June is dairy month! Isn’t that the best excuse to eat ice cream every day in celebration? When I was a young 4-H member my first project was a Holstein heifer. Our neighbors had a dairy farm down the road where we would often visit to help with the milking. We only had a few head but were known as the family who brought their entire herd to the fair.
All farmers work hard. Dairy farmers are some of the most committed I have ever known. Morning and evening, the cows must be milked on a very strict schedule to ensure the best care and production. Nutrition and comfort are very important for keeping dairy cows in top shape. There are no days off for cows in production and that means no days off for the dairy farmers either, unless they have a reliable helper.
When we took dairy cattle to the fair, I recall our neighbor toting along the portable milk machine. I was fascinated by the small contraption. It felt like we were going back in time to connect that portable machine to our cows while they were in the dairy barn stalls. The little machine would clug, clug, clug as it milked each cow out. We would strategically milk the cows based on the time they were set to show so their udders looked full but not ready to explode. It was a science.
My fondest memories are of the Tri-County fair in Mountain Grove, Mo. When I was growing up, the fair and carnival were right around Independence Day. July in Missouri was always hot. We would have the best water fights at the wash rack – cattle jocks versus the udder jocks. It was a great way to cool down and dunk friends in the water trough.
I just scrolled through social media and enjoyed all the pictures of children of people I went to school with at our hometown fair. I love that this rural tradition continues into the next generation of young people. It makes me a little bit homesick too.
I was recently in Crawford County, Ark., and had a conversation with a 4-H leader (of almost 40 years leading) about 4-H demonstrations and fair projects. We compared notes on her experiences, and I was proud to see how the rural traditions of preparing show animals and projects continues even in my home state of Arkansas. My kids are always excited about getting ready for our Washington County fair.
My niece and nephew live in rural Nebraska. They are not quite old enough for 4-H but they are active Clover Kids. They are walking their pigs and participating in public speaking events even though they are only in elementary school. Their parents have done a great job in getting them excited about projects and the hard work that comes with it. I am a proud aunt.
Summer is the best time to go to county and state fairs and see the hard work on young people involved in agriculture. Whether you attend a livestock show, peruse projects in the arts and crafts building or enjoy beef and dairy products at the concession stand – I hope you get a chance to celebrate agriculture this summer, neighbor.
Jody Harris is a freelance communications specialist, gardener, ranch wife and mother of four. She and her family raise Angus beef cattle and other critters on their northwest Arkansas ranch. She is a graduate of Missouri State University. To contact Jody, go to ozarksfn.com and click on ‘Contact Us.’