At the Farm GateRaise a Glass to Dairy Month
While the COVID-19 pandemic prompted many Americans to hoard toilet paper, I chose milk. I panic-purchased five gallons in late March for our family of four in case I needed to freeze some. Rather, we made smoothies and milkshakes to consume it before the best-by date.
I couldn’t imagine my fridge without milk. I routinely start my day with a big glass of ice-cold 2% milk and sometimes end it with a small serving of the chocolate variety. You could say I raise my glass at dawn and dusk for dairy farmers, most fitting with the Dairy Month of June upon us.
Worthy of celebration, dairymen represent some of the most committed farm families in America. Cows need milked two to three times a day regardless of holidays or pandemics. Thankfully, advancements in technology provide labor flexibility on dairy farms where robots milk cows and automated systems deliver feed. Dairy farmers also have upgraded cow comfort, from better bedding for joints to backrubs from barn-mounted brushes. Some even use Fitbit-like collars to track individual cow activity.
Meanwhile, my Fitbit shows a little less physical activity now that our household advanced to an electric ice cream maker. When I plug it in, I think about Grandpa, who used to hand-crank our family-recipe homemade ice cream for every grandkid’s birthday party.
The tradition of National Dairy Month started the month of Grandpa’s 6th birthday in 1937. Throughout the nation, groups celebrate with ice cream socials, dinners at dairy farms, and promotions that tell of the nine essential nutrients in dairy products. While the satisfying taste puts milk, cheese, and yogurt on our regular grocery pickup order, the nutritious punch of calcium and protein justifies that decision.
Our household’s consumption alone proves far short of the demand needed to reverse the struggles for today’s dairy farmers. Oversupply from COVID-related shutdowns has forced dairymen to dump milk by the tanker full. Milk that supplied restaurants, schools, and institutions suddenly had no place to go. Even before the COVID crisis, declining milk consumption and oversupply had led to the demise of some dairy farms and processors.
While Dairy Month provides reason to celebrate, it also should bring pause to take notice and act. Add more dairy to that grocery pickup order. Ask for extra cheese on that take-out pizza. Plan ice cream for dessert, serve milk with dinner, and toast support to this long-time staple of American life.
About the author: Joanie Stiers’ family grows corn, soybeans, and hay and raises beef cattle and backyard chickens in West-Central Illinois.