As the holiday season comes to an end, I find myself looking back over the last few weeks and thinking, “What a whirlwind!”. Balancing work and family time with life and traveling around the holidays. One thing I have learned over the years is life on a dairy makes the holidays a little different than most people’s. There is no paid time off or paid holidays for dairy producers. Work continues as usual on the dairy, making things a little non-traditional. For starters, I have never wished for a white Christmas. While the farmer in me is always glad when we get some moisture here in New Mexico, the dairy side of me knows that it just means extra work for everyone. As a kid, all my friends would dream of snow on Christmas. All I could think was, snow means no presents until Christmas afternoon because my dad would have to work a little longer. As is, we waited to open presents until after all the morning chores were done. And you just had to hope everything went smoothly.
I can’t believe it has been almost a year since I started blogging to advocate for agriculture. With that milestone approaching, I have been reflecting back on this last year. I have learned so much and talked with so many amazing people all over the US and the world.
I ultimately decided to start blogging because I love telling people about dairy, and, I like to think, consumers love learning about where their food comes from. Dairy farming is our passion. And it is important to educate our consumers about what it is we do exactly and how we care for our cows and our land. It is probably one of THE most important thing that we can do right now. This new generation is even more removed from agriculture than the previous ones. And they get most (if not all) of their news from sources like their Facebook newsfeed. Our jobs and our livelihoods depend on us connecting with our consumers. Consumers constantly see negative things about farming online. If we don’t show them the truth, then they will stop buying our products. And the highest milk price in the world isn’t going to keep us all in business if no one is buying milk. If you think I am overreacting just take a look at the decrease in fluid milk sales over the last 50 years and the increase in alternative milk products.
So what has surprised me the most since I started blogging? The criticism I receive from my fellow dairy producers and farmers!
When you hear the words large dairy farm, what is the first thing you think of? Factory farm? Corporate farms? How about family farm?! No? I didn’t think so. There are so many misconceptions about these dairy farms. Unfortunately, much of what you will read online or videos you watch won’t tell you any of the facts. I am here to tell you, I am apart of a large FAMILY farm and hopefully, after reading this you will have a better understanding of what these farms are really like. Here in New Mexico we are known for our big herd size and dairy farms. New Mexico has the largest average herd size at over 2,000 cows per dairy. Lots of open spaces and the climate are the main factors behind this. But it might surprise you to hear that 95% of all dairies in the United States are family owned and operated. And it is no different here in New Mexico where 96% of our dairies are family owned.
I have been in a little bit of a breakfast slump. I am lucky if I grab a glass milk before heading to work — extra lucky if that is a glass of FairLife Chocolate milk, my favorite! And with G headed to her first day of Mother’s Day Out in a couple weeks, I started thinking how I need some healthy, fast breakfasts for on the go. With school just around the corner, I know I am not the only one thinking about this. Here are a few recipes I will be making to get us out the door fast while making sure we get a serving of dairy and some fruits!
Happy National Ice Cream Month!! I look forward to this month all year! No seriously, I do. It is a great excuse to eat ice cream everyday (not that you need an excuse!). And with a blog, I absolutely have to eat ice cream everyday so I can post about it. I really love ice cream. At one point in high school, I thought I was addicted to it. I would have it every night, every SINGLE night. And if I didn’t, I would be pretty upset. I get my love of ice cream from my Dad. He REALLY REALLY loves ice cream. Just this weekend, I tried to describe his love of ice cream to someone. Their response, “You could write a whole blog post about that!”. While this blog post is not all about his love of ice cream, I do think his nightly ice cream concoction (as we call it) is worth mentioning. The best one I have seen is as follows. He starts with a drumstick. Yes, I know that is a whole dessert for a normal person. My Dad is not a normal ice cream eater. He is expert level. So from there, he adds his favorite ice cream of the moment. He continues with adding different varieties of cereal. And of course he has to add milk because who eats cereal without milk?! If his favorite daughter has made cookies, he will add one of those (whoever makes cookies is his favorite daughter). And finally, if my Mom can convince him, he will add some mixed berries because that is healthy. And he tops it off with whipped cream. UNREAL! So this blog post is for you, Dad, one of the many amazing dairymen in my life!
Growing up in our dairy community in Eastern New Mexico, it felt like everyone I knew was Dutch and dairy farmers. So all of my family’s weird quirks seemed normal. It was not until I was older did I realize not everyone did all these things. I have included just a few fun facts. Some are more dairy, some are more Dutch.
Today it hit me like a ton of bricks… IT IS SUMMER!!! I know I am a little late to the party. I think you start losing track of school breaks and the seasons start running together when you don’t have kids in school. Also, this May has been unseasonably cold. We did get some much needed moisture! But today was sunny and 85 with a little New Mexico breeze (in other states that is known as a 35 mph wind). Today is also the first day with our newly renovated backyard! My husband and I (more him than me) have been working on adding a little patio in our backyard, and we put up a fence! YAY!! I know what you are thinking… “Crazy lady most yards in America have a patio and a fence.” But this momma is a little excited.
The first time I heard that, “Farmers, the original environmentalists”, it really stuck with me. Because isn’t that the truth?! Who would care more about the environment than people whose livelihoods depend solely on the land they live on? Yet, it always seems to surprise people (from both sides of the table) when I tell them I am an environmental dairy scientist. It is not a conventional role or job on a dairy. And it leads me to do a lot of explaining even to my husband and family. So what do I do exactly?
Last month I had the opportunity to attend the Oregon Dairy Farmers Association Annual Convention. For one of the break out sessions, I was asked to present on our nutrient management program called CAFOweb. The Convention was held in Salem, OR. I had not been to Oregon since I was a kid, so I decided to stay an extra day and see some of the sites with my mom and daughter.
This work trip got me thinking. It is funny how dairy producers’ idea of day off is to go visit other dairies or attend a board meeting or an annual convention. I was talking with a friend the other day. She was discussing her husband’s first day off from the dairy in over six months. How was he going to spend his big day off? He was attending the High Plains Dairy Conference. Exciting, I know (seriously, I was bummed I missed it this year). Once when I was a kid, my family took a two week vacation. We started in Southern California and drove all the way to Washington. I am sure when most people think of that trip, they imagine driving up the coast enjoying the views and hitting the hot spots like San Francisco. Nope, not my family. My parents thought it would be fun to take two kids (ages five and two) to every dairy in California, Oregon and Washington. One last example, my husband and I recently traveled to Chicago for the our co-op’s annual meeting. What to do the day after the meeting? Enjoy the day in the city? Again no. We rented a car and drove a couple hours down to Fair Oaks Farm to visit the new swine facility (hey, at least we changed it up from a dairy!).
Highlights from exploring…
I cannot believe it is March! Even with that extra day, where did February go? I am a little behind on my blogging. I know one of the most important rules of blogging is writing your “About me”. But I published my first blog post about an hour after deciding to start a blog and having been playing catch up ever since. With winter storm Goliath, I didn’t get a chance to get all my “ducks in a row” before launching. So with this post I want to tell you a little bit about what I am involved in.
Over the last 5 years, I have had the opportunity to be a volunteer and now President of an organization called United Dairy Women. Over ten years ago, a group of dairy women realized there was a need in our community. We have two children’s homes in our area, NM Christian Children’s Home and Baptist Children’s Home. After talking with the homes, these women found out that the homes could not afford to purchase dairy products for their children. This came as some what of a shock since this is an area where there is an abundance of milk. These women made it their “Milk Mission” to raise enough money so every child could have 3 servings a day of dairy. Eleven years later and we have raised over $1 Million. United Dairy Women is an all volunteer, non-profit organization.