Thursday, June 7, 2018
Most of us like the idea of giving back to our community, but the reality is there are few people who fully commit to devoting their time and resources. Tara Vander Dussen, fifth-generation dairy farmer from New Mexico, has found a way to balance her busy life on and off the farm to support an organization that helps those in need.
Tara has been dedicated to her family’s dairy farm her entire life. But her devotion to the community started when she became a member of United Dairy Women, an organization committed to childhood nutrition and supporting local area children’s homes. Tara now serves as president with an instrumental role in the organization’s fundraising efforts.
Each year, United Dairy Women hosts Milk Lover’s Ball as part of their “Milk Mission” to raise money for local children’s homes. It all started when a group of dairy women noticed these children were going without milk on their morning cereal. They decided to help fill the funding gap by starting Milk Lover’s Ball, in addition to other community events like triathlons. The group has now raised over $1 million in the last 13 years.
“We’re in a location where there’s such an abundance of milk, so when there was a need in the community it just felt like such a great opportunity to give back,” Tara said. “Childhood nutrition is such a big problem. If we can change one aspect of that by putting milk on their cereal, we’re making a difference.”
Their donations provide children with the recommended three servings of dairy per day for the entire year. Giving back through United Dairy Women gives dairy farmers like Tara the opportunity to work closely with consumers of all ages. Many of the farmers and their families donate their time and volunteer at the homes.
“It goes so much beyond milk,” Tara said. “As much as it has brought awareness to us about the needs in our community, it has brought awareness to those outside of the dairy industry to show how much we care about our community.”
When she’s not volunteering her time with United Dairy Women, Tara raises two daughters, works as an environmental scientist on her family’s dairy and shares her story on her blog, New Mexico Milkmaid. She credits balancing everything back to her community, the one she’s so passionate about giving back to.
“I could not do what I do without the support of those around me, especially my husband, mom and all the amazing women that volunteer and make United Dairy Women possible,” Tara said.
During June Dairy Month and beyond, we think it’s important to spotlight people like Tara who are Undeniably Devoted to all things dairy. Follow along for more stories!