When I arrived at Michigan State, one thing was made very clear to me: I would be living and breathing Michigan Dairy Expo until its completion on July 24.
For a little over a month, I’ve been building the Dairy Expo website, scouring the web for dairy industry resources, establishing a Dairy Expo facebook fan page, and tweeting my heart out from the @MSUDairyExpo account.
Today is the last work day before Dairy Expo.
I should probably be nervous about next week. I’m not a “dairy person,” I wouldn’t know how to judge a dairy cow if my life depended on it!
Luckily for me, the dairymen and women I’ve met in Michigan have been more than welcoming. They’ve patiently answered my ridiculous questions and taught me more than I ever expected to know about the dairy industry.
Now I’ll be the first to admit that all farmers are amazing people but in the past few weeks I’ve gained a new respect for dairy folks.
Dairy kids, for instance, have surprised me in how dedicated they are to not just the show ring but the industry as a whole. They are inspiring advocates for their industry and have a passion for sharing their experience on the farm with consumers.
Prime example: The Cow Kids.
The Cow Kids are Mid-Michigan siblings who blog about their experiences not only showing cows but everyday life on a farm.
Each sibling takes turns blogging, each with a different perspective and emphasis. What I love about this blog is that the posts are mini-snapshots of the kids’ daily life.
After reading a few posts, it becomes evident that though they love raising cows, they are normal kids just like anyone else. Take Eric for instance, who wrote:
“Last night my dad, brother, and I went to the MSU dairy barn to judge cows with my dairy team. I’m so excited because this is my second year judging and my instructor said I’m doing really well. I’m also excited about going camping this weekend with my friends.”
Adults in the dairy industry, on the other hand, don’t just want to tell consumers how they raise their cows, they want to show the general public all the hard work that goes into dairy production.
On June 20, Tony and Patti Jandernoa of St. Johns welcomed over 1,250 visitors to Dutch Meadows Dairy, their family owned and operated farm, for Breakfast on the Farm.
Visitors were served a free “made-in-Michigan” breakfast of pancakes with all the fixings. All of the breakfast ingredients were donated from across Mid-Michigan.
“People don’t know where their food comes from anymore,” Tony explained, “We want them to see where it all starts.”
Neighboring dairy producers volunteered to staff stations set up within the cow barn, milking parlor, and calf housing to answer questions and explain what goes on in a specific area of the operation.
“I don’t think I’m smart enough to be a farmer,” a visitor told me after finishing the tour, “I wouldn’t know how to run that equipment, let alone fix it when it breaks!”
Planning and executing an event of this magnitude took a small army of dairy enthusiasts and months of planning but it was well worth it!
“I will never complain about the price of milk again, you guys work hard for your money,” a mother told Patti.
If that doesn’t tell you that this event was a success I don’t know what will!
Regardless of their age, the Michigan dairy producers I’ve met over the past month have earned not only my respect but my admiration.
They find time to advocate for the dairy industry, agriculture as a whole, and still make it home in time for the evening milking.
So no matter what next week has in store for me, I know I’ll be facing it with some of Michigan’s finest farmers on my side.