Dairy – Delicious, Nutritious, and A Way Of Life for the New Mexico Milkmaid.

It’s dairy for breakfast, dairy for lunch, and dairy for dinner. Although we’re familiar with the 9 essential nutrients (calcium, protein, vitamin A/D/B12, niacin, riboflavin, potassium & phosphorus), there’s so much more that milk has to offer us and our environment. Luckily, I got to meet up with someone who helped fill me in on all things dairy. #dairy #newmexicomilkmaid #nutritioninmilk #dairyproducts


When I went to visit the New Mexico Milkmaid‘s dairy in Clovis, NM, my high expectations were EASILY exceeded from the amount of knowledge and enthusiasm she had to share. For the Vander Dussen family, milk isn’t just a staple in their diet. For them, it’s a source of family income, it’s a way of life, and it’s a strong passion that goes generations deep, for both Tara and her husband. As 5th generation dairy farmers (on both sides), they know triumphs and experienced the hardships that come with tending to their cows on a daily basis. Tara shares A Look to the Future on one of her recent blogs,

“My hope is that we will embrace our future with the same determination as our grandparents. And while we reflect on the past, we must continue in our forefathers’ footsteps of always moving forward and bettering ourselves and our farms.”

My visit with Tara and her family included her and her daughter joining me on New Mexico Ag in the Classroom‘s weekly episode of Breakfast with Brit on Facebook Live (on our page, every Wednesday at 9:00am). In this 2-part episode, Tara shares with us one of her “go-to” recipes – Sour Cream & Pecan Banana Bread, which of course includes deliciously creamy milk and crunchy pecans. “I love adding dairy products anywhere and everywhere I can in recipes! Adding sour cream or yogurt to the classic banana bread recipe can make it so much more moist. I highly recommend giving it a try!” – New Mexico Milkmaid

Breakfast with Brit – Dairy Tour & Banana Bread (Part 1)

For Part 2, CLICK HERE.

Science on the Farm

TAKE A LISTEN! Field Work podcast, hosted by two row-crop farmers, Zach Johnson and Mitchell Hora, dive deep, as Tara gets a chance to talk to them about the other hat she wears (She’s an Environmental Scientist!) and how she monitors the nutrient management, manure management, and water conservation practices on their farm and the farms that she works with throughout the southwest. Along with improving the environment, after their cows are milked, Tara informed me that it is sent to Southwest Cheese Company, LLC, located in Clovis, NM. Here, they are also dedicated to protecting the local natural resources and environment.

“Southwest Cheese has invested in a $25 million state-of-the-art water and wastewater treatment system that cleans and purifies by-products from our plants. Our system has been proven to reduce waste loads by more than 90 percent.”

Southwest Cheese Company, LLC

Explore for More!

Explore these lessons, and others that are located on our New Mexico Ag in the Classroom website.

Milk or Meat? Beef or Dairy? Different cattle breeds serve different purposes for agriculture, thanks to how much milk they produce or how much muscle they gain. Ag Fact: A Holstein’s spots are like a snowflake or human fingerprint; no two cows have exactly the same patterns of spots.

A Day Without Dairy “Without agriculture we wouldn’t have ANYTHING we use on a daily basis: Food, Fabric, Flowers, Forestry, or Fuel.” Ag Fact:  California dairies have significantly increased milk production due to an increase in the amount of milk each cow produces and a higher number of cows in our state. 

FoodMASTER Middle: Cheese “Explore milk by learning how cheese is made, the effect of pH on the formation of curds and whey, and the many health benefits associated with consuming dairy products.” Ag Fact: The holes in swiss cheese are a byproduct of the bacteria used to make the cheese.

The Scoop on Chemical and Physical Changes “The fluid milk we drink and the milk that is used to make other dairy products such as ice cream, yogurt, and cheese is typically produced by cows on a dairy farm.” Ag Fact: The average cow in the United States produces 6-8 gallons of milk per day.

