Ask dairy farmers how they show their love, and you may not get the typical answers of chocolate, flowers or gifts. Dairy farmers show their love by showing up each day and putting in the work needed to keep their land and animals healthy and provide milk that helps nourish their local community.
From loving people to cows, dairy farmers in their own words describe this love.
Just a Matter of Time: Unc Broc Farm (Schaghticoke, New York)
Photo: Val and Greg Lavigne seen with some of the farm's 200 milking cows munching away on a balanced, nutritious mix of feed.
“Coming up the end of February marks 10 years since I have been with my husband, Greg. I guess one could say we are the definition of “farm love” because as much as we have known each other since kindergarten, we were never even what one would call “friends” until 5 years after graduating from our local high school in the same class. Greg started working part time for my parents about a year after we graduated, but I didn’t see much of him as I was off at college. Over the course of time and with me being home from college, we grew into a good friendship. Then, in February 2011, a friendly conversation with Greg about him really needing his truck cleaned turned into plans to go to dinner the next day. He took me out to dinner and the rest is history. Six months later we were engaged, and we got married a year after that here on the farm. We still farm on the same farm with my parents, three small children, and a love that grows more and more every day.”
Forever Love: Van Dorp Farms (Marion, New York)
Photo: Herd manager Megan R. Van Dorp with her favorite cow, Winnie.
“It all started when I was about six years old, helping my dad load cows for an auction. There was a big-boned, beautiful brown cow with coloring above the eye that looked like “eyeshadow” on the truck. I asked my dad what kind of cow that was and he said a Brown Swiss. From then on, all that I wanted was a Brown Swiss cow. My dad called around but, at the time, Brown Swiss heifers were expensive, and we could not afford one. So, we started crossbreeding, and I ended up with Winnie, my dream, eye-shadowed cow. Winnie was not your average cow. She was the gentlest giant that the farm ever had. The running joke was that she thought she was human because she never did fit in with the other cows. I would walk her on a halter, where she would trot along behind nuzzling my hand. Cars would pull over and kids would get out to pet her. She had all the patience in the world and gathered quite a fan club. I drove home from college every weekend to spend time with Winnie. She was my best friend and confidant. No animal has probably ever received tighter hugs or had more tears dribbled down teenage cheeks into her fur than Winnie.” Read more.
My Endless Love: Canon Dairy Farm (West Middlesex, Pennsylvania)
Photo: Marie and Mark Canon (seated) with their son, Trent Canon, and daughter, Josie Offerdahl.
“I first met him in a cow barn at the county fair. I had hoped he would ask me out that week but he didn’t. I thought I would never see him again (he was from the next county over). But a good friend had invited him to a bonfire the following week. There, he asked if he could call me! Just shy of a year later, that blue-eyed, dark-haired guy asked if I could help him with evening milking because everyone else had meetings or the night off. Chores were uneventful. He made me pancakes for dinner. I helped him clean up then went to the living room to watch TV. Next thing we know there are about 15 heifers running past the window having a grand old time! By the time we got the heifers in, the fence repaired, and back into the house his parents and brother-in-law were home.” Read more.
American Dairy Association North East is one of 16 state and regional promotion organizations working under the umbrella of the United Dairy Industry Association. It is the local affiliate of the National Dairy Council®, which has been conducting nutrition education and nutrition research programs since 1915. For more information, visit www.americandairy.com.