Dedicated to Dairy – In the Classroom

(Originally Published June 27, 2014)

In the world of agriculture, we are always battling false facts and crazy fads that consumers are introduced to. To fight the wrongs, we need education. And with education, we need teachers.

Without the agricultural educators, finding success in educating our “tomorrow” is going to be very, very difficult. And judging by the personality I carried through high school (I was a terrifying 14 year old.. sorry mom and dad!), dealing with teenagers can’t be very easy either! Sheri Boardman, a dairy girl born and raised, has dedicated her career to teaching youth about the importance and truth in agricultural and dairy industries. Enjoy!

1. Introduce yourself!

My name is Sheri Boardman, I am a High School Agricultural Teacher/FFA Advisor in Connecticut where I teach a little bit of everything from animal science to plant science and agricultural mechanics to biotechnology in an Agricultural Program with 4 teachers. I was raised on Carlwood Farm, in Canaan, CT where my mom and grandfather operate a 65 cow registered Holstein partnership. In my spare time (haha!), I also work at my boyfriend Greg’s Family Dairy Farm, Maple Downs Farms II, in Middleburgh, NY. Both family farms are 2 of the 1,200 proud Farm Family Owners of the Cabot Creamery Cooperative where we are very proud of the high quality milk that our happy cows produce. I continue to enjoy being able to house my  small herd of registered Holsteins at my mom’s farm, and love every opportunity that I have to be able to milk cows, bale hay, or pull a calf with Greg at his farm. 

2. How are you dedicated to dairy?

The dairy industry has been in my blood since I was born. My mom had me on a show halter of my very 1st Holstein calf when I was 2 1/2 years old and I can say ever since then, I’ve been dedicated to this industry! Providing great care and treatment for my dairy cattle has always been something that I have been dedicated to. There is no prouder moment than when you can successfully deliver a new born calf and provide it with its mother’s first milk. Just as every farmer is dedicated to their cows, there is also a commitment to feeding people that we as farmers care so much about. The commitment also includes sharing our story with people at church, at a school board meeting, or at a county fair. There are several opportunities that I choose to stay committed to the industry, as I have chosen to get involved with our Agri-Mark Young Cooperators Program by attending leadership conferences and advocating for farmers at Cabot Cheese events. I also continue to exhibit cattle with my family at local shows, where we share our story and promote the dairy industry.  

With the guidance of my parents and grandparents, I grew up being very involved with 4-H and FFA which truly instilled responsibility, dedication, and leadership in me at a young age. I have always taken an open opportunity to educate people about dairy cattle and where their dairy products come from ever since I was a young 4-Her exhibiting at local fairs. As an alumni of 4-H and FFA, it is our time to give back to the youth of our future, so I am proud to be dedicated to the youth of our dairy industry as well.  As an agricultural teacher, a member of the Agri-Mark Young Cooperators Program, and an owner of dairy cattle,everyday I continue to stay dedicated to the welfare of our dairy cattle and advocating for our industry! 

3. Can you tell us a little bit about your career?

As a middle school student, I filled out an application to attend Housatonic Valley Regional High School in Falls Village, CT to be able to attend an agricultural high school. Little did I know, that my agricultural teacher, Karen Davenport, would have such an impact on my future career choice in just a few short years of high school. In high school, I was very active in the National FFA Organization as a leader at the local level, I competed at Nationals in the Dairy Cattle Evaluation Contest, and I expanded my herd of Holsteins at home as part of my SAE (Supervised Agricultural Experience) Program.  I always had the vision of becoming an agricultural teacher, once I realized that I could educate future generations about agriculture and incorporate so many hands-on experiences into learning as a career.  

I attended SUNY Cobleskill for 2 years, where I am grateful for the tremendous hands-on learning experiences I had in all my agricultural coursework there. In 2012, I graduated from Cornell University where I had spent 3 years finishing up my undergraduate work as double major in Animal Science and Agricultural Science Education and finally completing my dream goal of a Masters of Arts in Teaching. I thankfully landed a teaching position back near home, in a neighboring district from where I grew up and have been there for 2 years. The National Blue and Corn Gold colors have stuck near and dear to my heart, as an American Degree recipient myself, being an FFA Advisor and Agricultural teacher is one of the toughest jobs that I will ever love! 

4. Why do you believe that agricultural education in schools is so important?

Agricultural education in schools is more important than ever in our world today as farm and ranch families comprise just 2% of the U.S. Population. People want to meet a farmer and want to know where their food comes from. With agricultural programs in schools, students are able to learn at a young age how to produce food for themselves and better understand farm management practices in order to make educated decisions as a consumer and/or a producer. I have a unique opportunity to educate each 7th grade student in my school for 10 weeks about agriculture. One of the units that I love teaching them is the animal science unit, where we learn where milk comes from and we make ice-cream at the end of the unit. It is so fascinating for students to see that milk comes from 4 different teats on a cow’s udder and that milk can be made into so many different healthy snacks. Being able to provide our youth with real world, hands-on agricultural experiences is so beneficial to our future even if  students do not intend to pursuit a career in agriculture. Once they are exposed to Agricultural Education, they are better equipped with life skills, leadership abilities, and personal growth that fosters career success. 

5. What do you find most rewarding about teaching? 

The most rewarding aspect about teaching is certainly the students that I am surrounded with each and every school day. My kids choose to take agricultural classes, so they want to be in class. It is a beautiful feeling to be able to inflict positive growth in students and watch them excel in various areas over time. Being able to share my passion for agriculture with my students is something that I still cannot believe I get paid for. 

6. If you could tell the public one thing about your involvement in the dairy industry, what would it be?

If you ever have a question about anything regarding agriculture, do not hesitate to contact a farmer or someone at your local cooperative extension agency! We know how easy it is to just “Google-it!” Take the time to hear an explanation from a producer about why a certain management technique is practiced, or maybe you want to know more details about why cows eat a special diet and a farmer may direct you to someone who they work with closely, such as their Animal Nutritionist who may be better equipped to answer the question.  Whether you are passionate about the dairy industry or not, my advise to you is to get involved in something that you are passionate about! Continue to educate yourself because the world around you is not standing still!

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