The NM Grow Project 2020: Growing Connections to the Future of Agriculture

This post is a follow up to a previous post: See NM Grow Project Grant Specifics Here

New Mexico Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and New Mexico Agriculture in the Classroom (NMAITC) are excited to announce the 2020-2021 NM Grow Project Grant awardees. This is the second year of providing a unique grant opportunity designed to help educators and students from across the state make important connections to agriculture and natural resources. The grant provides all the materials needed for a complete 4X8 raised garden bed with drip irrigation system and a classroom hydroponic system. Not only do classrooms get these much-needed tools to extend their curriculum, more importantly, they receive specialized on-site and virtual trainings along with continual support throughout the school year on use of materials and ways to incorporate the project across the curriculum with free Ag in the Classroom lessons and resources.

“This is a great time to delve in and explore the importance of maintaining safe, reliable, and accessible food systems while raising awareness of the vital role natural resources play in these processes.”

Traci Curry, NMAITC Director

The grant affords each classroom the chance to observe and compare the challenges and benefits of different growing methods as well as provides a plethora of opportunities to design experiments and solve problems. These grant tools can provide powerful real-world learning opportunities and excellent ways for students to see themselves as scientists, researchers and farmers which are all very important careers necessary to the future of our food production. “An exciting new addition to the grant is that many of the educators that received the grant last year are now willing to help mentor this year’s award winners. This adds a wonderful new level of support to the grant that will be invaluable as it helps teachers navigate, troubleshoot, and avoid issues that might arise,” says Curry.

“NRCS is proud to once again partner with NMAITC on the New Mexico Grow Project,” says Alicia Rodriguez, NRCS Assistant State Conservationist for Partnerships. “Agriculture is fundamental to the health and economy of our state and our nation. This year’s applicants were exceptional, demonstrating the incredible work that New Mexico schools are doing across the state to promote science and agricultural literacy, to build awareness of the role of agriculture in our daily lives, and to establish important ties between schools and their local agricultural communities. NRCS believes that the grant awards will help promote student’s interest in agriculture with the hopes of encouraging the next generation of farmers, conservationists and scientists in helping people help the land. We thank NMAITC for their commitment to agricultural education and look forward to working together on future endeavors.”

Congratulations to these twelve schools receiving a NM Grow Project Grant:

Region I & II:

  • Wilson Middle School, Susan Schipull, Albuquerque, NM
  • Mountain Mahogany Community School, Pili Burkett, Albuquerque, NM
  • Rudolfo Anaya Elementary, Maria Rivera Alvarez, Albuquerque, NM
  • Desert Montessori School, Liza Marshal Frolkis, Santa Fe, NM
  • Melrose Middle/High School, Alan Daugherty, Melrose, NM
  • Maxwell High School/ FFA, Christina Rubio, Maxwell, NM

Region III & IV:

  • Garfield Elementary, Pam Carpenter, Hatch, NM
  • Snell Middle School, Cindy Lee, Bayard, NM
  • Aztec Youth Academy, Corrina Franks, Las Cruces, NM
  • Columbia Elementary, Amanda Krentz, Las Cruces, NM
  • Holloman Middle School, Holly VanderMolen, Holloman Air Force Base, NM
  • Berrendo Middle School, Kathleen Arias, Roswell, NM

Breakfast with Brit: Let’s “Beef” Up Your Learning!

May is National Beef Month!

“Beef is the soul of cooking.”

Marie-Antoine Carame

The soul of cooking, indeed. In the handful of breakfast meals that I have prepared so far, ~75% have been with beef, for good reason, too. Beef definitely marks high on the list when it comes to staple ingredients into our traditional New Mexican dishes, including green chile, of course. The presence of beef in our state’s cooking “repertoire of recipes” dates back to before we even a state. In 1540, when cattle were first introduced to New Mexico by the explorer Coronado, they were used as a commissary herd, meaning they were utilized as food for the soldiers on the expedition. In later years a more permanent set of herds were established in the form of estancias, which were large ranching operations in the southwestern U.S. and South America. From there, beef was an essential part of meals because it “packed a punch” for our daily recommended value of protein and essential nutrients within each serving size.

