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How many do you milk?

The guy behind the counter didn’t know me, basically he knew that a man had sent down his wife with an electric motor to be repaired and it was for farm use. This was my second time speaking to the shop owner in less than 90 minutes, the motor was finished and my bill was due, while we waited through the awkward silence of the transaction to process he made small talk. He took his cue from the business name on my debit card and asked, ‘How many do you milk?”

This is how we define ourselves as a dairy business and I am not sure why – we ask it of each other and we get asked by folks who haven’t stepped foot on a farm in many years. I attended a communications workshop a few years ago that suggested we respond to this exact question without answering the question; farming is farming and we have a lot of really important conversation points that we can discuss without drawing attention to farm size and the assumptions it can sometimes create.

What we want you to know about us

Knowing how many head of dairy cattle I milk will not inform you that my raw milk product is picked up every morning at proper temperature and transported to a Michigan Cooperative that is farmer-owned. We are a local and community based business that works with neighborhood equipment dealers, crop farmers, veterinarians, hoof-trimmers, and nutritionist. We are a conventional dairy farm located in YOUR community and sponsor your child’s little league team, we volunteer on the fire department, sit on county committees, and our products are processed in less than 48 hours from our farm to your grocery store. Ask us if we are local.

Knowing how many cows I own will not inform you that yesterday I spent the better part of my day giving fluids and TLC to one of my girls who had a difficult calving. After I made sure she was comfortable I had six hours of work ahead of me to care for the rest of my herd and by the time I got inside the kids were eating PB&J sandwiches {again} for dinner. We are passionate about our animal welfare program or our standard operating procedures that have been approved by our processor, our veterinarian, and the National Milk Producers Association. You may not know that our dairy is owned and operated by young farmers and that we are building our business around consumer concerns, environmental awareness, sustainability, and technology. Ask us if we have an on-farm veterinarian.

The number of animals that stand in my parlor does not portray the way our farm is classified; we are a family owned business and we provide a product that is safe, from healthy and well-loved animals. We don’t have silos in the background or a white picket fence along the road but we have free range children covered in what looks like dirt and who can tell you with confidence that cows don’t spend all day milking, that Dad and Mom spend a lot of time talking about the farm, and that if you put a swim suit on after a rainstorm you can REALLY fly down the feed bunk tarp. A farm friend of mine recently stated on her Instagram account that farm kids are so incredibly lucky to be surrounded by family and be connected to the business in so many different ways. She said while her daughter started out the morning in the tractor with her feeding cows, she later moved onto riding with Grandpa while he worked a different tractor, and ended up spending time with her Dad as he finished up his chores. Ask us if we are a generational farm.

What my response could have been

I have a couple really special cows, I milk more than I want to some days and still not enough on other days.

Farmers would really love for you to ask us about our farm, our role in the business, our favorite job, or even our least favorite cow, but please don’t ask how many we milk and assume the rest. Xo, Nicole

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