Expressing our gratitude to those who provide our food!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thoughts On Turkey, Gravy, And Gratitude...

I am often reminded of the complexities of  farming life that my husband and our family have been called to do during times like Thanksgiving.  I wonder what it would be like to have a job that allows us to turn off the light and go home for a few days and not worry about anything until Monday.  Today as I type this we are having one heck of a winter storm that has blizzard conditions and has shut down the ability for my family from Arizona to be with us this holiday.  The girls are out of school on a snow day and I have enjoyed spending some quiet moments reading and making crafts with them.  Their questions today have been, “Mama how cold do you think Daddy is?” and “Are the cows going to be ok?”  Dairy farmers are the stewards of the land and animals that have been entrusted to us and that has to happen through the rain, sleet, and snow.   (Hmm... Even the mailman gets Sundays off.)   Few professions have that requirement of a non-stop 24/7 and 365 days a year responsibility which is why farming is a “lifestyle” not an occupation.  

So as we delve into another slice of pumpkin pie or scoop another pile of stuffing on our plate this holiday here are a few facts about our amazing agriculture industry.  It is this unwavering duty of a bountiful harvest that farmers provide for our families through trials and hardships that few can fathom.  This call to farm is so labor intensive and mentally exhausting that sometimes we forget to stop and say like my 4 year old daughter often does, “Look what I did!”  It is because of my passion to pass this on to the next generation that I will not quit spreading the word so that all may hear, “Hey look what our farmers just did!”
DAIRY (My personal favorite and might I suggest another dollop of butter on your mashed potatoes and extra whipped cream on your pumpkin pie!)
  • Idaho is the 2nd largest milk producing state in the twelve western U.S. states and ranks 3rd in the US.   As of December 31, 2009, the state had 585 dairy farm operations; producing 12.122 billion pounds of milk (1.410 billion gallons) from the 529,366 cows milking.   Idaho is the 3rd largest manufacturer of natural and processed cheese in the U.S. making more than 805 million pounds annually in the state.   Approximately 44.3 million gallons of Idaho produced milk is processed into fluid milk for drinking.

POTATOES (Is there anything more synonymous than Idaho and potatoes?)
  • With over a century of growing potatoes, Idaho has produced more potatoes than any other state every year since 1957.  An estimated 300,000 acres of Idaho Potatoes were harvested – about 11 billion pounds of potatoes. That's enough potatoes to fill 500 NFL football fields.  New York uses the most Idaho potatoes, followed by Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania and Texas.
       WHEAT (Pie crusts, dinner rolls, stuffing!)
  • Idaho wheat growers harvested 1.25 million acres of wheat in 2006.  That’s over 99 million bushels!  The average price for wheat in 2009 was $4.05 a bushel.  Nationally, Idaho ranks fifth for wheat and wheat product exports.  A single bushel of wheat will make 73 loaves of bread, or 53 boxes of cereal, or 72 pounds of tortillas.  One acre of wheat can produce enough wheat to furnish your family with bread for nearly 10 years.  Farmers receive about 4 cents per loaf of bread when it’s sold in the stores.
SUGARBEETS (Life wouldn't be the same without dessert!)
  • Idaho ranks 3rd in the nation for sugarbeet production and if you live in Idaho you've probably purchased sugar produced by this crop instead of cane sugar.  There are 5.5 million tons of sugarbeets harvested here in Idaho! 
We all have a farmer to thank for this Thanksgiving meal and every meal we eat.  So let’s all give thanks today and every day for our farmers and ranchers!

From Dugan Family Farms to you and yours may you have a blessed Thanksgiving!
Chris, Shelly, Vivian, Eliza, and William Dugan

If you would like to join us as we give thanks to all of our farmers through social media you can go to

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

What Came First? The Milk Or The 6 Cheese Wisconsin Pizza!?!?

It seems to me that the current slant of recent articles published by the NY Times and Washington Post is that dairy farmers need to quit promoting our products.  Huh?  In fact according to the Post we should have the check off program that we pay for completely eliminated.  You mean to tell me we have come to a point in this society that as a businesswoman who pays .15 cents for every 100 lbs. of milk we produce with every other dairyman across America to advertise dairy products collectively is not a good idea?  Well obviously I must be missing something.  Let me start with the facts:

  • The dairy checkoff program was created by farmers, for farmers, and is funded by America’s dairy farm families – and only by dairy farmers. It does not use any government or taxpayer dollars to promote dairy products in the United States.
  • The discussion has overlooked DMI’s unwavering commitment to health and wellness. DMI helps the dairy industry keep pace with both consumer preferences and the latest in dietary guidance by sharing nutrition science, product research and consumer research, which the industry uses to develop healthier choices in dairy foods, including reduced-fat and reduced sodium cheese, and reduced-sugar flavored milk.
  • More than 50 percent of DMI’s annual budget is allocated to advance dairy health and wellness efforts that are consistent with the recommendations of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.  Those programs include: nutrition and product research (including research regarding the development of reduced-fat and reduced-sodium cheeses); the in-school Fuel Up to Play 60 program that aims to help children’s health by bringing healthy eating and physical activity to more than 64,000 schools; efforts to help build a more sustainable U.S. dairy industry; and programs to meet consumer needs, such as those with real or perceived lactose intolerance.

