When I was growing up on a dairy farm in Wisconsin, “America’s Dairyland,” June was always a month I looked forward to. After all, it’s Dairy Month! A national holiday since 1937, various other states pay tribute to Dairy Month with their own events—but I’ve never seen it celebrated with such vigor and enthusiasm as in my home state.
In Wisconsin, June is jam-packed with all sorts of celebrations and fun events that give you a little taste of what it’s like to live on a farm—no matter what part of the state you live in. My favorite is always the Iowa County Dairy Breakfast, an event held all over the state at hand-selected family farms. Unless you get there right at the 6:30 AM start time, you’re guaranteed to park a mile away. But even then, the trek won’t faze you a bit. You’ll be lured in by the mooing of the cows and the smells of typical breakfast fare, which you eat while sitting at makeshift dining areas under tents.
After getting your fill of eggs, sausages, pancakes, and various dairy goodies, you can roam around the farm and see the animals up close, participate in games, and learn about 4-H Clubs and other farm-related organizations. You can spend hours there without becoming even remotely bored, and there are tireless volunteers that help make the event a success. The family selected to host the event takes great pride in getting their farm in tip-top shape before opening it up to everyone who wants to come out and enjoy the day.
There are also other accolades to be had for the family farms that don’t host the county breakfast. My family was given two such honors back in the 1970s, and they still remain a great source of pride. One year we were recognized as the “Outstanding Young Farmers of the Year,” followed up with a recognition for “Outstanding Conservation Farm of the Year.” We still have the newspaper clippings that show all 10 of us sitting around our kitchen table. Pretty cool stuff!
You know what else is pretty cool? In researching this post, I discovered that 2014 has been declared the International Year of Family Farming. The idea is to acknowledge the legacy of family farms and the pivotal issues they face in securing their future. Events are being held around the world to educate and celebrate this way of life. Even if you’re merely a consumer of farm products, this is a subject that affects each of us on a daily basis, so it’s definitely worth it to be informed.
It’s also worth it to take the time to seek out and thank our local farmers. In my experience, these are some of the most passionate and committed people around. Farmers love what they do—and they care enough to want to keep family farms going for generations to come. Many farmers welcome visitors, encouraging suburban and city dwellers to come out and get a glimpse of what the family farm is all about. If you have the opportunity, I highly recommend making such a trip. If you want to help farmers with a donation, an excellent organization is the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund.
Getting back to dairy, chances are you’ve seen the topic of raw milk availability showing up in the news again. If you want to learn more about this issue, a great resource on all things milk is The Untold Story of Milk—The History, Politics and Science of Nature’s Perfect Food: Raw Milk from Pasture-Fed Cows by Ron Schmid, ND.
The Fort Collins Weston A. Price Foundation Chapter has a list of farmers that sell milk and milk products in Colorado. You can find national raw milk information at Real Milk Finder.
What events celebrating family farmers are going on in your area?
Photo from iStock/shotbydave