Few can argue that the coronavirus pandemic has created unforeseen challenges for farmers. It’s one of the reasons why Gov. Tony Evers announced the Wisconsin Farm Support Program, a $50 million fund designed to provide direct payments to Wisconsin farmers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
As we approach June Dairy Month, Wisconsin’s farmers still need your help. Dairy groups such as Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin are encouraging consumers to stand with state dairy farmers to help celebrate an industry that contributes to Wisconsin’s identity and economy.
What better time than June Dairy Month than for consumers to step up and help an industry in serious need of support? Most state residents, or dairy historians, know that June Dairy Month started out as a way to distribute extra milk during the warm months of summer. The commemoration was established in 1937 by grocer organizations sponsoring “National Milk Month.” By 1939, June became the official “dairy month.”
Wisconsin’s dairy farmers are committed to delivering fresh, wholesome nutrition to dairy lovers all over the world using sustainable farming practices.
Consider that in 2017, Wisconsin’s dairy farmers reached a milestone achievement by reducing the environmental impact of producing a gallon of milk by involving 31% less water, 21% less land, a 20% smaller carbon footprint and 21% less manure than in 2007.
Dairy farmers have adapted their businesses quickly to meet changing demands and fulfill consumers’ essential nutrition needs -- but that’s not enough.
Events like the traditional Cows on the Concourse (usually set somewhere on the Capitol Square in downtown Madison during the first Saturday in June) help draw attention to the impact the dairy industry makes on the state’s economy.
But this year, because of tight guidelines against large crowds, events like Cows on the Concourse (usually featuring Sun Prairie’s very own Soggy Prairie performing bluegrass music) have been canceled (although there is a virtual event being conducted online here).
Ironically, this year -- perhaps more than ever -- we need to take the opportunity to celebrate Wisconsin’s dairy farmers. Why? Consider that the number of dairy farms has declined steadily from 167,000 in 1930 to just 7,700 in 2019 despite a record production of 30.6 billion pounds of milk.
Consider also that the top eight U.S. states account for two-thirds of total U.S. milk production, but California and Wisconsin alone account for almost one-third of national milk production, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). In 2019, that meant Wisconsin produced 14 percent of the U.S. total of 218.4 billion pounds of milk.
So what can you do to help support June Dairy Month? Help your local dairy farmers by going to local creameries like Sassy Cow Creamery in Bristol (right up Highway N north of Sun Prairie) and purchase more milk, ice cream and cheese. Many of these creameries and dairy operations sell other locally produced cheese and dairy items, so purchasing these items is helping to support those operations as well.
Buying locally produced dairy and milk products in local supermarkets like Woodman’s and Pick’n Save are great ways to support local dairy farmers too.
It’s always dairy good to buy local, but this June, you should be really moo-tivated.