Saturday, July 7, 2012

Creating Dairyland

I have always loved to read and I finally got my Madison Library card, which made me really excited. One of the first books I got was "Creating Dairyland" by Ed Janus, a Madison man who was a dairy farmer for a couple years and writes a historical account of how Wisconsin became America's Dairyland. This was fascinating to me as someone not from Wisconsin, but from a dairy in Minnesota. It's really an interesting read for anyone, but especially for anyone in the dairy industry from Wisconsin or otherwise.

My dad was raised on a dairy farm as well and he has told me a lot about the history of our farm, but there was many parts of the book that I hadn't thought of. For instance, my family's farm has 3 silos that we use to store our silage and hayledge in for feeding after harvest. Creating Dairyland explained how the silo was a huge advancement in agriculture as it allowed dairying to be profitable as farmers could store feed for cows year-round so they could milk year-round. It makes sense, but I simply had never thought of it before. Silos had just always been on the farm for me. I know my dad didn't always milk with a pipeline and milking machine, but he had never discussed the history of silos before.

It was also interesting to learn more about the importance of Hoard's Dairyman to the dairy industry. Hoard's is one of my favorite magazines and I have visited their office and dairy farm. It's been around for so long that  we can really learn a lot about the history of the industry by reading their historical archives.

Creating Dairyland tells many stories of current and past dairy farmers, and some cheese maker stories, and their histories. Its full of rich detail of farm life and many parts of the book rang true for me. I was desperately missing the farm almost the entire time I was reading the book. One of the parts that struck me as this quote about dairy farmers and cows: "Cows require kindness, routine and predictability, and long-term investments for their well-being and our profit. Dairy farmers must be dedicated to caring well for other living beings and for the resources that feed them." - Creating Dairyland, p. 3

The historical aspects of learning how dairy farming came about in Wisconsin and how Wisconsin became the dairyland was fascinating, but the farmer stories really hit me. A wide range of farmers were portrayed from a pasturing homestead farm to the Crave Brothers Farm whose place I got the opportunity to visit in high school to a college student developing a niche on the genetics side while her farming focuses on milk in a tie-stall. There was even a story of an Organic Valley farmer who milks his cows seasonally to allow them to east only grass.

The Crave brothers history stuck with me. The oldest brother talked about how his dad quit milking cows. His dad milked 35-40 cows and was a one-man show and had to be there constantly and deal with huge milk price fluctuations, which was a frustrating way to farm. The story of his dad reminded me so much of my own father - milking 35-40 cows and a one-man show. The Crave brothers now run a 1,000 cow dairy with 4 brother managing the farm that makes its own cheese and has two anaerobic manure digesters.

Creating Dairyland's stories are truly a testament to the dynamic dairy industry and the passion that lies within dairy farmers. It's a testament to the fact that a love for cows is what drives dairy men and a testament to the perservance of today's dairy farmers. It's further proof to me that I love the dairy industry.

1 comment:

  1. I would love to tour the Crave Brother's Farm. I visited their website. How cool! And the book sounds like a great read!