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6/7/2014 7:00 AM

My name is Joyce. I’m a dairy farmer.

I confess. This was not necessarily my original goal in life. After graduating from high school, with secretarial training, my initial goal was to find an office job. Which I did, spending a couple of years behind a typewriter (before computers!) and utilizing the accounting, shorthand and related skills for which I’d been trained.

But, one thing led to another, and I found myself married to a farmer, with a herd of dairy cows. So, I learned to milk in our old, double-three milking parlor, and helped out sometimes on weekends. But then, come spring a year or so later, there were fields to prepare for planting, cows to milk and The Farmer was very short of help to get it all done.

Goodbye paying job. I quit the office position and came home. And milked more. I learned to raise calves and register their ancestry. I began to write all the checks and keep the accounting records. I even learned to drive an old John Deere 60 tractor with a hand clutch, to help get fields ready for planting. I became passable in raking hay and discing ground (before no-till) and sweated through unloading hay and straw on 90-degree days. I rejoiced when we had a heifer calf and shed a few tears when we lost a good cow, something that has never changed in all this time.

Over the years, I’ve been stepped on, peed on, pooped on (just last week, square on the head) and had far more sloppy, smelly tails swiped across my face than I care to remember. I’ve helped to deliver dozens of calves, even pulled a few by myself. I’ve knelt down in soggy straw to help breathe life into a struggling newborn. The sight of a newborn calf, trying to raise its sticky, wet head just a few moments after birth, still brings a catch to my throat.

I’ve helped to chase cows in snow, through rain, standing corn and tall grass. I take rectal temperatures of our fresh and ailing girls, treat calves not feeling up to par, fork and shovel manure and feed as needed. I know the difference between good hay and not-so-good, and have a good idea how a bale of bedding straw will open and fluff up — or not — by eyeballing it.

You cannot gain these skills by reading them in a book or studying them on a YouTube video. This is strictly a hands-on job. And our hands have been deep in it every June dairy month for the past five decades.

The daily challenges, adventures, major and minor crises, and, yes, joys of milking cows have been my livelihood and way of life, thanks to a wedding ring put on my hand years ago (and not worn because we do not wear rings around the farm, due to the danger of hand injury from them). And I’ve done things I’ve never dreamed as a kid that I would ever tackle.

But, in all these years, there’s something I’ve never done. And neither has any other dairy farmer in the country.

None of us has ever milked a soybean. Or an almond. Or a grain of rice.

And yet, every time I go into a retail market, I’m confronted — and insulted — by beverage products screaming from their fancy packaging that they are “milk.”

They are not milk. Milk comes only from mammals. The imitations are soybean juice. Or, almond squeezin’s. Maybe leached rice runoff. They are not milk.

Dairy farm families face lots of frustrations. Imitations trading on the name of our pure, wholesome product is one of those that shows no signs of being corrected. The same bureaucrats that insist schoolchildren should not be allowed to drink chocolate milk turn away when confronted with imitation products filled with all sorts of “stuff” that trade under the good name and reputation of our pure, wholesome, real milk.

What ever happened to truth in labeling? Huh?

Through June, the dairy cow and her miraculous food product will be celebrated in a multitude of ways. We can only hope it also reminds consumers that real milk only comes from cows.

And the others are simply imposters.


Has this summer's growing season been kind to farmers in your neck of the woods?

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9/2/2014 | Last Updated: 1:45 PM