Ranching, like the marbling effect inside cuts of beef and other meats, is engrained into the local economy, throughout rural NM. Check out this video put out by the New Mexico Cattlegrower’s Association, and hear first-hand from a multi-generation family of ranchers in northeastern New Mexico, the Clavel’s, as they share with us how their ranch has served as an economic and community support over the years for the little town of Roy.


New Mexico Ag in the Classroom is dedicated to helping families continue to learn during this time. Through our Facebook Live video series, “Breakfast with Brit”, the mission is to:

  • Provide current factual information
  • Connect you with experts in their field
  • Show where you can access FREE educational online resources 
  • Provide tasty and easy recipes while we are all home cooking more often
  • Show how easy it is to ask us questions and see that there is always something great to learn in agriculture

This week’s recipe is a special one because it’s one from my grandma Lolo (Lois Lardner). It’s extra special because she is now an angel. When I was growing up, she provided me with a deep love for cooking & baking. She also instilled an appreciation for growing things in the garden, like tomatoes (even if they weren’t one of my top food choices at the time). One of the best lessons I learned from that sweet woman was the importance of family and making sure to gather around the table and share your day with loved ones for breakfast, lunch, or dinner and sometimes all 3 if the schedule allowed it.

Lolo’s famous Smothered Green Chile & Beef Burritos were always a hit in the Lardner household – anything she cooked was, really. She should have had her own show titled “Cooking for the Herd,” not that we were a ranching family or anything, but she had her own herd of six kids which made larger recipes necessary. Her measurements were always by the bucket, not a teaspoon.

“Beef Up Your Learning” – FB Live Video:

Not only is beef an important part of the American diet, but it also plays a significant role in our economy.

NMAITC lesson, Beef Basics (see Background Agricultural Connections section)

The quote above serves as a connection to the current status for a reliable source of nutrients our bodies need, but also for our local community’s economic reliance on the beef industry. Although it’s not something I brought up in the video, I feel it’s a topic that is a world-wide conversation that is important to acknowledge. Currently, our economy and agriculture industry is facing many challenges, changes, and setbacks that are out of all of our hands. The mental toll it takes on us can quickly become overwhelming. It’s important that during these times we evaluate our mental well-being and “stick together” to find things in which to be thankful. Here is an inspirational blog from the BEEF Magazine that recognizes 25 Things To Be Grateful For. We hope that everyone is taking time throughout your day to focus on your health and well-being.

Links, Lessons & Recipes:

Let’s get right to it! Here is a list of engaging informational links and lessons to help keep further your knowledge for the beef you eat or byproducts you use that we showcased on the FB Live session.

    • Where Did Your Hamburger Come From? (Grades K-2) In this lesson students will learn about the variety of agricultural products they consume in a hamburger and will trace the ingredients back to their source.
    • Beef Basics (Grades 3-5) Students will explain the importance of the beef cattle industry, including the products cattle produce, the production process from farm to plate, and how cattle can utilize and obtain energy from grass and other forage.
    • The Remarkable Ruminant (Grades 6-8) In this lesson, students will follow the farm to fork process of producing beef, learn how cattle and other ruminants convert grass into nutrient-rich foods such as milk and meat, discover ways cattle recycle food waste, and identify careers in the beef cattle industry.
    • A Tale of Two Burgers: Beef and Plant-Based Protein (Grades 9-12) Students will compare the components of beef and plant-based burgers by determining the production and processing methods of each product; evaluate the ingredients and nutritional differences between beef and plant-based products; and discuss different points of view in the agricultural industry concerning plant-based proteins and traditional beef.

See you on the next episode of Breakfast with Brit.

