EDUCATION is the key to understanding and the knowledge provided to children about where their food comes from and its nutritional value, is the grassroots basis to leading a healthy life.
This is why WAFarmersFirst and Food You Can Trust partnered with Iona Presentation College to promote their inaugural World Milk Day celebrations last week.
The event aimed to highlight and promote Western Australia's world class dairy industry and incorporated WAFarmersFirst milk and Brownes yoghurt and the WAFarmers Food You Can Trust website's educational program, bringing the farmer to the classroom.
There were several activities planned throughout the day for students ranging from year 3 through to year 12, including getting up close and personal to Jersey milking cow Bonnie and 'old-style' milking her, under the watchful eye of farmer Damien.
Year 7 students also participated in their own cooking demonstrations, utilising dairy to make Mediterranean ricotta tarts and partnered them with ever popular chocolate milkshakes.
According to WAFarmers WA's dairy industry produced 374 million litres of milk in 2018-19 - enough to fill nearly 150 Olympic swimming pools - injecting nearly $80 million into the WA economy, last year alone, through export.
WAFarmers Food You Can Trust project manager Aaron Natoli said the day had been made possible through WAFarmers partnership with Reality Consulting's Louise Cashmore.
"WAFarmers dairy section has worked with Lousie for five years," Mr Natoli said.
"We thought focusing on World Milk Day was the ideal opportunity to incorporate in a broader sense our Kids to Farms project."
Students learned about how cows produce milk and how they are raised in WA, while also demonstrating how consumers can use dairy products in cooking.
"It helps to support the viabilities of the industry, through cooking - by transforming WA dairy products into gastronomical delights in the classroom,'' Mr Natoli said.
"Cooking in recent years has been lost in the mainstream.
"Feedback we have had from the broader agricultural industry, whether it be dairy, meat or horticulture, is that the COVID-19 crisis forced people to look at what and how they ate.
"It was not just about what they wanted to eat and cook, they were forced to look at the provenance, availability and cost more closely.
"It really was a wake up call."
Locally produced milk creates jobs in WA and makes the State more food secure, while ensuring its dairy comes from well treated cows.
It is essential that students and the wider community understand the importance of this industry, in creating one of the staple foods consumed every day.
Iona Presentation College head of technology and applied studies Felicity McLean said the girls from year 3 through to year 12 learn about the importance of food, which is why the World Milk Day activities were a cross campus event.
"The girls learn about food and nutrition in health in year 3, which is why it was so great for the year 3s to be involved in milking the cow this morning," Ms McLean said.
"In year 10 they learn about the importance of dairy and nutrition for children, in early child development studies.
"Of course we have food technology available for students from year 7 to 12 and they learn that nutrition is the basis of a healthy lifestyle."
Ms McLean said the students had been so excited in the lead up to the World Milk Day event.
"There was a real buzz around the school for students and staff alike," Ms McLean said.
The year 3 group that witnessed and participated in the milking demonstration were very taken by the day.
"It was the best day ever," according to Iona year 3 student, Indi, who could not contain her happiness at having had the chance to milk Bonnie and try one of the newest all natural flavoured Brownes yoghurts, Bubblegum.
The free yoghurt giveaway extended to the upper years on their lunch break and was a very popular part of the day.
You may wonder why Iona was chosen to be the host school for the special event?
The answer lies in Iona's partnership with the Dairy Pavilion at the Perth Royal Show, via the school's involvement in the Dairy Cafe.
Ms Cashmore said Iona food technology students had been taught by a barista to make coffees and milkshakes and had participated in running the Dairy Cafe.
"The business students were also involved and looked into the feasibility of the cafe and the cost of everything from the very bottom up," she said.
"The students really relished that community connection."
They also launched the 'kitchen', where students cooked with a chef.
"Then we had the idea of a competition, where students could choose their favourite WA dairy product to cook with," Ms Cashmore said.
"This competition came to a head with the finals held at the Royal Show."
The competition was such a success and the students had such a great time, it is something Iona and WAFarmers were looking to extend in the future.
Iona also has a very particular historical link to the dairy industry, with the schools junior campus, prior to 1920, having been a dairy farm, run by the Witheridge family, until council by-laws changed and dairies needed to be moved further out of the city limits.
Iona archivist Margaret Pember said another very special link to the dairy industry came through a student.
"One of the early boarders was so homesick for the farm, she was allowed to bring her own pet cow to school, to provide milk for the boarders," Dr Pember said.
Shoppers can support homegrown WA dairy farmers, just like the Iona students, by buying locally produced dairy products, including WAFarmers First hilo and full cream milk.
WAFarmersFirst milk is available in Coles and a portion of the proceeds from every carton of milk goes back to WAFarmers to support the dairy industry in WA.