When the COVID-19 pandemic began in the United States, there was chaos throughout every community. Panic ran wild as people planned to quarantine themselves and their families for a long period. People went to every store to grab supplies of toilet paper, sanitizer and other necessities that would provide comfort during this craziness.
    Of the many choices that provide comfort for families was milk. Milk was flying off the refrigerated shelves, and many times the stores limited the quantities to make sure it was not being hoarded by a few. What an impact that was for the dairy farmers. The fluid milk consumption took off in a way that no one could have ever imagined.
    How exciting to know that the nutritious, wholesome goodness from our cows is considered a necessity and comfort food. When a stressful situation happens, they want to reach for a glass of real milk, not almond, soy or even soda. In fact, cheese and ice cream sales also peaked a new level, proving dairy is goodness that feeds our souls in times of disruption.
    As dairy farmers, consuming dairy is the backbone in our lives. We start our day with milk, lunch with cheese and more milk, and an evening meal is not complete without using butter, yogurt or sour cream. What is the choice most of us choose to have before bed? Ice cream. We support our own industry and are proud of what we do. How wonderful is it that our own communities are feeling that what we provide is safe and trusted? The reality of where milk comes from is that it is from all of us. Dairy is solace.
    Along with comfort food of dairy products, beef and other meat were comfort foods that were swept out of the grocery cases. Butchers were working overtime to keep the high-protein products available. Families started shopping locally to find beef and often reached out to farmers themselves to inquire about purchasing direct. They found farmers in their communities who have been there all along.
    Reality hit consumers. Farmers are feeding the whole country. Milk does not just come from the grocery store. It comes from farms where families are working tirelessly. Pandemic or not, those cows need to be milked. Real people, men and women, working to get not only milk but meat, vegetables and fruit to the tables across America.
    As we approach Oct. 12, National Farmers Day, we have something to celebrate. This year’s Gallup Poll just ranked farming and agriculture as the best industry out of 25 assessed. This is the first time U.S. farming has been ranked No. 1 by Gallup in 20 years.
    How exciting is that? When I heard the news, I remember thinking about all of those nutrition facts: nine essential vitamins and minerals, iron and that per ounce milk is the most cost efficient nutritious drink. Consumers are getting to know that farmers are growing food for them. What does this mean to every farmer? Picture me with my arms up singing, “We are the champions,” but in a very poor rendition. Pride beams from within me.
    I would like to see what we can do together as a powerful dairy industry and show our pride in our dairy farming heritage. I would like to propose we take a moment Oct. 12 to post a photo of our families, our cows and our beautiful farms to show we deserve this honor. I would be so pleased to see all of us flood social media with our love of what we do and who we do it with. We have always thought of our lifestyle as farmers as No. 1, but it is nice to know consumers have taken notice too.   
    Tina Hinchley, her husband, Duane, and their daughters, Anna and Catherine, milk 240 registered Holsteins with robots. They also farm 2,300 acres of crops near Cambridge, Wisconsin.  They have been hosting farm tours for over 20 years.