Tucked in the heart of central Minnesota, the First District Association (FDA) has been in the business of dairy product manufacturing for almost 100 years. In 2017, the FDA completed its most recent expansion and now processes 5.5 million pounds of milk a day.
A quick glance at its website will tell you that health and safety is at the top of the FDA’s priorities. To help its lab technicians with their quality assurance, FDA brought in SciTech Laboratory Intern Carla Bromenschenkel to assist with the influx of lab work over the busy summer months.
Bromenschenkel, a native of Brownton, Minnesota, majoring in agriculture at South Dakota State University, first started working with dairy and livestock when she joined 4H and helped a friend of hers show dairy cows. Since then she’s bred and shown her own cattle and has loved working in the industry ever since. She even had past internship experience working on a dairy farm in Maryland.
“I have always loved showing dairy animals,” Bromenschenkel said, “and I cannot seem to gain enough information about them and their impact on the global food industry.”
As a lab intern at FDA, Bromenschenkel worked on a wide variety of projects including antibiotic testing and bacteria analysis, in which she tested incoming milk samples to make sure they met the company’s quality levels and food safety requirements.
“The lab is an integral part of our whole process,” said Eric Johnson, FDA’s environmental health and safety coordinator. “If the product doesn’t pass inspection and it’s not within the parameters of what our customers want, that milk is rejected. So this is the first spot before the milk is unloaded to go into our production that Carla and the rest of our staff have the right to say ‘we can’t accept this milk.’ It doesn’t happen very often but it can happen from time to time. So it’s the first part of safe food.”
Dairy production: From farm to fork:
As a dairy cooperative, the process behind manufacturing dairy products from family farms across Minnesota is simultaneously extensive and impressive. Check out this video from the FDA to see how some of your favorite cheesy foods go from local dairy farms to grocery store shelves:
During her internship, Bromenschenkel worked extensively with dairy products for several months on end. The experience, she said, only increased her interest in the industry, “I’m still excited about cheese.”
Small Minnesota companies receive up to $2,500 to help pay a STEM intern. At least 350 wage matches are available through the end of 2019.