Britney LardnerNMAITC Program Coordinator

Breakfast with Brit : “Pollinators at the Table”

For those of you who have not seen our Facebook page on Wednesdays (specifically around 9am), it’s safe to say you’re missing out on some really good stuff in your life. New breakfast recipes to try with your family, mini ag lessons, free resources, nutrition facts and jokes that will make even your dog crack up in laughter are now available. If you HAVE seen it, I hope that you’re able to enjoy the light-hearted fun and realness that I (Britney) share with you, as viewers. Consider this “Blog # 1 of Many” for the Breakfast with Brit series.

The intended purpose of these weekly Facebook Live videos is to provide a continued connection with our community of teachers and students that we’re missing so much, due to the social distancing measures from COVID-19. In wanting to ensure to everyone that Traci and I are very much still around and eager to get connected with YOU in any way we can, I wanted to create a moment during the week where we could focus on something that was informative, entertaining and factual, yet present a face of “we’re all in this together, so let’s find something to be grateful for & share a good laugh” type of feel. Sidenote: after watching the facebook video, feel free to reach out and provide constructive criticism or ideas for an upcoming episode. I’m always wanting to improve, so honest and supportive feedback is always encouraged.

Within this series, my mission is to have it chock full of different topics related to agriculture and how you, at home, can still have great learning opportunities take place all the while enjoying a very delicious and nutritious breakfast. I dive into the nutritional value of the breakfast ingredients, share with you where some products grown throughout New Mexico, as well as provide you with a set of resources for you to continue on the knowledge adventure I take you on in my home.

Did you know?

Bees pollinate 95 different crops, helping to create nearly one-third of the world’s food supply.

Honey Bees: A Pollination Simulation (Click the link to learn more fun facts and bee vocabulary.)


Well, if that wasn’t enough honey to satisfy your “sweet tooth” for that hankering of all things pollinators, check out this clip: Amazing Time-Lapse: Bees Hatch Before Your Eyes.

Now that you’ve had your fill and are totally stuffed from both a delicious breakfast and all that information, here are some helpful links to nibble on throughout the rest of your visit on this blog that we were able to pass along during the FB live feed (publications, lessons, & multimedia):

📚Lessons (with AGtivities) that connect to pollinators & our food!

Although the education process has changed a bit, we are here to support teachers (and parents, alike) make sure that their kids are still getting in those hands-on learning opportunities.

The Cowboy Quiche – Pioneer Woman Recipe is a yummy one! Have some fun with it … make it a math lesson by doubling the recipe and sharing with a neighbor or group of people you appreciate! Now is a great time to show people you care. Don’t have enough ingredients? You can then cut the recipe in half to make a smaller individual serving! 

Enjoy the quiche and remember, these times at home that you have with your family are precious moments of them growing up that you may not have experienced otherwise (it’s the hidden blessing that I have found from COVID-19). When we get back into the “real world” pace of life we will pick up and go really fast and everyone will get plugged back into work/sports/church/etc. Treasure these moments with your kids.

Until Next Time,

Britney Lardner

The NM Grow Project Grows So Much More Than Food!

Recently, we have all experienced a heightened awareness of the important role of our food supply. With dairy, meat, and even toilet paper supply chain issues as well as price changes, more of us have begun to pay closer attention to the way our food is grown and gets from the farm to our table. Great teachers understand that current events play a wonderful role in student engagement, therefore the New Mexico Grow Project is a perfect fit for the upcoming school year! It is designed to help great teachers grow important skills that students need now more than ever before.

Great teachers want to:

  • Reach all students and learning styles.
  • Foster real-world problem solving.
  • Provide a unique way for students to learn that hard work is rewarding.
  • Incorporate quality hands-on experiences.
  • Help your students make deep connections to their environment, community, and multicultural traditions.
  • Give students excellent opportunities for scientific observations and hypothesis testing.
  • Assure students use higher order critical thinking skills.
  • Make connections across the curriculum for comprehensive learning.
  • Learn along with their students and show learning is a lifelong process!
  • Be able to network with other successful educators already using the materials.

Since you are a great teacher and want to offer these unique learning opportunities for your students, the NM Grow Project was designed especially for you!

