June is Dairy Month. Growing up, that meant there might be ice cream treats at the bank. It is much more than that though. It is celebrating dairy farmers, who work EVERY day, long hours, dawn ‘til dusk, providing a living for their families, and food for America: milk, cheeses, yogurt, butter, ice cream, etc. As delicious and healthy as dairy is, it is the people behind it all, the farmers, who deserve to be honored and recognized.
|Little farm girl at heart!|
If a farmer wants a day off, they must pay someone else to keep things running on the farm. As my dad always said, “The cows aren’t going to milk themselves.” Farming involves a lot of manual labor, and there are many aspects to the job: milking, feeding (from bottle to the calves, to silage and grain to the cows), breeding, giving shots, dehorning; there’s always stuff to be fixed, barns and pens to be cleaned, machinery to be worked on. The fields need to be plowed, rocks picked, disked, fertilized, planted, sprayed, cut, raked, baled, chopped, combined, or swathed. If you make big bales, then they need to be removed and stored. Small bales need to be loaded and unloaded, and someone has to be in the hot, humid, and stuffy haymow stacking them. We filled chopper boxes and emptied them into silos, which required watching it unload to make sure it doesn’t plug. If it does, then you have to climb it and unplug it, and/or clean out the chute. You must keep up with the chopper though in supplying them with empty boxes.
The days could be longer than the sun in the summer sometimes, but while the work was hard and long, there was also pride and satisfaction in it. You could see the fields that were now bare, until the next crop was ready to be harvested. The silos and haymows were filling. Amongst all the demands of fieldwork, the cows still needed to be milked, and the animals still all fed, bedded, and put out to pasture. Fences needed to be mended and we would take a hand scythe to the weeds growing up into the electric fence lines. There was always work to be done.
The pastures, fields, and farmlands will always be home to me. Ours was a small family dairy farm, and I learned how to do everything. My Dad sold the cows last summer, and it makes it a little sadder visiting home now. The milk pump and washer you don’t hear running every morning and night. The pasture is grown tall with weeds. Things sit empty and idle. The farmer in you never really dies. You’ll always have a deep love, appreciation, and respect of the land, fields, the outdoors, and the animals – you’ll always know what it feels like to put in a hard day’s work, long after the farm is done being run.
I am truly honored to race for the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board. I don’t just race for milk though, when I wear my kit with the Refuel logo, I’m racing for all the farmers and their families, for all their long days of endless, hard work, who puts the milk and dairy products on our tables. So raise a glass of chocolate milk: cheers to them! You can join in the fun this month by attending TOAD (Tour of America’sDairyland) events or even Dairy Breakfasts. Find out what is happening around you for these Dairy Days of Summer! The Win with Chocolate Milk Team will also be serving samples of chocolate milk at the Fond du Lac (6/27) and Wauwatosa (6/29) events for TOAD. Stop on by to grab a sample and some swag! Let’s celebrate dairy; let’s celebrate our farmers!