Chicago and The Economist meet Dairy Sustainability.


Earlier this month I was asked by Dairy Management Inc, (our national milk checkoff group) to attend a conference in Chicago. I’ve been to somewhere between 2 and 2 million conferences but as I read the invite for this one, I realized it was going to be pretty different from all the others I’ve attended.

Usually when I go to a conference it revolves around either dairy cows and farming or social media. Not exactly strange considering that my life and work is pretty much dairy farming and social media.  However this conference by location alone was all about traveling in a different circle than I am used to. Walking into the Four Seasons hotel on Michigan Ave in downtown Chicago was certainly different from my normal work day!

Not my normal view when I wake up.

Not my normal view when I wake up.

So what caused me to put on pantyhose and makeup and drive to Chicago? The chance to talk about dairy cows, farming and even a little bit about social media. Surprise!

I was a guest of DMI at The Economist’s Innovation Forum 2016.

“Companies in every industry and every country face disruption in every aspect of their business. From designing, making and marketing products and services to recruiting and retaining the right talent, constant change is no longer the exception but the norm. Increasingly, innovation is not just about the product but about the company as a whole.”From the Innovation Forum Overview

So why was I there? I along with several dairy farmer friends (Shout out to Mary, Joanna, Will, Brad and Joe) attended to accomplish two things. First, we were there to share information on our social media channels from a panel that DMI, the GENYOUth Foundation and the Innovation Center for US Dairy sponsored. Second and probably most importantly, we were there to talk to the other conference attendees about our farms and share our ag stories.

Obligatory group photo and POP (proof of pantyhose).

Obligatory group photo and POP (proof of pantyhose).

While I can take about how we care for our cows and our land all day long, I still have lots to learn about how our industry as a whole is tackling the environmental and sustainability challenges that we face. Listening in to Alexis Glick from GENYOUth as she spoke about how the dairy industry is meeting our sustainability challenges on the panel with Stuart Lomabard, CEO of Ecobee, John Mandyck, CSO of United Technologies and Klaus Weber from the Kellogg School of Management, I learned a ton. I can only imagine what those in the room with no connection to farming learned.

The booth where conference attendees could stop and learn about dairy sustainability. They also got to take home a CowPots pot!

The booth where conference attendees could stop and learn about dairy sustainability.

I thought I would share with all of you a few of the cool fast facts I learned about dairy sustainability from the conference.

  •  80% of what cows eat cannot be eaten by people, including leftover cotton seed from making t-shirts. (source)
  • Dairy farms typically recycle water as many as five and six times. (source)
  • Today’s dairy farms produce a gallon of milk using 65% less water, 90% less cropland and 63% less greenhouse gases than 70 years ago.(source)
  • The US dairy community has committed to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 25% by 2020. (source)
  • Over 90% of the U.S. milk supply comes from dairy farms participating in FARM™, which sets the highest standards in animal care. (source)
The panelists, starting off the morning.

The panelists, starting off the morning.

For farmers, sustainability doesn’t stop on the farm. Social responsibility is also a big part of what our industry stands for. We grow sweet corn for our local Second Harvest food bank and support them every chance we get in their efforts to provide nutritious food to those in need, it’s great to know that same spirit extends beyond our driveway.

  • To date, the Great American Milk Drive (created with NDC & Feeding America) has delivered more than 700,000 gallons, or more than 11 million 8 oz glasses, of nutrient-rich milk to hungry families. (source)
  • Since Fuel Up to Play 60 (FUTP 60) expanded nationally in 2010, 38 million students are reached by the program, with 13 million eating better and nearly 16 million becoming more active. FUTP 60 was formed in partnership with National Dairy Council and the NFL in collaboration with USDA. (source)

So even thought I hate pantyhose and driving to Chicago, I’d say this conference was a fantastic opportunity to not only share about dairy farming but for me to learn more about the sustainability piece of the puzzle in the dairy industry. If you want to learn more yourself, check out


(I attended this event as a guest of DMI Inc, they paid my travel expenses.)


2 Comments on Chicago and The Economist meet Dairy Sustainability.

  1. Robert J Karczewski
    April 5, 2016 at 12:40 am (4 years ago)

    I had a chance to go to a cotton seed mill once when I lived in Houston, but the owner was ill so the tour did not happen. Once the cotton seed is combed out of the cotton and then run through a press to remove the oil from the cotton seed, the cotton seed then becomes livestock feed. There are a lot of different plants that end up as livestock feed once they are processed to get oils or juice out of the various plants. A great way of recycling to feed livestock and they in turn do their own recycling to form their special brand of fertilizer!

  2. Dick Smerz
    April 5, 2016 at 6:00 am (4 years ago)

    Great story Carrie. Wish all of it was required reading in city schools.