Teachers and community volunteers at a NM Grow Project Workshop at Hillrise Elementary in Las Cruces build the drip irrigation system for their raised garden bed.

Project Design Makes It Easy For Teachers:

The NM Grow Project provides everything a classroom needs to explore growing throughout the school year anywhere in the state. The inventory of free materials is extensive and is designed for busy teachers that don’t have time to gather and put everything together. We do all of that for you! We also provide training and networking options with teachers and local experts to help you learn how to use, troubleshoot, and easily duplicate project materials to sustain and grow your program. You don’t need any experience or a green thumb, just enthusiasm and a willingness to learn!

I am in love with our hydroponic system. It is so cool! My kinders have learned about life cycles, living vs nonliving, seasons and soil. They are curious as to why dill the plant tastes like pickles.

Amber Spence, Dexter, NM , 2019 Award Recipient

“Students are very engaged in the NM Grow Project. Not only are the students who signed up for the course enthusiastic, but also students who did not sign up are asking to participate.”

Scott Meihack, Jemez Valley High School, 2019 Award Recipient
All of the students in Cliff, NM benefit from the New Mexico Grow Project Grant thanks to high school teacher, Frances Miller.

The New Mexico Grow Project application window is now open until June 1, 2020. The easy online application is available here.

The application asks for:

  • School/garden team information Helpful Hint: The more your whole school is involved, the better. Numbers of students do not impact judges decisions so that small schools can apply.
  • A brief checklist confirmation to assure you have basic garden site requirements. You would be surprised how many schools lack access to water! If you lack access, describe the plan to get access.
  • 8 brief questions on how you plan to use the materials (see list here) The evaluation rubric the judges will use is even provided! Helpful hint: think about how to use the materials of both the raised bed AND hydroponic system as these are meant to overlap and facilitate great science explorations throughout the school year.

Apply at www.nmaitc.org!

“We are a tribal owned school and most of our students are from the community and a few from neighboring Pueblos. We teach language and culture in the classrooms as well. Students are taught the importance of farming and sustainability in our culture. These materials are used as a visual and hands on in our teachings to show how to care for living things and to be able to see the rewards in the end.” Leon Herrera, Teh Tsu Geh Oweengeh School, 2019 Award Recipient


Email agclass@nmflb.org. We are here to help!

Thank you Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) for providing this opportunity!

Space Chile Challenge Is Your Chance to Spice Up Learning At Home!

When I saw this learning opportunity, I was SO AGcited (get it? AG + excited, it happens a lot around here)! I am a bit of skeptic, however, so I emailed this Mr. Jacob Torres to see if it was “legit”. Lo and behold we hit the educational AGtivity jackpot with this great challenge for the whole family!

Meet Jacob Torres and learn about the challenge from Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden! https://drive.google.com/file/d/16RKfVUunQfoBMsjXXfhO4y4I9IRDDfAm/view

The Space Chile Challenge:

  • Is open to various ages and learning levels (from easy to advanced).
  • Offers access to the experts to ask questions and post updates.
  • Provides many supporting links and educational resources so you can dive in as deep as you want.
  • Is an indoor challenge so you can do it anywhere.
  • Requires problem-solving and scientific observation to solve a challenge.
  • Works with UNM scientists to test your results (growing with a purpose).
  • Highlights the awesomeness of New Mexico chile. (Sorry Colorado, NASA loves us best, and yes, we spell chile correctly.)

I started growing plants with my mom at school as a kid. We did a little zip lock bag with a wet paper towel, added some seeds and would watch these amazing plants grow. I didn’t know then that I was developing skills that would embody my career later in life. More than anything I want to find ways to give that to the next generation of kids growing up. Especially in New Mexico where I know we feel like big things may not be for us. I’ve surprised myself with how far I’ve been able to come, and they all can do it too! – Jacob Torres

A special bonus from this project is that Mr. Torres is New Mexico grown (shoutout to Española & Santa Fe)! He developed his love of plants and growing from his mom, Gloria Valencia, a 40-year veteran teacher and his first-grade teacher, as well as from helping his grandma in her garden. This story is proof that you are never too young to learn about ag!

