Growing up on a dairy farm in southern Minnesota, I was always aware that June was a special month. It is called June Dairy Month. It is a special month designed to celebrate the dairy industry’s contributions to our American society.
Learn more about Dairy Month and find out who the candidates are for 2012 Princess Kay of the Milky Way by going to the Midwest Dairy Association website at http://www.midwestdairy.com/ Midwest Dairy Association is a non-profit organization funded by dairy farmers to build demand for dairy products through integrated marketing, nutrition education and research.
My parents did not have a large dairy farm on their 80 acres located in Freeborn County, 11 miles northwest of Austin, MN. We had 15 dairy cows, all of them
Guernsey except one, a Holstein.
I recall helping my parents with the milking chores twice a day. A milking machine had been part of the dairy operation but since we had such a small herd, my father thought the cows produced better when they were milked by hand.
Mom and dad taught me the special skill it took to milk a cow. First of all, one had to gain the trust of the cow. That trust came in talking to the cow and and in squeezing the cow’s milk spickets very delicately. Of course, there were challenges provided by some of the cows. We had one cow named Ginger who was pretty hyper, to say the least.
Ginger just didn’t want to be part of the milking process. I recall having to put restraints on her legs to allow her to be more cooperative. It didn’t always work. I remember her jumping and getting both hind hooves into the milk pail. More counseling was needed between Ginger and myself and finally, the milk product was attained without an incident.
One of my favorite milking stories involved my dad trying to let a cow out of its stanchion after it was milked. The cow just didn’t want to leave its stall so my dad tried to give the cow a delicate boost with his foot. As he wound up his drop kick, the cow moved and my dad ended on on his baskside on the floor of the stall. Neither the cow or my dad were hurt, except maybe my dad’s pride.
Our milk was taken by the pail to the milk house where it was poured into a strainer and then placed in a 10-gallon milk can. We sent the milk cans to the Red Oak Grove Creamery, only two miles away. A milk hauler picked up our milk on a daily basis. The creamer had quite an operation, bottling milk and other dairy products. Our local buttermaker, Elmer Enstad, was a pro at making butter and won may grand champion ribbons at the Minnesota State Fair.
It was a sad day when my mom and dad ended their dairy farming. Our cows were sold at a public auction and stayed in dairy production.
My parents’ farm has since been sold off into sections. The dairy barn remains and is in excellent condition. It is mainly used for storage. I remember not only the milking but also the harvesting of hay and silage for food for our dairy herd.
My first newspaper job at The Evening Tribune in Albert Lea, MN was in the position of farm editor. My farming background definitely helped me in my search for agricultural type stories. One of my favorite parts of the job as a young, single reporter was covering the dairy princess contests. One of our neighbors, Marilyn Christianson, was crowed Princess Kay of the Milky Way.
Dairy farming has changed greatly since I was a part of the industry in a small way some 50 years ago. Let’s take a look at June Dairy Month history as explained in this post on the Midwest Dairy Association website:
June Dairy Month originated in 1937. During its first two years, 1937 and 1938, it was called National Milk Month and ran from June 10 to July 10. The 1937 event, sponsored by chain stores, was given the theme “Keep Youthful – Drink Milk.” Originally supported by the National Dairy Council (NDC), June Dairy Month was established to help stabilize dairy demand during periods of peak production. To assist in that effort, NDC provided promotional materials to the 6,300 stores participating.
“June Dairy Month” became the official title of the promotion in 1939 and focused on greater use of dairy products. Campaign material, prepared by NDC, was offered to producers, processors and dairy product distributors. June Dairy Month was initially funded by a one cent per pound butterfat assessment in June.
During the war years, less emphasis was placed on promotion, more on surviving the war. The retailers helped customers receive an adequate supply of dairy products and provided information to help use them properly.
After the war, efforts focused on resuming dairy product usage and regaining ‘lost’ butter sales. In 1947 the slogan was “30 Days for ADA in June.” The goal was “Sales, not Surplus.” By 1950, retailers, producers and processors all worked together to promote June Dairy Month.
In 1955 American Dairy Association (ADA) became the national leader for June Dairy Month campaigns. The emphasis changed to sales promotion programs for dairy products, and advertising and merchandising programs were added to an already-effective public relations program. The June promotion became a month-by-month merchandising event in which one or more foods made from milk were highlighted nationwide on a monthly basis. This advertising was visible evidence of dairy farmers’ dollars at work.
June Dairy Month continued to evolve over the years and entire communities across the country, both rural and urban, have embraced it and have become involved in many ways. Some celebrate with dairy food demonstrations. In others, dairy princesses have distributed product samples at creameries, grocery stores, and local banks. Some rural communities sponsor cattle shows and princess contests with coronation ceremonies. One of the traditional highlights is a parade, featuring county and regional dairy princesses, town officials, floats and marching bands. Other activities include cow milking contests, cow visits at zoos, or banks offering free milk and ice cream cones.
The cooperation between farmers and other community members are really the basis of what June Dairy Month is all about – celebrating and using a wonderful product.