"Buy Local." "Buy direct from the farmer." "Whatever you do, don't buy from Walmart."
This is what we've been hearing on the street, social media, and more as Walmart's vertical integration of milk has made ripples & waves among dairy farmers and consumers.
That means we get the question - "Where can I buy your milk?" But the real question that's being asked is "How can I support farmers, especially family farms?"
For the few farms that both milk the cows & bottle the milk right there on their farm, you can buy milk at their farm stand and sometimes in the local grocery story. And if that works for you, it's great for you & for that local farmer.
But honestly that might not be the way a lot of us shop. I understand, I'm a busy mom and can't stop at every little farm stand. I've got a schedule and it's full - I just need to pick up all of our food for the week during my once a week grocery shopping trip.
So where then can you buy the milk that our cows make so you can support our family's farm?
Well, since we don't bottle our own milk or have the expertise to turn it into cheese or ice cream or cream cheese, we've joined with other family farmers and together have hired folks who are experts in those areas to take the milk from our cows and get it to your local grocery store shelf (or restaurant or school as lots of food ends up there too!).
We're part of Prairie Farms as members owners. After #DairymanDan feeds & cares for our cows & Rita the robot milks them, Luke, our milk truck driver comes & picks up the milk and usually brings it (along with milk from other neighboring farms) to a cheese plant in Luana to be made into Swiss Cheese & Cream Cheese.
But I'm grabbing a gallon of milk, not Swiss cheese...
Yes, that's right but if you're picking up a gallon of Prairie Farms milk it means it's made from milk that comes from our friend Jason's cows, for example. He lives nearer the plant that bottles Prairie Farms milk in Dubuque so his milk truck driver usually takes his milk to that plant. Since we work together you're helping us both (along with all the other family farms that are part of Prairie Farms). It doesn't matter if you buy a gallon of Prairie Farms milk (or their many other products) or a block of Swiss Valley Cheese (which isn't Prairie Farms branded but is made by Prairie Farms).
Throughout the United States there are many dairy farmer owned cooperatives that sell products in your local grocery store, sometimes branded the same as their cooperative name sometimes branded differently. Do you know other dairy cooperatives in other areas of the country? What brand should you look for in the store near you to help those dairy farmers?
Some other brands, like A&E or Blue Bunny (and even Great Value Walmart milk) here in Iowa, are milk processors that buy milk from individual dairy farmers and although they have contracts, unfortunately if A&E or Blue Bunny decides they don't need the milk that a farmer produces they can not renew the contract & stop buying that farmers' milk. When dairy farmers own the cooperative, that can't happen because the dairy farmers & the board they elect are in control.
Is there anything else I can do?
The most important thing is to eat dairy foods! In reality 97% of dairy farms are family owned & ultimately even that Great Value Walmart milk likely comes from a family dairy farm. To support our family specifically, buy Prairie Farms products whenever you can!
If you just want to make sure that you're buying local milk and milk products you can check the number on the package and if it starts with a "19" it means it was packaged & made into cheese or butter or some other dairy product at a plant in Iowa! At "Where is my milk from?" you can even enter that plant number & find out specifically where it was packaged!
One more way to help is to donate to the Great American Milk Drive who donates milk to your local food pantry. If you shop at Hy-Vee in the Midwest just tell the cashier to add an extra gallon to your bill when you check out!
Thanks for caring about family farms & making choices with your wallet. It's easy to pick up the loss leader $1.48 gallon of milk (I know because I'm so tempted too!) & if buying that means your family can enjoy more dairy products than go ahead & grab it. But we, as Prairie Farms farmers owners, would love for you to enjoy Prairie Farms products & support us in the process! Thank you!
P.S. If you want to know more about how we're part of a dairy cooperative check out this post!
This is the first post from a series of posts in November 2017.
Grati-mooooo-d, because being thankful definitely improves your mooooood!
Old towels & corn stalk bedding that help keep newborn calves dry & warm!
Raising kids on the farm... Working, learning, & playing together!
Big concrete alleys for the kids to ride bikes in... especially since I grew up on a gravel road & always wanted some pavement!
Fall = Pumpkin
Cows = Milk = Cream Cheese
Yummy Pumpkin Cream Cheese Swirl Muffins
This recipe is a keeper!
Opportunities to learn about life, which includes new calves being born (& in this case experiencing it with cousins).
The generations that have come before us & how they've shaped us!
I hope we have this much fun at our 60th anniversary!
#DairymanDan's ability to fix things - especially Rita the robot when she breaks down (rare but it does happen!)
How Dave & Pam have not only adapted but embraced the technology we now use daily, including all the data on our smartphones.
