Margie's Dish On Dairy: The Practice of Dairy Farming

Mar 1, 2021

We’ve all heard the saying “practice makes perfect.” Whether it came from a coach, teacher or my dad, those three words helped me learn many skills throughout life: bike riding, tumbling, organic chemistry problem solving and even diaper changing, to name a few.

Malcolm Gladwell wrote about the importance of practice in one of my favorite books Outliers. He claims that 10,000 hours of purposeful practice is the “magic number of greatness.”  While I didn’t count them, I am thankful that my days of chasing diaper-changing greatness have passed. Ten thousand hours sounds like a lot of practice. For dairy farmers though, it’s a drop in the bucket. Most reach that pinnacle after only a few years in the business.

With 96% of dairy farms being family-owned, the practice sessions start early in childhood. Most farmers will tell you that farm chores teach children both critical life skills and on farm know-how. Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to see young experts-in-the-making. I’m amazed as they show off milking parlors, calf hutches and feeding barns with confidence and pride. Like all farmers, they know their cows and their farms.

Consumers are often unaware of the time, work and devotion that goes into agriculture. I certainly didn’t appreciate it when I joined St. Louis District Dairy Council. As a new dietitian, I jumped at the chance to promote a wholesome, nutritious product supported by decades of research. As a 23-year employee, I’ve stayed because it’s also an incredible opportunity to promote the people who work so diligently to produce that product.

In turn, I’ve learned that farmers don’t look to be put on a pedestal. And in 2020, when the pandemic put the food supply and farming in the spotlight, they didn’t bask in it. They just kept working to make sure the milk kept flowing. So while they don’t toot their own horns, this organization is proud to do so.

For 89 years, SLDDC’s priority has been to tout the science-based health benefits of dairy. But that’s only part of the story. Through locally grown programs like Homegrown Hero, we’re able to share the full one. 2021 marks the 4th year of this campaign*, created to help local schools recognize everyday heroes dedicated to making their communities a better place to live. This year’s pool of nominees are inspiring, committed, resilient people who invest countless hours into making a difference.

 Sounds a lot like what our dairy farm families do every single day.

*The winners of the 2021 Homegrown Hero awards will be announced in March.

By Margie Graham, Executive Director


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