page book that highlight facts about the dairy industry and includes images from Michigan dairy farms. Read on to learn more about Koenigsknecht’s inspiration.

Q. What made you focus on the dairy industry?
Dairy farming seemed to have the most arguments founded on a few bad instances and horrible pictures on the Internet. I knew I wanted to convince people to support the dairy industry based on the farmers like the ones from Fowler and not the bad farmers on the news.

The name For the Love of Dairy came out of this frustration I felt for the industry being unfairly attacked and my interviews with farmers who all exclaimed that in order to work in dairy farming, one really has to love it.

Q. As you worked on your project, what information came as a surprise to you?
I didn’t grow up on a dairy farm, but between my dad growing up on a dairy farm, both my brothers milking cows on a local farm, and growing up myself surrounded by farms, there wasn’t a Sunday dinner that we didn’t talk about farming.

So I thought I knew a fair amount about dairy farming, but when I started talking with the dairy farmers, I was fascinated by everything. I knew farmers cared about their farms and cows, but I had no idea how much they track the cow’s habits to know exactly what she needs.

I didn’t know how with every stage a cow needs different nutrient intakes. I know people worry a lot about the environmental costs of farming, but I learned about all the regulations farmers follow to prevent damage.

Q. What are your future plans for the infographic and for the book?
I hope to gain support for dairy farming by spreading around my project. The book is a great learning tool and can show people what a real dairy farm looks like.

I have had a few people wanting to use the book in their classrooms to teach children, and I think that is such a great idea. Unfortunately, the infographic is not available for the public to visit, but the book is for sale for $75.

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This article appeared in the August 11, 2012 issue of Progressive Dairyman. The responses at left and below are additional or /MORE content. To see all /MORE content, visit www.progressivedairy.com/more.

Q. What feedback have you received on this project?
I’ve had great feedback on the project. The dairy farmers I worked with love it, and have said that it does a great job with showing people that they are farmers because they love it. I think farmers appreciate someone showing things from the farmers’ perspective, from people that have been practicing farming their whole lives.

One farmer talked about how there are so many bad farmers in the media telling a story that isn’t what he is about, so anytime farmers like him can share their story it’s a good thing. I think the project shows that even a large dairy farm can still take excellent care of the animals and still be profitable.

Q. What do you think is the number one thing dairy producers can do to help inform the public?
I think things like Breakfast on the Farm or anything that invites people to visit the farms is a great, simple way for dairy farmers to inform people. People just need to see that just because a farm has more than eight cows doesn’t mean that every cow isn’t cared for and important.

The media has given people the idea that our milk and food comes from “factory farms” but the dairy industry just needs to show people that our milk comes from farms run by hard–working people and cows that are taken care of.

I’ve started commenting on articles I read with arguments against dairy farming. I don’t pretend to know all of the intricate workings of a dairy farm that someone who has been farming his or her whole life would know, but all I really have to say to people is just talk with a dairy farmer and visit a farm before criticizing an entire industry. So I encourage farmers to get out and get vocal as well.

Click here to email Kayla and suggest ways that she can reach out to more dairy consumers.  PTD

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Comment by Christina on September 14, 2012 at 3:19pm

Nice blog post. Thanks for sharing.

We live in a very remote area with our dairy. We do have elementery age kids come to the dairy each year. Along with touring the dairy, we have horses here and offer pony rides, etc. Each year, we have at least one child that was not aware their milk came from a cow. Most have never been close to a cow. With all of the dairy controversy in the media, it feels good to see the children be interested and happy to be on the dairy.

Christina, a proud dairyman's wife, from Mt Vernon, TX

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