A few weeks ago, I visited our local nursing home – Marquardt Health Center – and gave a presentation about farming, which I titled “Cows: past, present and future.” (I had also given a similar talk during June Dairy Month to another group of seniors.) I can report that I didn’t change any minds and I didn’t sell or promote any dairy products. But what I did that day was much more meaningful and personally rewarding for me. I would do it every week if they asked me!
I evoked memories for many folks who grew up on farms, milking cows and caring for animals and the land. I saw their faces light up and their eyes sparkle when I held up an ideal Holstein cow statue. I heard them ask, “How many horsepower is that tractor?” when I held up a large, modern John Deere tractor model. I saw them gaze in awe at photos I had of computers in our milking parlor and robotic milkers on other farms. I let them ponder a baggie full of brown fluff to see if they could tell me what it was (coffee chaff that we feed to our heifers). I showed an old stainless milker bucket and told them these items were now used as flower pots…that evoked a few laughs!
I mentioned how genetics will shape the future of the dairy industry and take us faster and faster down the road to being more sustainable. I explained our cows will produce more milk with the same or less feed, be healthier and live longer. I talked about how our two daughters grew up on the farm, showed animals at the county fair and studied agriculture in college. And I mentioned our two young partners who are now buying into our operation.
As the presentation was winding down, I asked the audience to share their stories of farming and family. Some did. Some didn’t. Some in the audience couldn’t hear well, but they saw my props and my photos. Maybe they took a trip down memory lane while I talked away for 45 minutes.
It wasn’t until the very end that someone asked me how many cows we milked. I answered “800” and some of them just shook their heads. My final photo of the presentation was of Twilight, our daughter Lauren’s favorite cow grazing on pasture one summer day. I reminded the audience that it isn’t how many cows you have, how many acres you farm or how many years you have done it. Your LOVE of cows and farming is something within you that lasts your entire life, and it’s something many of us there shared. We appreciate the past and we anticipate the future, whatever it holds.
P.S. I did leave them with some samples of Frigo Cheeseheads string cheese that was made with milk from our cows. I just couldn’t resist this promotion opportunity.
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