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Dairy Council brings the farm — and cow and calf — to Huntington Beach to teach kids about food and agriculture

On a gloomy morning Wednesday, College View Elementary School welcomed Miss Agnes, a Holstein cow, and Big Red, a 2-month-old bull calf, to help teach students about the dairy business and the role of agriculture in food through a Mobile Dairy Classroom.

The free assembly was sponsored by the Dairy Council of California, an organization backed by the state’s dairy industry to try to “elevate” nutritional education.

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The Mobile Dairy Classroom, which began in the 1930s, brings a real cow and calf to schools to help students learn about food, the differences among cow breeds and how milk is produced and gets from farm to market. Students also can pet the calf.

“It’s important for [children] to make that direct connection from the farm to the table to the cafeteria,” said Efrain Valenzuela, manager of the Mobile Dairy Classroom for the council. “There’s nothing like having a cow and calf in an interactive assembly to know that. The Mobile Dairy Classroom has always been a way for the industry to give back to the community.”

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Christy Stover, a first- and second-grade teacher at College View in Huntington Beach, said the students were “super excited” when they found out about the assembly.

“I love that [College View] has partnered with them,” Stover said. “[Children] getting to see a live cow and go up and pet it is wonderful.”

Holly Hamasaki, a transitional kindergarten teacher, said the Mobile Dairy Classroom was beneficial for her class’s farm unit, which students will begin Monday, because her class was unable to go to a farm.

“I think it’s really important for [students] to understand that it doesn’t just come from a market,” Hamasaki said. “It actually is made by animals, people. People grow different things. They need to understand where all of it comes from so they have an understanding of their community.”

Steve Miller has taught the program for about 16 years. He typically teaches two assemblies at each school, though it depends on the school’s student population. He said he loves the reactions he gets from students, which are different every day and at every school.

“[Miller] is a great speaker and able to give information to kids in an engaging way,” Stover said.

“It’s like going to SeaWorld,” Miller joked after demonstrating hand milking techniques. “You’re going to get a little wet!”

Declan Chacon, 7, said he was excited when he found out the Mobile Dairy Classroom was coming to College View. He said it was “interesting to know facts about the cow.”

His favorite part was when Miller talked about the four compartments in a cow’s stomach and where its hips are located.

“I think the best part was when he taught us how to milk the cow and showed us the grass, the hay the cow eats,” said Kaydee Meighan, 9. “I thought it was a cool name — alfalfa.”

Miller said he’s been working with animals since he was a child and that it was “just normal” for him. He drives his livestock to schools from Mission Viejo High School’s farm program.

He is one of six instructors for the Mobile Dairy Classroom. In a “good” year, he said, he teaches at about 160 schools. The number has dropped to about 150 this school year because of the rains that have swept through California, he said.

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