September 5, 2017 at 3:32 p.m.

What June dairy month means to me

By Mark [email protected] | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

I was recently asked what June Dairy Month means to me.
I said, "Well, it's a great chance to celebrate an industry I love."
After giving it more thought, it's also an industry that has been with me since I was born.
Growing up on a 52-cow dairy farm with 10 siblings, I didn't really celebrate June Dairy Month with my family. Most of my friends grew up on dairy farms and my neighborhood was full of dairy farmers. Dairy farms dotted the countryside and it seemed nearly everyone had a connection to dairying.
When I went to college at St. Cloud State University, I don't remember doing anything special during June Dairy Month.
But when the Dairy Star had its inception in 1999 everything changed.
It's when I started becoming aware of June breakfast on the farm events, their popularity and, more importantly, their need.
So what does June mean to me now?
It means two things. It's a chance to recognize all the hard-working dairy farmers. Secondly, it's a great opportunity for us in the industry to teach consumers about dairy farming.
Let's start with you, the dedicated dairy farmers. So many products that line the shelves in the grocery store can be attributed to you and milk. Every time you put a milker on in the barn it starts a wonderful chain of events that goes from the bulk tank to the processing plant and finally to the dairy aisle in the grocery store where there are hundreds of dairy options for consumers. Milk is essential for so many delicious products like yogurt, cheese, ice cream and sour cream.
But it's also a key ingredient for candy bars, Cheetos, cappuccinos, protein bars and drinks, and chips among numerous other products.
June is also our month to show our neighbors and city friends what we do and how we do it. In my opinion, one of the best ways for us to do this is at breakfast on the farm events.
These breakfasts are our chance to connect with consumers who don't have a dairy connection any more. I take a lot for granted because five of my brothers dairy, one of my brother-in-laws milks cows, and so do so many of my best friends. But I'm now the minority.
It's remarkably sad how many people in our current population have never seen a cow and don't know where milk comes from. I don't think it would take the best salesperson to trick consumers that chocolate milk comes from brown cows.
This is where June Dairy Month events can help.
I have attended the Stearns County Breakfast on the Farm every year since it started. The number of people who attended has increased over the years. The inaugural year, 750 visitors came to the event. Last year, over 2,500 people showed up. This year the event was held June 7 at Funk's Midway Dairy near Melrose, Minn. The event drew close to 1,600 despite it raining for a couple hours.
Those visitors could have gone to the lake, shopping, golfing or just stayed at home to watch TV, but they didn't. They wanted to see a dairy farm.
How lucky are we?
That means we got to host consumers who were interested in learning more about milk, where it comes from, how we care for our cows, and what they eat. More importantly (in my opinion) they get a chance to meet real dairy farmers and their families. They get an up-close look at the incredible depth and precision that goes into dairy farming and why you do what you do.
Most attendees brought their children, which allowed us to teach two generations about dairy farming.
It's our chance to show dairy farming isn't like it looks in the books they read to their children - a person wearing bibs sitting on a stool squirting milk into a pail. For many that's the only visual they have of a dairy farm and that needs to change. Consumers need to see the modern technology that we use to care for our animals and the immense amount of work we do to provide an incredibly safe and nutritious product.
Having a breakfast on the farm allows us to do a lot of teaching on our turf. It allows us to get the correct facts out there and connect with consumers.
If it's something you think you might want to start in your county I suggest attending an event in one of the many counties that have hosted a breakfast for several years and learn the ropes. An immense amount of work goes into the planning and the event, but the gain is well worth it.
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