These men and women, the ones who get up before dawn, feed the cows, ween the calves, till the land, fall asleep after dark and wake again before the sun the next day, are protectors, advocates, champions, and defenders of their way of life. Plain and simple. Not that these men and women would ever agree with that assessment, but they are. These are the people, not so unlike ourselves, who’s number one priority is taking care of their families, balancing bills, budgets, and Wednesday night soccer games, with raising a successful herd and keeping food on their own tables as well as ours. And if those things aren’t admirable, I don’t know what is.
A couple of weeks ago I was able to meet these men and women, Ohio dairy producers and the ADA Mideast, committed to bringing their families and the rest of us wholesome milk and dairy products, to help us and our children thrive and grow.
Trips like these are very important for me, not just because I get to see new places, but because of the people I get to meet. Having a husband who grew up in agriculture gave me first hand insight into the care and passion that people in this industry have for their way of life. Ben and I talk often about how we wish with all our might that we could have taken the path back to the farm, but the sacrifices for us were just too great for us to bear.
Farming is not for the faint of heart. And though we only see the gallon of milk in the store, or the yogurt stocked five high, we must always remember that it is a family behind it.
Dairy producers are the best advocates for their land, utilizing the latest technology they can to ensure that the crops they raise to feed their animals adhere to the most rigid of environmental standards – not just because they are told to, but because there is no incentive to cutting corners with out impacting future harvests. There is no incentive in spreading more nitrogen on the ground to help the grass grow, because the grass will only absorb so much before being washed away, and it’s precious money down the drain. And the same goes with medicating their animals when it isn’t needed, because the animals will need to go on leave from production until they are better and their milk can’t be put into the rest of the yield. Each piece of production from the birth of a calf to the offload of the milk, and all of the steps in between is meticulously maintained, chronicled, and kept track of so you can rest easy that what you buy is the utmost quality available.
For so many of us, in our daily lives, are so far removed from where our food comes from we can easily forget that there are real people behind what we eat and drink every day. And that compassion, quality, advocacy and this way of life are apart of who they are, not just what they do.
Seeing this first hand in Ohio was just what I needed to remember. We need to remember that there are children not getting the nutrients they need to go big and strong, and that dairy can provide the protein to keep them full and potassium and folic acid to keep their bodies growing and thriving.
And with every glass of milk that is served on your table or lick of ice cream you take, there is a new calf being born, a vet checking the herd, a farmer checking his land, and ensuring that what they work so hard for today is going to be here for future generations and beyond.
I can’t always accurately put into words what agriculture means to me, but it is supporting the families that invest so much of themselves into everything they produce. It means learning all I can about the techniques, the values, and the pride they infuse into every piece of their livelihood and remembering to be thankful for the people behind the scenes.
*Fine print – I was provided a trip to Ohio by the ADAMidEast to experience the dairy industry. All opinions are my own*