Dairy and Ice Cream Holidays!
Posted: July 3, 2012
Americans have been celebrating June as Dairy Month for 75 years now! You’ve probably unknowingly celebrated Dairy Month since childhood, seeking comfort from frozen dairy treats during the hot summer days.
The idea of devoting time to celebrate the dairy industry began in the late 1930’s. Initially called “National Milk Month” in 1937 and 1938 and taking place from June 10th to July 10th, the 1937 event, was given the theme "Keep Youthful - Drink Milk." Originally supported by the National Dairy Council (NDC), Dairy Month was established to help stabilize dairy demand during peak production periods. "June Dairy Month" became the official title of the promotion in 1939 with a focus on increasing the consumption of dairy products while promoting using a greater variety of dairy products. These goals were accomplished through the efforts of the NDC distributing promotional materials to retailers and end consumers, and funded with a one cent per pound butterfat assessment from the farmer.
During World War II, however, the focus shifted towards educating consumers on the efficient use of dairy products as Americans cut back to conserve resources for the military. After the war, promotional efforts resumed to help resurrect dairy product usage to pre-war levels and regain the 'lost' butter sales. In 1947 the goal was "Sales, not Surplus." By 1950, producers, processors, and retailers all worked together to promote our June Dairy Month.
In 1955, the goal of the June Dairy Month campaign transformed yet again, now with an emphasis to promote sales. These promotional programs in addition to newfound advertising and merchandising plans were added on top of an already stout public relations program. These merchandising events, highlighting a different dairy product each month, helped achieve greater dairy consumption.
National Ice Cream Month, on the other hand, began in 1984 when President Ronald Reagan recognized the popularity of ice cream in the United States (over 90 percent of our population consumes ice cream), and designated the month of July to celebrate the frozen dairy treat. Additionally, Reagan named the third Sunday in July as National Ice Cream Day. In the proclamation of these two events, Reagan called for the people of the United States to observe the events with “appropriate ceremonies and activities.”
Both Dairy and Ice Cream Month celebrations continue to evolve and is embraced in many ways. Dairy princess coronation ceremonies typically occur around this time in preparation for parades, dairy cattle shows, dairy product demonstrations, ice cream giveaways, and other dairy promotion events that occur throughout the summer in support of Dairy Month.
Now is the perfect time to sample from the variety of products displayed in the dairy case. As we take advantage of the nutritious dairy products available to us, we should take time to reflect on and celebrate dairy farmers' hard work and commitment to their animals, the dairy cows that produce the milk, and the productive, fertile land we are blessed with. We should also keep in mind the modern advances in agriculture that are currently allowing farmers to be more productive and efficient at supplying the World with its dairy needs. In fact, US dairy cows are responsible for producing nearly 100 million tons of milk each year since 2010, representing about 15% of the World milk output. What’s more is that Pennsylvania ranks fifth in milk production behind California, Wisconsin, New York, and Idaho, with Lancaster and Franklin Counties sitting at number one and two in PA, respectively. Amazingly enough, Lancaster and Franklin Counties are two of the top three milk producing counties east of the Mississippi River!
The dairy industry is an integral part of Pennsylvania's agriculture industry, the Commonwealth's leading economic enterprise. According to the Center for Dairy Excellence, the dairy industry in Pennsylvania generates $1.5 billion in cash receipts each year, contributing to 40 percent of the state's agricultural receipts. The industry also generates 40,000 jobs in the commonwealth. Research estimates that roughly 85 percent of the dairy farmer's total income is spent locally, making dairy farms a significant contributor to our local economy. That being said, the economic value and importance of our local dairy farms is often overlooked. Thankfully, the basis for remembering June as Dairy Month and now Ice Cream Month is to recognize the agricultural heritage that runs so deep in America, and to celebrate the strong dairy industry we are blessed with – particularly in Pennsylvania and the Southern counties within.
If you missed out on celebrating dairy this June, make up for it by purchasing a few extra cartons of ice cream this month!