Mackenzie Deetz

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June is National Dairy Month, giving us a reason to celebrate the great work dairy farmers do every day for the industry, often through ag literacy. Ag literacy is defined as the knowledge and understanding of agriculture, including it’s impact on society, the environment and the economy. Mackenzie Deetz has gone above and beyond to advocate for future dairy farmers through her ag literacy work through the “Adopt a Cow” program with the American Dairy Association in partnership with the Dairy Excellence Foundation. Deetz currently serves as the District 13 trustee for Ohio Farm Bureau, serving members in Carroll, Harrison, Jefferson and Tuscarawas counties. 

About the Deetz family operation

My brothers Spencer and Dawson and I farm in partnership with our father, Bill, at Four Pines Farm in Tuscarawas County. The farm has been in the family since at least 1898, making us the sixth generation on the farm. We milk 1860 Holstein cows three times a day and we breed and raise all heifers on the farm. We produce triticale (a hybrid of wheat and rye winter crop), grass, and corn on over 2,000 acres, harvesting all of it to come back to be fed to the herd.

The farm employs about 30 full and part-time employees who handle a range of jobs including milking, feeding and caring for calves and heifers, someone to mix and and deliver feed to the herd and a handful of mechanics/truck drivers/equipment operators.

Although we have specific jobs for many, it’s important to note that we all shift around and help where needed because we are a team. I handle bookkeeping and payroll for the farm and we siblings are learning to become better managers with the help of our father. Spencer studied dairy science and Dawson studied crop and soil management to be a better fit on the farm. I also oversee a high schooler who helps me mow and manage the grass around the farm. I love to drive silage truck when it is time to harvest grass or corn, but during corn harvest I mostly am in a tractor equipped with weights and a roller to pack the silage on the drive over pile. Every day I try to “keep up” with the men and do as they do and I think I hold my own as a female on a dairy farm. Spencer has taught me a lot since I’ve been back on the farm and I handle some of the things he passed to me, like calf care. I move cattle around with the trailer to different barn locations and the sale barns when needed. 


Adopt a Cow and the Dairy Excellence Foundation

My father actually got a phone call one day from the American Dairy Association and after learning what was involved, he sent them my way because of my education background. ADA had partnered with DEF in 2021, the same year they asked if I would volunteer as the “farmer” for Adopt a Cow program. ADA has a strong presence in schools to educate about dairy foods and agriculture, so they knew this program would be a great partnership. They felt if they reached out to an Ohio farmer the program would feel more “local” to Ohio and West Virginia schools that adopted a cow. I didn’t study ag, but have a background in special education and have been fortunate to be a part of Adopt A Cow to shine light on the dairy industry and share my family’s story.

Adopt a Cow is a free program for educators of all types. Each classroom has the opportunity to “adopt” a calf at the start of the year and every other month they receive a PowerPoint updating them on their calf’s life on a dairy farm, including height and weight progress, what they’re eating, where they’re living and the dairy farm where they calf comes from. On top of that the foundation sends out STEM activities, dairy recipes to try, and fun pictures of their adopted calf. With my partnership with ADA they also do a virtual live recording at the start of the school year where I speak about our maternity pen and freshening protocols, then next steps once a heifer calf is born, where she will go and the specialized care she receives.

At the end of the school year, DEF hosts a YouTube live recording where participants are able to virtually meet their adopted calf. I’m able to answer and questions live and on camera. All throughout the year I receive handwritten letters or pictures from students who absolutely adore their calf. At the elementary age, I get to see how they’re learning to address and write letters but also just to hear how much their learning and want to take the baby cow home with them and it means a lot to me to know I’m touching someone’s life because who doesn’t love pictures of cows!

Importance of ag literacy

Deetz dairy farmWith my background working with children and my life on the farm, it was a great fit for me to be a volunteer farmer to help others understand where their favorite ice cream, yogurt or dairy products come from. Not only that but also address someone’s curiosity of where the rest of our food comes from on other farms and to break the stigmas of farming and how hard we work. I think it’s important for others to know that farmers love and care for the animals they raise and the fields we tend to. Our flush system in the barns and alleys helps us reuse and recycle water and the sand bedding we put in free stalls. All of the manure waste is recycled and  managed to replenish the soil and make for a better crop for our herd.

Everything we do on the farm is to better the environment, ensure good feed, and keep our cows comfortable. Allowing people a sneak peek into our farm is a good way to break those stigmas.

