Bottled wisdom, farm fresh

Have you ever heard of the Dairy Bowl? To be quite honest, I hadn’t either until last week. Dairy Bowl is like jeopardy for farm kids with only one category – cows. As I understand it, competition between the teams can get pretty intense. I didn’t get to see any heated moments, rivalries or rumbles, but that’s probably because I was one of the officials for the novice group, adorable seven and eight year olds full of farm fresh raw milk and wholesome charm.

When I say adorable, I mean it. One question was to describe the three stages of maturity for a female bovine. The novice team from Washington county consisted of four little girls dressed in white jeans, white shirts and pink belts with stickers all over their name tags. The four bent their heads together to confer on the answer and quickly sat back up. The team captain raised her hand and asked what “bovine” meant. Once they found out that a bovine is the same as a cow, they got the answer right: calf, heifer and cow. So cute!

I couldn’t help but think about how much more these little kinds know about farming than I do, but let’s face it, I don’t know anything really. The best way I can put it is that I’m really a gifted mimic of farmer speak and not so gifted at understanding it. I also found myself wondering how I could relay this experience to my nephew’s kindergarten class down in Richmond, VA. You see, in his 5 year old sweetness and excitement, my nephew has asked me to share with his class what it is like to live on a farm.

I wish I could bottle one of those dairy bowl kids and bring their innocent wisdom with me, it would make for a much better presentation.

On the opposite end of the spectrum (or maybe on another spectrum all together), I opened the Sunday Times Union to see an article called How now, brown cow? The author, Felix Carroll, talked about his family’s dream of owning a dairy cow. I give the guy credit for his interest, but I was really quite concerned with the article. I couldn’t help but think that they were suffering more from a nostalgic excitement than a realistic understanding. In his defense, Carroll talks about going to a lecture on owning a family cow and the eye opening realization that a cow must give birth to milk – something neither he nor his wife had ever considered before.

Not that Carroll will be asking me for any advise in the near future, but I am going to weigh in with my own two cents since I come from a similar background of complete ignorance…do more research. We have this romantic notion of farm life that is ingrained in us from a young age – a hold over from our colonist roots, a longing for simpler times, something – that 99 percent of the population carries.

The thing is that we have no clue what it is like to live on a farm or to have animals (farm animals) depend upon us and we upon them. A family cow will not be there to docilely let you take their milk (something his family will have to do twice a day…everyday), cows kick on occasion, they are large creatures with opinions and personalities all their own and not all of them are particularly kind spirited. You must care for them with love and devotion and constancy in that a Sunday is a Tuesday is a Friday…the cow doesn’t care if you want a day off, you must still go out there and milk her not just because you need it for your cereal, but because she needs it to be comfortable.

Maybe Mr. Carroll should spend some time with the novice Dairy Bowl-ers. Their sweetness would charm him and their knowledge would humble him into thinking twice about the responsibility.



Filed under Day to day

5 responses to “Bottled wisdom, farm fresh

  1. Great post! I was always awed by dairy bowl kids back in the days of coaching novices. Their fund of knowledge was incredible.

  2. I know! I was amazed by them and completely enamored by their little selves. They could tell you what some technical latin-heavy word meant, but were still sweet enough not to know what a bovine was.

  3. Jaime Toth

    This post is great and so very true! I am admittedly one of “those” who dream of life on a farm. While my friends relentlessly tease me that I am 85% of the way there (based on my extensive trips and extended farm stays in Amish country), one cannot fully appreciate the dedication and work that goes into owning and operating a dairy farm.

    An older couple we have befriended years ago were dairy farmers their entire lives, as were their parents. Now approaching their 80’s, their son’s have taken over the family business. My son still loves getting up at 4:00 am to go and help with the feeding and milking. (Quite a feat for an “almost teenager”) However, each and every time he is blown away by the enormity of it all.
    People have this perception of a farmer; him in his hat and with his pail sitting on a milking bench. I am still mesmerized by the scheduling, equipment, charts, tracking systems, birthing patterns, and especially the milk tanks! Who knew??? Certainly not I!
    Dairy farming, as I have learned, is not a “lifestyle” but your entire ” life”! While I enjoy watching the process from a distance (which is typically from a wooden porch swing sipping a cool drink) I truly admire and respect the heart, soul and dedication of a true dairy farmer.

  4. Wonderful words Jaime! I’ll admit too, that I’m more often on our front porch swing than in the actual barn. And, likewise, I had this romantic idea of what it would be like to live on a farm…4 am never really figured into that picture. That’s why these kids are so fascinating to me and leave me in stunned awe every single time.

    Watch out, your son sounds like my brother. Who would have ever thought a kid from Shelton would end up running a dairy farm…you may just get your wish of a farm life! You should come up to the farm with your son one weekend this summer, he can help in the barn and we can sit and sip wine!

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