Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Spreading the milk life

My friend Julie has been affected by knowing a dairy farmer.  (Just like I've been affected by her family's business - Magline, Inc.  Founded in 1947, they're the world's leading manufacturer of lightweight aluminum hand trucks.  Hand trucks!  You may know them as dollies, which is what I called them before I met her.  I never call them that any more.)

One day Julie told me I needed to post about the millions of crafts people could make out of plastic milk gallons.  Her daughter was supposed to take one to school for a project, and she was really pushing the milk-drinking with her kids because she needed it emptied before school.  She thought that if people were making the crafts, we could increase milk consumption.

"Are there a lot of milk gallon crafts?" I asked.

"I'm sure - just check Pinterest," she said. 

Sure enough, there are billions of milk gallon crafts.  Later that week in the paper I saw a woman in my town had built a milk gallon igloo for the community center.  Are you inspired?  Getting crafty?

Then today she called to tell me she saw Live with Kelly and Michael at the gym.  She told me they were talking about how the slogan 'Got Milk?' ad campaign is being replaced by 'Milk Life'.  She said they were also surprised to hear that milk consumption has gone down - Michael responded to that by saying that he used to drink a gallon of milk a day and said ... "How do you think I got this body?"  as in, he's super fit.

We talked about how if she didn't have me as a friend, she would never think about these milk-related issues!  When you know someone who is personally affected, it changes your worldview.

Which brings me back to this weekend ... we went to a wedding with people we hadn't seen in a really long time.  Some since before we became dairy farmers. 

- Our first friend asked us about organic milk.  We had a long discussion.

- Another guy came over to the table and said, "Are you guys the people with the dairy farm?  I have some questions about ultra-pasteurized organic milk."

Our friends laughed and one said, "Carla, do you just want the microphone?"

- Then a friend came back from tending to her baby and her husband said, "Now tell her about organic and conventional milk."

What our friends had questions about were buying organic milk vs. buying conventional milk.  They wanted to know what we bought.  We told them we buy conventional.

We explained that ...

- conventional and organic milk have no antibiotics in it.

- conventional and organic milk have no added hormones in it.  (All milk has natural hormones.)

We told them about how milk is tested repeatedly on the farm and at the lab to ensure that it is antibiotic free.  We told them we don't feed any antibiotics to cows.  We only give them medicine when they're sick, and then we don't milk them into the tank when they have the medicine still in their systems.  Then when they're better and the medicine is out of their system - only then do we begin milking them again.  No one wants antibiotics in the milk - the farmer or the consumer.

We told them about how in Michigan farmers don't give their cows hormones to help them produce more milk.  (We never have on this farm, either.)  When farmers did it, there was no way to tell the artificial hormone from the natural hormone, because cows already produced it.  (So there was no test for it.)  But when consumers didn't want it, farmers stopped using it.  In Michigan, that happened in 2008. 

Of course we're in favor of capitalism and choice, and it's easier to make a decision when you know all milk is healthy and nutritious.    

The reaction from our friends was exactly the same.

"No one knows this."

"I've never heard this - ever."

"You need to do a better job of telling people about this."

"Does your industry try to publicize this at all?"

This made me laugh, since I feel that's all we do - through US Farmers & Ranchers Alliance, National Milk Producers Federation, the Michigan Ag Council, farm tours, events, blogs ... We're trying.  I guess we're not always reaching the people that we're trying to reach.  That's why personal connections mean so much.

But if we all tell a few more friends ... talk at a few more weddings ... and make some more Pinterest crafts, maybe we can spread the word about living the milk life.  To the milk igloo! 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Dairy united

Today I attended the United Dairy Industry of Michigan's annual meeting.  This is the way it works - when you sell milk, some of the money goes to UDIM.  (My sister pointed out today that she doesn't like that acronym.  I'm so familiar with it that I didn't think anything of it.  We say all the letters individually, obviously!) 

Then, UDIM takes that money and promotes and markets dairy products.  We have UDIM staff - marketing people, dieticians, everything - and a board made up of farmers. 

At the annual meeting they report on what they did during the year and various people speak.  Sharon Toth, our CEO, talked about how in today's industry consumers have to know, like, and trust you in order to buy your product.

The idea behind this is much like why we sell our milk to a co-op.  We have the farm.  We sell the milk to Michigan Milk Producers Association, whose motto is: To market MMPA members' milk to the greatest advantage possible.  So we're all doing what we do best.  We pay people to market and sell what we produce.  Since all of the farmers are giving money, we're pooling it to get the best service.

So, next time you see a chocolate milk promotion that declares it as 'nature's sports drink', or see that kids are getting milk with their lunch, or donate milk through Forgotten Harvest ... think about how it all started - on some little farm. 

(Then, BUY BUY BUY!  That's still being cleared as our new ad campaign.  Catchy, right?)

On the way out of the building I ran into one of my former coworkers at TechSmith. (Their Coach's Eye software is being used by Olympians - so cool!)  Amy said she'd seen the dairy meeting sign and wondered if I was there.  She said that she followed what was going on with us on the farm through social media, and she and people at work talked about it.

That made me happy, too.  If I hadn't worked there, hadn't still remained in touch - how many farmers would they know? 

We pay for the marketing, but as most farmers would say ... our lives are our business.  We're glad to be a personal link to the dairy industry for people.  It's hard to put a price on that. 

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Home, home on the range

Kris' parents are half retired, so they spend winters in the Texas hill country.  Kris' sister and her husband also live in Texas.  We took the boys there to visit this last week.
And when I say hill country, I mean hill country.  Running on these hills is hard.
Alcohol isn't the only thing served in mason jars ... this restaurant also served chocolate milk.  Here's Jon Kidwell, promoting dairy as always:

Mike, a half-year dairy farmer, gets plenty of animals at his friends' house.  They had the cutest baby goats.  (I should call them kids, since I don't call calves baby cows, right?)

There were also friendly horses.

And as always, when Kris is with his dad, they talked dairy farming.  There's nothing they love to talk about more.  (The MSU Spartans come in a distant second.)

Then, it was back to our farm.  We're thankful as always for our wonderful employees.  Their reliability and work ethic make it possible for Kris to leave. 
And being warm for awhile also makes it possible to come back for some more cold! 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Hola! Dairy in Mexico

I went to Playa del Carmen and Cozumel in Mexico this past weekend.  The weather was beautiful, the adventures were exciting, the company was great ... and the dairy was interesting. 
Really, I can't help myself.  When you're at a bus station about to go and tour Mayan ruins, don't you want to check out the dairy section?
All new items!  I hadn't seen any of these in the states. 
When you're walking downtown, looking for a cool place to go, wouldn't you pick this one?  It's called La Vaquita.  Party 'til the cows come home.

I tried one of the drinks for breakfast - an Oreo flavored yogurt drink.  It was fine, but I'd prefer if it had big chunks of cookies in it.  You know, like at every breakfast.
We happened to stop at a grocery store, and I was interested by the products they had there.  I'd know more about it by reading all the sides of the box, but I know almost no Spanish.  So I knew just as much after I looked at as before I looked at it.  But that cartoony cow looks appealing, right? 

I came home to a lot of snow and some happy boys.  It can't always look like this, but ... cows don't like the heat anyway.  But thank goodness, liking dairy is worldwide.