Pam's hard work & careful care of our calves as well as helping in so many other ways from cow care to watching grandkids to her famous track bars & cakes!
This awesome 5 month baby who has made the transition to a family of 5 so easy (so far!).
Today we say thank you to those who have served & are serving in our armed forces. Thank you for your selfless commitment & sacrifice!
P.S. We loved learned more about the military when Becoming Bailey & her army recruiter husband came to visit for the Be A Dairy Farmer Challenge!
I love sharing & learning with others about our lives, especially when they affect me like the military that protects me or me sharing about how the food you eat is made.
We all have important & interconnected roles and understanding them helps us all live more fulfilling & less judgemental lives!
Great tech support from AMS Galaxy USA Robotic Milking when something goes wrong with Rita the robot!
Just last night Dave & Pam had to call while Dan was away & they were able to help them get Rita back to milking cows!
Here is Dan in spring 2015 graduating from tech school in Pennsylvania at training school located on a working farm!
Neighbors who we can trade with - stalk bedding bales for manure!
Our calves get try bedding throughout the winter & our neighbor's field gets nutrient rich fertilizer.... a win-win!
Our veterinarians! We have one of the best teams anyone could ask for!
They're on call 24/7 & have not only helped us with sick & hurt cows but also give us great advice about general health & care for our girls!
In this photo from early last year the vet is giving a check up to a cow. I don't have lots of up close pictures of vet work for the same reason I probably don't want to see pictures from your last doctor visit!
An opportunity to share our cows, barn, & Rita the robot with Bill Northey, our Iowa Secretary of Agriculture.
Wanna know more about what you'll do or already scheduled your spot & want to get prepared? Then read on!
Get Up Close & Personal
Typically in our barn visitors get pretty close to our cows in the alleyways but in order to scrape manure off the crossovers you'll get to head in among the cows, don't worry #DairymanDan will go with you & our cows are very calm!
Did you know that cows have a "personal bubble"? #DairymanDan will teach you all about how to use that personal bubble to move a cow where you want her to go without even touching her! If any cows need to be encouraged to go get milked you'll help get her in the "fetch" pen.
They're big & powerful and you'll get to ride in one, and maybe even take the wheel! Did you know the term tractor was coined just north of us in Charles City?
Everyday #DairymanDan uses the mixer wagon to mix up the cow's "salad" & then deliver it. Climb up and peek inside to see the huge augers that mix it all up!
Care for the Calves
They're cute, little (relatively speaking), and need extra special care. Hopefully we'll have a new baby calf, just a couple days old & you'll get to bottle feed a calf. If not you can still help deliver milk to the calves buckets & help them learn to eat their pellets by hand feeding them.
Peek under the Hood
Always the most popular stop, people love seeing Rita at work, milking the cows. But you'll get to look under Rita's hood in the back of the robot room and see not only her arm at work but all her inner workings too!
You'll even have a chance to "play" with Rita's controller... kinda like your favorite video game!
At the end of your barn time you'll get an exclusive t-shirt to proudly wear & showcase that you "walked in #DairymanDan's boots". Be sure to head over to the "Contact" page to let us know you're coming to be a dairy farmer! See you in the barn!
On July 22 we celebrated 10 years of marriage which is an amazing accomplishment, although not quite as impressive as Dan's grandparents who celebrated 65 years and 60 years of marriage this year! We have a long way to go!
Today, 10 years later, we're together living, breathing, and sleeping (or not sleeping) dairy farming. And while that hasn't always been the case we have always shared a love of milk including the fateful day we first met...
We both attended Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa and were part of a fraternity & sorority. Our lives were quite far from what Hollywood would have you think college life in frat house is like and in fact the night we met Lynn happened to be attending a Bible study at Dan's fraternity. As the night got started it was probably long after supper time and I was thirsty so I asked if I could grab a glass of milk from the kitchen and of course no one minded. I headed to the kitchen filled up my cup and rejoined the Bible Study paying no attention to what else happened to be going on in the kitchen.
When I got back though I was transported back to Jr. High as Dan's fraternity brothers began teasing me... "You're going to marry D-Bo because you both like milk...ha ha ha" and on and on they went. Up to this point, to my knowledge, I hadn't met Dan, or D-Bo as his fraternity brothers called him, and so this all seemed rather childish and I noted that we should get back to our Bible Study.
What I didn't know & hadn't observed was that Dan had actually been in the kitchen when I grabbed my glass of milk baking cookies for a Bake Sale at his church. When he'd finished baking he had some extra and being the amazing guy he is, he decided to offer our Bible Study a few, so in he came...
