It’s June and that means it’s Dairy Month. Time to tip our hats to all the dairy producers in the Ozarks and around the country.
Dairy is only a small portion of the farming landscape these days, but dairy farmers, and their cows, are a vital part of the agricultural industry, contributing millions of dollars to the economy. They are also on the front line of the production of nature’s most perfect food.
Think about all of the great things that come from milk and its components, such as cheese, ice cream, butter, sour cream and yogurt. Try getting those from an almond or some other kind of nut. I don’t think it would taste the same. We also can’t forget my all-time favorite dairy product – chocolate milk. A big glass of chocolate milk just makes your belly smile.
I “boycotted” milk for a while as a kid. Our old Jersey milk cow got into green onions. The smell made my stomach turn. Mom had to buy milk from the store for me. Even after the onions were gone and the smell disappeared from the milk, I couldn’t drink the raw milk for long, long time. Even today, the smell of a strong onion makes me nauseous.
We also can’t forget our dairy goat producers. There’s a high demand for those products, including milk, cheese and soap. It’s also impressive to see how much milk a goat can produce in her lifetime. A longtime friend, Bonnie, has both cows and goats, and she has a pretty good customer list for her raw milk from both species. She likes showing the cheeses she makes on social media, and they look amazing.
If you think about it, milk is what helps tie everything together in a meal or snack. Even if you aren’t a “milk drinker,” dairy is still a part of your diet.
For example, 50 billion cheeseburgers are consumed annually in the U.S. The cheese atop those burgers isn’t the only dairy product; milk and butter are part of the bun-making process. If you have kids, it’s likely mac and cheese is a staple at your house. And there would be no biscuits and gravy in the morning without milk either.
Without milk, we wouldn’t have many of the foods we enjoy today. Baked goods, pasta, chocolate, fancy coffee, salad dressings, white sauces and even some cold cuts contain milk or another dairy product. Milk just makes the world go round.
Perhaps my favorite thing about the dairy industry is the people. For many longtime dairy producers, it’s the only life they have ever known or wanted, and they are dedicated to their trade. They’re in the barn for several hours a day, then there are animals to feed, fieldwork to be done and other chores. Some have to take outside jobs to try and make ends meet on top of their farming chores. It makes for a long day.
Dairy producers also seem to be the biggest targets of animal rights groups. False claims of abuse and cruelty, and “undercover investigations” make headlines, but the farmer spending their days and nights with their animals to ensure their health and wellbeing are few and far between.
I’m so proud that we can dedicate a few pages of Ozarks Farm & Neighboras our little way to salute the dairy industry. Without our nation’s dairy farmers, we would miss a whole lot more than milk.
Ozarks Farm & Neighbor has launched a new product to connect producers with consumers. Our new website fromthefarmtoyou.com offers producers the opportunity to list farm products they directly sell to consumers, such as milk, eggs produce and meat. There is no cost to add your listing to the site, and it is open to producers across the states of Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Kansas. The listing is also open to producers who wish to sell live animals intended for slaughter.
We’re still in the early stages of the website, but we are excited to see where we go from here.
Julie Turner-Crawford is a native of Dallas County, Mo., where she grew up on her family’s farm. She is a graduate of Missouri State University. To contact Julie, call 1-866-532-1960 or by email at [email protected].