How to get involved in ag literacy

You could reach out to local OSU Extension offices about opportunities to maybe read an ag book to children or volunteer with other programs. It sounds hard but if you’re living and working on a farm don’t be afraid to share your story. People are curious and have a lot of questions about where their food is coming from, how it’s prepared, and it won’t hurt to get our truths out there.

Additional resources

The Adopt a Cow program is currently taking registrants until Sept. 15. If you know a teacher or an aide, send this program to them, it’s 100% free and comes with so many cool resources and projects for kids. If you’re interested in learning more about Four Pines Farm we have a Facebook page where I do cool updates on the current Adopt a Cow calf, things going on around the farm, and tidbits about our technologies and equipment.


Upcoming Deadlines/Events 
  • New opportunity for Ohio Farm Bureau members: Growing Tomorrow Grants. Click here to learn more about the grant. Applications are due July 31. Apply
  • AgriPOWER applications are due Aug. 1, 2024. Apply
  • American Farm Bureau YF&R Connect Call July 16 at 8 p.m.. Topic: Sustainable Energy Practices Register

Innovations in Ag Protection Series

A summer series lunch and learn featuring Nationwide hosted by Ohio Farm Bureau Young Ag Professionals

Registration for these virtual events is required. Click the links below to register. 

July 19 at noon. Innovations in Ag Risk Prediction
Host: Host: Greg Williams. Presenter: Vicente Rico 

Webinar will focus on innovative ag tech solutions which can assist farms and ag operations to stay a step ahead of losses and avoid downtime.

July 31 at noon. Innovations in Ag Risk Prevention
Host: Emily Warnimont. Presenter: Vicente Rico

Webinar will focus on innovative ag tech solutions which can assist farms and ag operations to prevent losses and keep operations running smoothly.

Aug. 14 at noon.Agtech Innovation Hub
Hosts: John and Kacy Hummel. Presenter: Bethany Rowles

Find out about research being conducted through a unique partnership among OSU, Ohio Farm Bureau and Nationwide, as the AgTech Innovation Hub aims to encourage the development of new solutions that will help the agricultural ecosystem while better understanding, managing and mitigating climate risk.

Aug. 30 at noon ATV/UTV Rider Safety
Hosts: Luke and Kayla Durbin. Presenter: Emily Atwood

Engage with an innovative outreach campaign intended to reduce the number of accidents on ATV and UTV’s.

Coming Soon 

County Volunteer Ag Literacy Certification Training – Whether you help your county Farm Bureau regularly with ag literacy programming or are interested to learn more about how you could start engaging in ag literacy efforts, this is the training for you! More information to come. 

Labor has always been an issue, mainly because we are a seasonal operation. So that's a challenge finding somebody who only wants to work three months out of a year, sometimes up to six months.
Mandy Way's avatar
Mandy Way

Way Farms

Farm Labor Resources
I appreciate the benefit of having a strong voice in my corner. The extras that are included in membership are wonderful, but I'm a member because of the positive impact to my local and state agricultural communities.
Ernie Welch's avatar
Ernie Welch

Van Wert County Farm Bureau

Strong communities
I see the value and need to be engaged in the community I live in, to be a part of the decision-making process and to volunteer with organizations that help make our community better.
Matt Aultman's avatar
Matt Aultman

Darke County Farm Bureau

Leadership development
The plan we are on is great. It’s comparable to my previous job's plan, and we are a sole proprietor.
Kevin Holy's avatar
Kevin Holy

Geauga County Farm Bureau

Ohio Farm Bureau Health Benefits Plan
We work terrifically with the Ashtabula County Farm Bureau, hosting at least one to two outreach town hall events every year to educate new farmers and existing farmers on traditional CAUV and woodlands.
David Thomas's avatar
David Thomas

Ashtabula County Auditor

CAUV: Past, present and future
Knowing that horticulture is under the agriculture umbrella and having Farm Bureau supporting horticulture like it does the rest of ag is very important.
Jared Hughes's avatar
Jared Hughes

Groovy Plants Ranch

Groovy Plants Ranch
If it wasn't for Farm Bureau, I personally, along with many others, would not have had the opportunity to meet with our representatives face to face in Washington.
Austin Heil's avatar
Austin Heil

Hardin County Farm Bureau

Washington, D.C. Leadership Experience
So many of the issues that OFBF and its members are advocating for are important to all Ohioans. I look at OFBF as an agricultural watchdog advocating for farmers and rural communities across Ohio.
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Mary Smallsreed

Trumbull County Farm Bureau

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