Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Dedication or Sacrifice?

We're closing June Dairy Month today. For the last month we've tried our best to promote all the wonderful things dairy and will continue doing so. Being the end of dairy month, we wouldn't want to leave you without some dairy fun, so July kicks off National Ice Cream Month.

Dairy products offer a great way to get essential vitamins and nutrients in your diet and it certainly helps that they taste good. I mean really, almost anything is better when you add a little cheese. How could you start your morning without milk on your cereal? Yogurt in a parfait or smoothie is a wonderful way to add fruit to your diet.

Independence Day is just around the corner and everyone I talk to seem to have plans for the weekend. So what do farmers do to celebrate? Like most, they'll probably make it to a gathering of some sort or even go away for the weekend if they have someone to do chores for them. Work on the farm doesn't stop for a national holiday and we sure aren't going to get a floating holiday off. Chores will still need to be done, cattle tended and the milking will take place twice a day.

Over the years, people just can't imagine why we can't make it to a party that starts at 4 PM or why we're late to something. Well what can I say? The farm comes first. Some might say we're making a sacrifice because we don't get out as much as our friends. We consider it dedication to the land we live on, the animals we care for and the food we produce.

I've added a picture of the little premature beef calf, Biscuit, we had this year. Realistically, she shouldn't have made it, but I spent many nights getting up every few hours to feed her and I'm proud to say she's thriving. This is why we do what we do. It isn't really a sacrifice when we have something like Biscuit to prove that our hard work was worth it.

In my own opinion, the real sacrifice was made by the men and women who gave us the privilege to be able to celebrate Independence Day. So THANK YOU to everyone who has served our country. Without their dedication and sacrifices, we wouldn't have anything to celebrate.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Farming, Weather & Weekends

There's no doubt that farmers work in every type of weather imaginable. We milk cows every day, twice a day no matter what it's like outside.

When I was young, I never quite understood grown-ups obsession with watching the weather every evening. As I got older, I began to appreciate the importance of what it meant. Sudden changes in temperatures might mean we need to make preparations for the cattle. A big snow would mean it's time to make sure we have enough feed on hand for a few extra days. A few years ago we experienced one of the worst ice storms in history that left us without power for a week...not something we want to go through again anytime soon.

The one weather factor that almost every farmer obsesses about is rain. Here in Missouri, the old timers will tell you that we're a day away from a flood and a week away from a drought. We've seen rain soak one farm and not a drop will fall across the road on the next. Not enough (or too much) can determine the amount &/or quality of hay or crops we rely on to feed our cows. Right now our Northern part of the state is saturated, while the Southern part wouldn't mind a good soaking.

We watched the rain roll in across the hills and tree-lines this afternoon and were awfully proud to see it coming, weekend or not. As for the folks headed to the lakes and kids playing ball, they were probably a little less enthused than we were.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Dairy Month Every Month

We're entering the last days of June Dairy Month rather quickly and I know it's been a busy one around here. I was able to attend a few dairy functions this month and spread the message of how farmers really do care about our land, animals and producing a wholesome product. Once July 1st rolls in, we can start celebrating Ice Cream Month!

No matter what month it is or what we're "celebrating", you can be sure that dairy farmers across the United States are working very hard every day to produce a nutritious product. We aren't going to take a long weekend or the rest of the summer off because June is over. In some ways, you might say that we have Dairy Month every month.

Ask any farmer if they've ever missed out or been late to a family gathering, school or church function, or even an appointment and I'll bet almost every one of them have. It's not that they choose to; it's usually due to an emergency or unexpected problem compliments of a cow, piece of equipment or weather. A true farmer is committed to their best, because farming isn't just a job, it's a way of life. Nobody ever said it was easy, but if it were, wouldn't everyone want to be a dairy farmer?

Enjoy something dairy delicious and celebrate Dairy Month all year long!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Vacation Crashers

How do you get the attention of a hundred or more people enjoying a vacation by the lake? We found a sure-fire way today...take a couple of cows to a resort. Believe me, that'll get their attention!

Before you start making plans to crash someones vacation, please note that we were invited. Midwest Dairy Association asked me to participate in a June Dairy Month activity day at a major resort in Branson, MO. I had the opportunity to speak with people (young & old) about dairy farming, caring for the land, how we take care of our animals, and some of the wonderful products that are made from milk from our cows.

Talking with me wasn't the highlight of the
afternoon. That honor was given to "Aloha",
the Brown Swiss cow that Alison (Midwest
Dairy intern) brought along. I wasn't offended
that Aloha was more popular with everyone
because it isn't everyday that you get to watch
people "meet" a real cow for the first time. For me, watching someone touch a cow and have that "this is where milk comes from" moment is priceless. We've become 3, or even more, generations removed from the farm and folks
don't really know where their food comes from.
I hope we were able to help educate a few more people today. Alison introducing "Aloha" to vacationers

Our visit wouldn't have been complete without "Sophia", the fabricated cow. She was a hit as usual and had around a hundred kids (and adults) "milk" her. The resort even made homemade ice cream that didn't last long. I was told that there were several people that had never had homemade ice cream.

Despite the hot, humid weather, I hope everyone had a good time. The kids will be able to go back to school this fall and tell everyone they got to pet a real cow and even milk another one (even if she wasn't real). The adults seemed to either be enchanted for their first-time cow encounter or reminiscence about past experiences. If they didn't fall into one of those categories, well, there was the ice cream...

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Garage Sale Treasure

Everyone has "one of those days" every now and then. I seem to have more than my fair share, but I realize I'm not the only one and yes, there are those that have it much worse than I do. I was having "one of those days" last week and there it was; a sign: Garage Sale. Why not?

There was a retired couple having a garage sale. Not uncommon in our area and they had some interesting items. We began to chat about nothing in particular, I picked out a few things, gave the man my money and then it happened. He offered to help me load a particular item. I just smiled and politely refused, after all it "wasn't any heavier than a sack of feed" I told him. That's when the real conversation started.

This wasn't just a retired couple, they were retired farmers. We knew several of the same people and discussed how the community, farming, and kids today have changed. They'd had beef cattle, hogs, done some gardening, and ran a meat processing plant. When I said we had a small dairy, the older gentleman said, "That's the one thing I never would do. Milking cows takes too much time & ties you down. You have to do that 365 days a year".

What could I say? I had to agree except for one small detail...we get to do this 366 days on a Leap Year. We all had a good laugh. I explained that yes, it's pretty time consuming, but it's our way of life. Even though we spend numerous hours caring for our animals and the land, we still find time to enjoy life. Granted, it's not always fun, I can't imagine raising our family or living anywhere else.

I honestly enjoyed visiting with the retired couple and for the most part, it was the highlight of my day. There's nothing like a good conversation and I feel like I found a real treasure at that garage sale...and it didn't cost a thing.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

June is Dairy Month

It's hard to believe that it's already June 1st! Where has the year gone? Today also kicks off June Dairy Month - no big deal to some, a reason to celebrate for others.

I am often asked why my family & I would want to milk cows. The last couple of years have been some of the worst in history for dairy farmers, the hours are long, the work is get the idea. The upside is that we live & work on our farm (no hour long commute), it's a great place to raise a family, we get to work around animals every day, and we produce a wholesome, nutritious product to help feed the world.

While being a dairy farmer isn't for everyone, it's a job that we take pride in. I can't imagine myself working an office job in a major city, but I'm grateful for those who do because it takes many different kinds of people to keep our world running on track.

Celebrate June Dairy Month with dairy farmers across the nation by enjoying the products we help produce: cheese, ice cream, yogurt, and milk to name a few. Have a Dairy good day!