OPINION It is with a heavy heart I write this. I have just learned that in the district I once taught in, a proud dairy-farming Parkview family, Weisview Farms, has decided to sell their cows.
As a former agriculture teacher and dairy-farm hired hand, I take stories like this personally. My first dream was to own my own dairy farm.
“I know the joys and discomforts of agricultural life and hold an inborn fondness for those associations, which, even in hours of discouragement, I cannot deny.” – so reads the FFA Creed.
I have seen and worked in bitter cold and extreme heat, been directly involved in barn fires, and watched crops wilt because there was no rain. I have milked cows one at a time because ice storms knocked out electrical power and I have seen the effects of stray voltage on a dairy herd.
I have seen prized livestock deliver dead babies; I have watched prized livestock die from birthing complications. I have watched from the stands as those same animals came to the end of their productivity and were sold at the auction barn. I hoped no one would see the tears pouring out of my eyes as the auctioneer hollered, “Sold.”
I have worked through the night to save a hay harvest and have watched in despair as storms ruined a much-needed corn crop. I’ve seen gas shortages and equipment failures. I’ve seen and helped in the times of human tragedy and death.
And you know what is amazing through all that? No matter the setback, the milk pump went on at 5 a.m. and 5 p.m., twice each day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Most people haven’t really a clue as to what goes into that gallon of milk that sits on the dining-room table. To equate it with a liquid that is derived from nuts is one of the real injustices and insults of this world.
As tough as the dairy farmer is, there is one battle he or she can’t win. Without a fair price for the product, the painful decision to end inevitably comes – sooner or later. The “lucky” farmers are able to choose the end. Otherwise creditors decide it for them. The Wisconsin family dairy farm is going the way of the Dodo bird and the passenger pigeon. Someday, in the not so distant future, you will see the last one.
America’s Dairyland will be nothing more than a collection of empty farm buildings, a harsh reminder of a time that was. Beautiful people who have given it their all will be extinct because we let it happen.
I owe my life to agriculture and to the people in it. It is the least I can do, to try to be an “agvocate” for the people who rise every day at 4:30 a.m. to provide me, to provide us, with milk, meat and grains. I say to you a heartfelt thank-you, dairy farmers, for all you do. There should be more that we could do as a nation, as America’s Dairyland, as a local community and as friends.