MILKulture is a multidisciplinary hub throughout the PCC region that is spearheaded by PCC Director Dr. Carmen Licon. It’s a space where science, technology and art can meet industry, academia and the community to advance product innovation, consumer awareness, applied research and education.
- Increase awareness and training in the production of ethnic dairy products
- Spark innovation based on diverse cultural dairy heritages
- Showcase career pathways in and supporting dairy food sciences
- Attract students to seek employment within the dairy industry
- Integrate arts and humanities with dairy processing science to explore and expand cultural appreciation of dairy-based food and agriculture
- Encourage entrepreneurship by facilitating new product development of ethnic and specialty dairy products by uplifting dairy customs and foods unique to PCC ethnicities and cultures and facilitating access by private enterprise to university pilot-plant equipment
- Expand university capacity to conduct research, outreach and training to support regional dairy processing businesses utilizing a multidisciplinary approach
- Promote regional economic development
Hispanic Cheese Short Course
Part of MILKulture’s mission — to embed cultural perspectives in dairy — is evident in ongoing workshops that focus on specific language and ethnicities. In June 2023, PCC held a Hispanic Cheese Short Course at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and distributed recipes in both Spanish and English, courtesy of the California Milk Advisory Board. The short course was sponsored by Fresno State, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and the Universidad Panamericana Aguascalientes.
Kids’ Ag Camp
The students who attended Fresno State’s Kids’ Ag Camp on August 4 were treated to a cheesemaking and cheese tasting workshop with PCC Director Carman Licon. Kids’ Ag Camp is hosted by the Jordan College’s Institute for Food and Agriculture and offers a week-long hands-on learning experience for kids to enjoy. Attendees visit the diverse 1,000 acre Fresno State farm and experience a variety of farm, food, and agriculture activities.
MILKulture and Media, Communication, and Journalism (MCJ) at Fresno State:
Examples of How Humanities Classes Benefit from Studying Dairy Issues
As part of the Milkulture’s goal to engage students in dairy studies, including interdisciplinary efforts, several courses in the MCJ Department at Fresno State focused on newsworthy research (such as diversity, equity, and inclusion in dairy messaging, as well as media literacy) as well as creative strategies (such as how social media posts can target new dairy audiences.)
Student Research about Dairy Workplaces
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion! As the Covid-19 pandemic and multiple social justice movements have changed the U.S. discourse, messaging about more corporate diversity, equity and inclusion programs has become more prominent. Some businesses appear to be ramping up the promotion of DEI: Of the thousands of companies considered for Forbes’ fourth annual list of America’s Best Employers For Diversity, 60% proactively shared on their websites what they’re doing to promote diversity, up from 46% from the previous year.
“Our industry has a responsibility to take a leadership role in reflecting the importance of language as it relates to the creation of ecosystems that hold DEI principles and practices at their core,” said Vanessa Wakeman, CEO of The Wakeman Agency. “As gatekeepers, we should be pushing for evolution in how we communicate with colleagues and external stakeholders. But before we can lead that charge, we need to gain insight into the current perceptions and use of language. We hope this survey will enhance clarity and impact as we strive to shape language that propels the DEI mission.”
Student research of online messaging looked at the largest corporations as well as a sampling of dairy producers and associations. The result: Dairy businesses are increasingly supporting DEI and cultural initiatives, often stemming from the generational farming communities and changing population demographics.
Media Literacy in Food and Dairy
As part of a larger initiative about media literacy, the Fresno State Institute for Media and Public Trust is working to help people become better, more educated consumers of news and how the media operate. This also includes understanding how to recognize misinformation and media stereotypes that may reinforce simplistic and false beliefs about certain groups of people.
There is a growing study of how specific vocations — such as those working in farming and dairy businesses — are stereotyped within specific categories. The field of agricultural communication increasingly recognizes the need to address misinformation in terms of classism and gender, accentuated by ongoing campaigns by animal rights and other activists. Much as political discourse studies are focusing on the lack of fact-checking and the use of bots, especially in social media, other research about misinformation looks at how diffusion networks can disrupt farming research and events by focusing on the most controversial issues (Shao et al; 2018). Cybersecurity, in particular, is “…a rising concern because farming is becoming ever more reliant on computers and Internet access” and the farm technology ecosystem is threatened externally by activist groups infiltrating farms as employees to document and transmit information about animal and employee conditions, resulting in “Ag-Gag” laws in many farming states to make it illegal to record audio or video while trespassing on private property (Kim 2022;’ Nikkander et al; 2020)..Such surreptitious videos and screen grabs are often altered and circulated to emphasize certain stereotypes; in contrast, the “Agrespect” initiative focuses on counteracting media biases by promoting diversity and inclusiveness in the farming industry that is often portrayed “… with drama particularly so desperate to be compelling that it’s not always realistic.” (Reif, 2018).
Strategic Communication in Dairy
Students in an introductory public relations and advertising class first studied ad campaigns of dairy nonprofits, corporations, and other organizations before creating their own sample posts. Graphics and text focused on the promotion of the dairy industry, National Milk Day (and other dairy-related celebrations), and nutritional benefits.