Here is what you need to get started:

Learn the project specifics from Fairchild Tropical Botanical Gardens. All the project options focus on indoor growing but you get to decide how you want to grow. An easier version would be to grow in soil or maybe you are more up for the challenge of hydroponics in a cup!

Stay current and communicate with the researchers via Facebook: Join group (if you have parent permission) https://www.facebook.com/groups/SpaceChileChallenge/about/

Chimayo pepper plant growing in the homemade hydroponic cup. (See how to make your own hydroponic cup here). Well played using a Star Wars cup Mr. Torres, well played! (Insert slow clap here!)

Meet Jacob Torres and learn how he became a researcher for NASA : You should learn as much as you can from reliable resources as it might give you ideas for your own research as well as a better understanding of best practices so you don’t have to make as many mistakes!

Meet the Scientist In His Own Words

New Mexico Chile In Space in the Albuquerque Journal

Space Chile Challenge: NASA researcher sends New Mexico chile seeds around the globe

Learn More About Growing In Space! Learn about VEGGIE and the Advanced Plant Habitat (APH) on the International Space Station (ISS) where the team of scientists Mr. Torres works with are growing crops to eventually supplement astronauts’ diets.

Jacob’s suggestions on keeping track of your research: “The level of which I’m sure will depend on the level of students. For example, younger grades will do great just growing the plant/s and higher grades may want to get deeper into the experiment and documentation. What I use as a guideline in my research is NCERA-101 guidelines for conducting plant growth experiments in controlled environments. They would do their best to fulfill this data by recording it in a notebook. Not all of it can be captured, but a best attempt is worthy. When the day comes to show me how they grew Space Chile, they will have it recorded.”

Request your free NM Chile Seeds: Please Note: Parent permission is required any time you are providing personal information such as your mailing address!

Send an email with your mailing address to jtatnasa@aol.com or click here to register:

Important dates and timing: It takes about 88 days to grow green chile and about 130 days to grow red chile indoors. (Yes, they grow on the same plant!) Green chile will turn red as it ripens. Please note: The last date that UNM will receive and test pepper samples is February 16, 2021. You just pick the one you think is the hottest pepper and send it with your name, address, and contact information to:

Space Chile Challenge Attn: David Hanson
UNM Biology, Castetter Hall 1480
MSC03-2020, 219 Yale Blvd NE
Albuquerque, NM 87131-0001

Welcome to Know Ag

When visiting classrooms, specifically to teach agriculture, I was awakened to the reality that we desperately need more opportunities and resources to learn about science and agriculture.”

Traci Curry, NM Agriculture in the Classroom

Know Ag seeks to provide resources and AGtivities (as we like to call them) that:

  • Facilitate a better understanding of agriculture and natural resources.
  • Use materials that are readily available, easy to use, and hopefully free or at the very least, inexpensive.
  • Help make connections to “the experts in their field”.
  • Offer ways to extend learning to accommodate more learners/learning styles.
  • Grow curiosity and scientific investigation.
  • Are fun and engaging.

Who Will Grow Our Future? We are here to help more students get interested in careers in agriculture and natural resources. We need to get more students excited about agriculture. Many youngsters have a love of nature. Just ask them how many loved playing in the dirt or have an interest in insects. Unfortunately, somewhere along the line, we are not doing enough to keep the initial spark kindled.

Now More Than Ever Before: U. S. farmers and ranchers now represent less than 2% of our current population. They are also getting older. Farming and ranching isn’t a job you can easily step into. Training usually starts as soon as you can walk in many farm families. It is also a tough job with many risks such as weather and market fluctuations. Successful agriculture is also dependent on many professions, not just farming and ranching. It takes science and research to develop better and new sustainable technologies.

How do we get students interested in growing our future and how do we grow better in the future?