Southeast Dairy Youth Retreat
Extension Agent, Livestock & Forages
The Southeast Dairy Youth Retreat is an annual event to increase
awareness and knowledge of youth, ages 8-18, about the dairy industry. The retreat rotates through five southeastern states
(Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia). This year’s retreat was held July 9-12 in Florida.
Twenty-eight youth and adults attended the event from North Carolina, twelve of which represented Davidson County.
After arriving in Florida on Sunday evening, the retreat began with dinner, games, and
an opportunity for youth to interact and meet each other. On Monday, we traveled to the Hillsborough County Fairgrounds for
a day of workshops and activities. Youth rotated through three workshops Monday morning, led by Erica Davis from Jersey Marketing
Services, Brian Chapman from Florida Dairy Farmers, and Dr. Bob Horton from The Ohio State University. During the workshops,
youth learned about genomics and genomic testing, marketing of dairy products, and protein coagulation of dairy foods. The
highlight of the workshops was making ice cream using liquid nitrogen. After lunch, guest speakers joined the group.
Participants learned about the strawberry industry in Florida. They also learned about alligators from a gator catcher who
explained his job and what is required to catch alligators. Following the presentations, youth participated in relay games
and a Junior Dairyman Contest. Youth had to identify feeds, dairy foods, dairy equipment, types of knots, and parts
of a dairy cow, digestive system, and mammary system.
Tuesday was a day
of tours of local dairy farms. Participants visited three farms: Nickerson Cattle Company, Jerry Dakin Dairy, Processing
Plant, and Agri-tourism Tours, and Cameron Dakin Dairy. We visited two farms owned by Nickerson Cattle Company. Nickerson’s
has been a family farm since the 1960’s and are a large operation. At one farm we visited, they were milking 1200
cows twice a day. They practice rotational grazing on their farm, which means that each time the cows are milked, they return
to a new pasture to graze. At peak production of all their milking facilities, they are shipping four million pounds of milk
a month. Next, we visited Jerry Dakin Dairy. In addition to the dairy, this family farm has a processing plant where they
bottle their own milk and make their own cheese and butter and agri-tourism business. The Jerry Dakin Dairy is milking 2200
cows, making cheese three days a week, and growing their agri-tourism business. They recently added the agri-tourism
business to help educate the public about the dairy industry. Youth also got to meet Snickerdoodle, an 18-year old cow that
is enjoying retirement on pasture. Snickerdoodle is a six time World Dairy Expo Champion Cow, the only cow of all breeds
to win every milking class at the Expo, and holds the record for the number of grand championships. Our final tour was of
another family owned farm, the Cameron Dakin Dairy. There are 4500 total cows at the Cameron Dakin Dairy, which includes
calves and heifers. They are currently milking 2000 cows. The own 1200 acres of land. Instead of making hay, they
use 300 acres to cut the grass and feed to the cows daily.
has a day of fun for youth. This year, they traveled to Adventure Island for a day of fun and sun at the water park. The day
wrapped up with a banquet and a farewell dance. The Southeast Dairy Youth Retreat provides an opportunity for youth to see
various types of dairy operations, learn about the dairy industry, and become future advocates for the dairy industry and
agriculture as a whole.
Janeice Leonard, NCSU Intern with Yadkin County Cooperative Extension, pours liquid nitrogen
into Joey Mitchell’s cup of ice cream mix. Youth made ice cream using liquid nitrogen in one of the workshops
at the Southeast Dairy Youth Retreat. Janeice is the daughter of Michael & Michelle Leonard of Lexington.
Joey is the son of Melissa Martin of Denton.