New Dairy Open House Events Focus on Consumer Awareness and Education

Chris Mondak, Dairy Field Specialist, Northwest Area

Problem Statement:

A key priority of ISU Extension dairy staff in recent years has been economic development, specifically through the means of encouraging new dairies to start-up in Iowa.  While progress was being made in this area, a new social trend has emerged nation-wide:  The trend of consumers having more and more interest in their food source and food safety, while at the same time having less and less understanding of agriculture and the food chain processes.

Programmatic Response:

While completing one priority economic development goal—start-up of new dairies in Iowa, ISU Extension staff took advantage of new dairy Open House events to focus on providing education to address the emerging problem of weak consumer information about dairy production and dairy food production.

Working alongside partners (Midwest Dairy Association, Iowa State Dairy Association, and Western Iowa Dairy Alliance), ISU Extension helped with efforts to ensure that the  four Open House events planned to celebrate a new dairies in NW Iowa  also would be educational events for consumers invited to the open houses.   ISU Extension staff assisted in two ways:   Participated in educator role at assigned post in the open house tour, and as experimental survey taker to gauge impact of the open house as an educational event.


At two dairy Open Houses held in summer/fall 2008 in NW Iowa, ISU Extension staff distributed brief questionnaires to people attending the Open House.  The questionnaires were distributed at the last stop of the tour; a place to write answers was made available to open house attendees, and the survey forms were collected immediately.  Below are summaries of the questions and responses gathered at these two Open House events.

As University Extension educators, a conclusion we can draw from this initial open house survey experience is this:  Open House and Tour events of dairies and other livestock production facilities can be effective ways to provide information to address the problem of poor consumer awareness/understanding of modern agriculture and food production practices.  Another “take home message” is that producers associations and check-off organizations can make good partners to plan and deliver these kinds of events.

Summary of Post- Tour Surveys from Van Ess Dairy visitors on 8/16/2008

1.      Total number survey sheets completed:    158

2.      The survey asked them to identify themselves as “Neighbor or Iowan”,  “Farmer/Ag business”, or “Dairy Farmer”

Responses to Question #1   “Because of today’s dairy farm tour, my understanding of local dairy farming and its connection to our local food supply has: (please circle one):

Most people in each category indicated that their understanding of local dairy farming and its

connection to local food supply was “Increased” as a result of the tour:

                                       Decreased            Stayed Same                 Increased          No answer


Neighbor/Iowan               1                               15                                  64                       2             

Farmer/Ag Bus                 0                               10                                  41

Dairy farmers                   0                               11                                  12                       1

Unidentified                                                                                                 1

Responses to Question #2    What surprised or impressed you? 

Common things that surprised/impressed those identified as “Neighbor/Iowan”

Positive- toned Comments/concerns from those identified as “Neighbor/Iowan”

Negative comments/concerns from “Neighbor/Iowan”       

Response to Question #2  “What surprised or impressed you?”

Common things that surprised or impressed those identified as FARMER/AG BUSINESS

Positive –toned comments/concerns from FARMER/AG BUSINESS

Negative comment/concern from FARMER/AG BUSINESS

Response to Question #2  “What surprised or impressed you?”

Common things that surprised or impressed those identified as DAIRY FARMER

Positive- toned Comments from those identified as “Dairy Farmers”

Negative-toned comments/concerns from “Dairy Farmers”

Koezen’s Tukker Dairy Open House, October 11, 2008 - Evaluation Results

The purpose of the Open House was two-fold:  1) It was a gesture of appreciation and good will from the Koezens to all in Pocahontas County who helped them with their relocation from Europe, and helped with dairy start-up project; 2) It was an opportunity for ISU Extension and partners to provide to the general public an informal educational opportunity to learn about the management values and stewardship involved in  modern dairy management and production.

Approximately  500 guests attended, 64 evaluations forms were filled out completely.

Question #1 asked guests to describe themselves by circling one of the 3 choices:

47 guests identified themselves as “Citizen/Neighbor”

14 guests identified themselves as “Agribusiness/Farmer”

3 guests identified themselves as “Dairy Farmer”

Question #2:  Because of today’s dairy farm tour, my understanding of the local dairy farming and its

connection to our local food supply has (please circle one):

Decreased                 Stayed the same              Increased

34 Citizen/neighbors answered “Increased”,    and 8 answered “Stayed the same”   5 no answers

12 Agribusiness/farmers answered “Increased”, and 2 answered “Stayed the same”

1 Dairy farmer answered “Increased”;  2  answered “Stayed the same”

Question #3:   What surprised or impressed you?

Various answers offered. Below is a summary:

From “Iowa citizen/neighbors”, Agribusiness/farmers, and dairy farmers

Question #4 :   Any concerns/comments?Various comments offered.  Here is a summary:


110  Dairy

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