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MSU Dairy Club Holiday Cheese Sale
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As they eat up tasty varieties of cheese made on the MSU campus, these gift recipients may not realize that the annual holiday cheese sale serves not only as a fundraiser for the MSU Dairy Club, but as a valuable learning experience for its members, MSU undergraduate students representing a cross section of College of Agriculture and Natural Resources majors.


Source: Michigan State University, College of Agriculture and Natural Resources

Contact: Sara Long, 517-432-1555, ext. 223

Annual MSU Dairy Club holiday cheese sale focuses on more than fundraising

EAST LANSING, Mich. -- For the past 51 years, many people from across the state and country have been delighted to receive the gift of a cheese basket purchased from the Michigan State University (MSU) Dairy Club annual holiday cheese sale fundraiser. This year will be no exception as the club prepares tohold its 52nd annual event Nov. 10–29.

As they eat up tasty varieties of cheese made on the MSU campus, these gift recipients may not realize that the annual holiday cheese sale serves not only as a fundraiser for the MSU Dairy Club, but as a valuable learning experience for its members, MSU undergraduate students representing a cross section of College of Agriculture and Natural Resources majors.

Students take the lead in managing the annual sale from start to finish. The day-to-day running of the sale is a hands-on process, and students find that the duties they’re charged with performing translate into a portfolio of practical career-building and life skills that will prepare them for life after graduation. From balancing classes, projects, jobs, homework and daily routines to learning how to effectively work as part of a team, communicate with one another and identify how to resolve problems, it’s all hands on deck when cheese sale season rolls around.

MSU Dairy Club alumni agree that working on the annual cheese sale fosters opportunities to grow and learn outside the traditional classroom environment.

"I love that the cheese sale focuses on camaraderie. Making sure that the fundraiser is successful takes a lot of work and effort from a number of people over many months, so this type of atmosphere makes it fun and enjoyable," says Sarah Black, director of the Public Policy and Commodity Division at the Michigan Farm Bureau. Black chaired the cheese sale when she was a junior at MSU studying agriculture and natural resources communications.

"Looking back, many of us became good friends because of all the time we spent working together on the cheese sale."

Black says the experience offered a number of educational benefits, including building leadership skills, learning how to be a productive team member and appreciating the importance of organization in meeting deadlines.

"One really benefits from engaging in a project like this, but it’s not unusual for someone to not fully appreciate all that was learned until years later," she adds.

Larry Gremel, assistant general counsel at MSU, was pursuing his undergraduate degree in animal science and pre-veterinary studies when he served as the president of the MSU Dairy Club and helped oversee the cheese sale. He says the cheese sale is a good example of how clubs and other activities outside the classroom can enhance the college experience for students.

"While it is often similar backgrounds that entice members to join the dairy club, members have diverse talents and represent a variety of undergraduate programs, including creative arts, communications, marketing, packaging, pre-professional health careers and engineering, in addition to animal science. Because the cheese sale is essentially a vertically integrated enterprise comprising production, advertising, marketing, distribution and financial management, it provides an opportunity for each member to share their skills while reinforcing principles learned in their studies," he says. "Members learn through experience to value other team member’s abilities and efforts in addition to becoming good friends and having fun."

Karmen Jackson, MSU animal science senior from Caro who chaired the 2009 cheese sale, says the personal, hands-on attention to detail resonates with customers, many of whom return year after year to purchase holiday gifts.

"The MSU Dairy Club provides a number of individual touches, such as being able to include personalized messages on the gift orders," she says. "In addition, it’s the club members who work together to package all of the gift boxes and volunteer their time to take over-the-counter sales. The club works together as one big team, each person contributing in his or her own way to get the job done."

MSU enthusiasts will also be pleased to know that the cheese sold in the gift boxes has another strong MSU connection – it’s produced in the MSU Dairy Foods Processing Plant.

"We work closely with the MSU Dairy Foods Processing Plant to determine how much cheese we need for the gift boxes," Jackson says. "We learn a lot about how to anticipate the total amount of cheese we’ll need for the sale and how we need to respond to keep our customers happy if we don’t estimate correctly."

The milk used to make the cheese also has a tie to the MSU Dairy Club – the dairy animals consigned to the club’s annual Spartan Spectacular sale produce it. This sale takes place each March in conjunction with the Michigan Holstein Association’s Spring Foundation Sale at the MSU Pavilion for Agriculture and Livestock Education. Club members partner with the MSU dairy judging program to help the state-sale crew water and milk the consignments from the time the animals arrive several days before the sale up through sale day in exchange for the money earned from selling the milk.

"The annual holiday cheese sale really culminates an entire year’s worth of work that begins each spring," Jackson says. "In essence, we take the base product – milk – and turn it into a holiday gift – cheese."

The MSU Dairy Club members will accept online, mail-in and phone orders for cheese through 5 p.m. on Nov. 29. In addition to UPS delivery, cheese orders can be picked up in Anthony Hall at the MSU Dairy Store entrance from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, November 10–24 and December 2–3.

For more information about the cheese sale, please visit the website at www.msudairyclubcheese.com. People can also contact Jessica Makowski, the 2010 cheese sale chairperson, by sending an e-mail to makows24@msu.edu or calling 586-764-8996 or the MSU Dairy Club at dairyclb@msu.edu or 517-355-3699.