June Dairy Month celebrates farm life

posted June 6, 2017 12:00 a.m. (CDT)
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by / Janelle Thomas

After a great Memorial Day weekend, full of graduation celebrations and services to honor our veterans, I am happy that the excitement rolls right into June and Dairy Month.

As a 4-H’er, dairy promotion projects were a priority for our club. We made window displays, sold ice cream cones and malts, designed parade floats for our community’s June Dairy Days and helped with our county’s dairy breakfast on the farm.

Growing up on a dairy farm meant dairy products were always center stage in our daily meals and our gatherings with friends and family. We still laugh at the slices of cheese my dad used to cut for guests. They were about a half-inch thick! Those cheese slices, some summer sausage (sliced equally thick) and some saltine crackers always greeted visitors around our table. I even remember giving my elementary school teachers blocks of cheese as an end-of-school-year gift.

Dairying has changed over the years, but its economic impact on local communities and its nutritional value have not wavered. The Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board’s website, americasdairyland.com, has a wealth of information regarding dairy products and the farms where milk is produced. Some interesting statistics from that website:

• Wisconsin leads the nation in the number of cheese plants with 127. That’s more than twice as many as any other state.

• Dairy is the largest segment of Wisconsin agriculture accounting for $43.4 billion, or nearly half of the state’s total agriculture.

• Wisconsin cheesemakers produce 600 varieties, types and styles of cheese. The runner-up state makes only 250 varieties.

• An 8-ounce glass of milk contains about the same amount of protein as 1½ ounces of cheese.

• Cheese helps prevent tooth decay. Firm cheeses, such as Cheddar, are most effective.

• Brick cheese was invented in 1877 in Dodge County. Brick is named for its shape and because cheesemakers originally used bricks to press moisture from the cheese.

• Ninety percent of Wisconsin’s milk is made into cheese and 90 percent of that cheese is sold outside Wisconsin.

• On average, each American eats about 34 pounds of cheese every year. That adds up to more than a ton of cheese during a lifetime.

• In 1885, Colby cheese was invented in Colby.

Dairy breakfasts on the farm have been a Wisconsin tradition for more than 45 years. They are a wonderful way to honor today’s dairy families, and they offer a great opportunity to enjoy a tasty meal while visiting a working farm. The website dairydaysofsummer.com lists 75 dairy breakfasts and other related events scheduled for all parts of the state in the coming weeks. Check the website for an event near you. Enjoy an ice cream cone or a grilled cheese sandwich and thank a dairy farmer when you are done.

Thomas can be reached at janellethomas@charter.net.