As he came around the corner everyone started snickering in my direction and noting "Here comes D-Bo..." And it just so happened, I suppose because I'd gone to grab that glass of milk, that I was sitting just inside the door so I was the first one D-Bo offered cookies to.
So, what's going through my head since he walked in and the snickering started? "Ok, who put him up to this? Did I miss someone leaving & telling him it would be funny to offer some cookies to me because I like milk? This is silly...." And you know what? I couldn't even eat a cookie! I'd given up sweets for Lent...
I'm sure my face was bright red as the jokes continued as he offered everyone else cookies & then headed back to the kitchen. Because although I didn't know it then, it turns out that Dan's just a great guy who wanted to offer us all cookies since he had a few extra. I was embarrassed and did feel a bit like I was in Jr. High but I suppose the jokes & snickering did the trick because my curiosity & interest was pricked and I began noticing this D-Bo guy a bit more....
The rest of the story? You mean you want to know what happened next? Well from then on it's a pretty normal story. We crossed paths here & there, hung out at Sonshine Music Festival LINK where we happened to be camping in the same large group of friends, and eventually the next fall in 2003 starting seriously dating.
(So, I went in search of one of these pictures & couldn't resist including them all... enjoy!)
And finally on July 22, 2006 we were married and honestly we didn't have a farm wedding at all... I think the only way you would've known Dan was from a dairy farm a picture included with 20 others at each table. We didn't have any old cool old milk cans (like the wedding we went to a few weekends ago!) or other references to cows or the farm. Barely a hint that one day we'd end up back here on the farm enjoying glasses of milk together.
On our Honeymoon thought we did stop at Flayvors of Cook Farm for lunch
and of course some ice cream!
What's your story of how you met?
Have you been following along this month as #DairyManDan has been snapping pictures of his days?
Did you miss a few? Not to worry! Here they all are, telling a story of #DairyManDan's days on our family dairy farm!
Since typically I'm the one who snaps photos around the farm & posts them I wanted to get #DairyManDan's perspective on things and, as I expected, it's bit different than mine! Some of the photos I still took... especially if I happened to be around (plus that way you can see him in action!).
As you'll see, no day is quite the same although the jobs that have to get done are! My original intent was to have #DairyManDan snap a pic at the top of the hour everyday for the first half of the month & then on the half hour the second half of the month. That was unrealistic expectation!
His hands are usually busy with something, so the pictures ended up getting snapped when he'd take his phone out and would see that one of his many to-do's was to take a picture! The second part of the month they're not really even in a time order anymore!
To celebrate June Dairy Month I'd like to introduce you to some other amazing dairy farmers & what a day in their life looks like! One of the things I love about dairy farming is the multitude of practices or ways you can care for your cows! After reading about what Dan's days looks like check out what a day in the life of these farmers look like... it's so different & so similar all at the same time! The links are all below my introductions.
First up is Renee from Eat, Farm, Love! She farms in Pennsylvania where they milk 200 Jersey cows. 20 of those Jersey's get milked at one time, a bit different than 2 at a time at our farm! We have a few Jerseys & their eyes are so gorgeous!
Next is Alicia from Happily Married... To The Cows. She too lives in Pennsylvania too, which happens to means lots of beautiful things... I love her double story porch, old beautiful stone barn, and they have beautiful white fences, we just have some electric wire!
In the links below I'm up next so look around & check out our farm a little more!
Jumping to the west coast, we have Darleen at Guernsey Dairy Mama in Oregon. As you might have noticed she has Guernseys, all Guernsey, like Dan's Grandpa use to have. We only have a few left, but they are beautiful! I love her post about what's in a dairy farmers day since now that we have Rita the robot #DairyManDan's days look so different than they use to! And her days will soon be changing too as they're putting in robots.
Up to my home state of Minnesota we find Sadie at Dairy Good Life. Her 75 cows are milked in a stanchion barn, which means they each have their own spot and Sadie & her husband bring the milking machine to each cow to milk them. Check out their farm page & the great video about their farm!
And last but not least is Caci at The Farm Wife who heralds from South Carolina, which I'd say is the south, which means we're covering a good bit of the US! Their family has been farming for 10 generations... that's amazing! And she could be describing #DairyManDan, except he's actually averaged a little over 30,000 steps this month, with his high days at over 48,000 steps!
Explore A Day in the Life of Dairy Farmers Across the US!
What does your typically day look like?
Growing up a city-girl, after marrying my dairy farmer husband and spending a few years abroad, we came home to expand the family dairy farm and want to share our journey & farm life with you!