But let me take this to the next level and challenge the articles assertion that we are creating products that are high in fat and ultimately causing the health decline of America.  Wow I am certainly complimented by their claims that we have so much power in how Americans choose to feed themselves and their families.  Yes we helped Domino’s create a new pizza that is amazingly good with lots of cheese.  No we don’t want you to eat it at every meal! This is precisely the point where the concepts of free enterprise will need to be inserted.  We will only make those products that consumers buy.  If consumers demand it I promise you we will figure out how to meet the need with the safest ingredients and highest quality that our dairy industry is known for.  I mean we are all adults here and aren’t persuaded to alter our dietary needs/concerns based on farmers and their imaginary magic wand on our wallets. It makes me sick to think that regulations are now being considered on Happy Meals!!! This is a product for children bought by ADULTS!  If no one bought Happy Meals then by golly McDonald’s would not have it on its menu!  You see we have choices as consumers.  If I choose to buy a happy meal for my children then I personally respond with white milk and apples. That choice was made possible by my checkoff dollars encouraging McDonalds to offer those healthy alternatives.  In my childhood it was either soda or that orange punch drink and fries.  Are you following the direction we have taken?   

Allow me break this down for those readers of the aforementioned articles that might be still convinced that dairy farmer’s ultimate goal is to make everyone unhealthy with fat-laden products.  In our house my three children who are under the age of 6 know that there are healthy foods and “sometime treats”.  They also know that no matter how much they beg, whine, plead, scream, and tantrum I will not waiver on those things that they need to eat and those that are left for special occasions.  You see there is no cartoon character, Disney movie, sports team, or dairy farmer that will persuade me to alter my plans for my family in having a healthy and well-balanced diet in the Dugan house.  It’s my responsibility as a caregiver of the next generation to ensure my children are healthy and well-cared for.  But I believe I am headed down a rabbit hole that has nothing to do with the dairy industry, Dairy Management Inc., or our check-off dollars.  Two words America…. Personal Responsibility!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

They've Got Milk? But They Don't Get Us

We shouldn’t be surprised to read the latest articles about the dairy industry or about animal agriculture.  It should come as no shock to any of us that blatant misinformation and unsubstantiated opinions are being broadcast to the masses as facts.  Why?  The public has no idea what we do.  As farmers and producers we know our operations and most similar agriculture businesses from soup to nuts.  We have to be economist, conservationist, meteorologist, veterinarian, nutritionist, accountant and all optimist.  But what we have failed to recognize is that the public has no idea who we are, what we do, and most importantly why we do it.  They’ve got milk? they just don’t get us.

The average American knows that if they go to their local grocery store there will be a dairy case where they are free to buy milk, cheese, yogurt, and the like.   Not giving much thought to the practices of farming but rather noticing prices and products that fit into their families lifestyle.  They want is fast, cheap, and easy.  In 1949 Americans spent 22% of their disposable income on food.  Now we spend less than 10%.  It’s the safest and cheapest food supply in the world.  But we have forgotten to remind them as they are reaping the benefits of our innovative and progressive industry about you and me.  So now articles from the Washington Post and NY Times are published and once again Americans are being fed well let’s just say a load of recycled alfalfa.  We'll all shake our heads and mumble under our breath about the articles and how wrong they are as we are going about our lives as farmers.  And that folks is why we are failing at what is so vitally necessary today, educating our consumer about us!  As dairymen we have done an amazing job at reminding them that milk is a nutritional powerhouse and that dairy is cornerstone to a healthy lifestyle.  While we were fighting the good fight we neglected to remind them that it is the farmers that bring that milk to the table not the celebrity with the milk mustache. 

Most Americans are three generations removed from the farm.  Think about that for a moment?  It boggles my mind as a mother of three small children to imagine living without microwaves, washing machines, and television.  But that’s how my grandmother raised her babies back then.   Now that feeling is exactly how John and Jane Q Public think about milking cows or hauling manure much less what it must be like to palpate a cow.   It is an unfathomable lifestyle that is so far removed from their lives that it's no wonder what little information is out there, no matter the accuracy, is being accepted as fact.  There are only .8% of the US population in animal agriculture and less than 50,000 dairy farms nationwide.  More Americans are in prison today than are farmers.  Do you see how easy it has been for them to forget about us?

So now here’s where the rubber meets the road.  We can either read about another article or news story that is wrought with lies or we can stand up and say enough.  If the squeaky wheel gets the grease then fellow dairymen the time is now to tell our story.  It’s not enough to tell them to drink their milk anymore.  We now have to tell them how that milk got there from cow to glass.  We are a proud industry and have an amazing story to tell which makes this all the more simple for us to do.  From Facebook, Twitter, blogs, to your own local network of schools, churches, businesses the opportunity of speaking on behalf of your farm and farmers across this great land is there.   Because if we don’t share our story I promise you someone else will and then we have lost our voice.  I am proud to dairy and even more proud to tell everyone about our amazing livelihood.  Will you join me?