It’s no secret, the current state of the dairy industry is pretty disheartening, with the low milk prices we are experiencing. It’s no surprise that activists have taken it as an opportunity to tout that their efforts to end animal agriculture are working. “Down with dairy!” they scream as we all wonder how they got out of their straitjackets.
During a recent social media attack, many activists begged me to turn from my “evil ways” and grow things such as soy. Soy and almonds were the top two commodities they suggested I should grow “when our farm goes under.” While they were very convincing with their name calling, threats, and flat out crazy, I will stick to milking cows and our farm will not become an animal sanctuary. Let me take a moment to tell you why:
As a farmer that produces a commodity, I do not get to choose my customers. My customer chooses me. Well, they choose the cooperative our farm is a part of. Being a part of a cooperative means that my husband and I get to focus on raising our family and caring for our cows. We do not have to process, ship, or market our product. It works great for us because we get to focus on what we love and leave the rest to others to take care of. We have customers because people love cheese, ice cream, etc. Let me repeat myself, people love dairy products. While propaganda may certainly make a dent in our customers base, dairy will never fully go away.
As farmers, we have bills to pay. Every day we go out and do what we love. We are so fortunate to be able to raise our children on the farm. The farm however is what keeps a roof over our family’s heads. Bills are paid with the milk that is sold from our cows. It costs quite a bit of money to feed and care for cows. You don’t just run to the local pet store and pick up a bag of cow chow after work, and grass doesn’t grow year-round in most places. It takes time and money to grow forages, to harvest, and to store it. A cow can eat up to 100 pounds of feed a day. Just a little bit more than Fido or Fifi.
As a farm, we grow/raise based on where our farm is located. I love peaches, oranges, bananas, and a long list of other things. I dream of having a huge garden and orchard. But it will always be just a dream. I am limited to what can be grown due to the climate and elevation of where our farm is located. We have a very short growing season. Our cows graze from spring to fall on land that cannot be farmed as it is forest land and/or hillsides. I am so very thankful that we can enjoy all four seasons and the forests and still be able to farm. So I suppose what I am trying to say is that we will never grow vegan food where our farm is located. Unless you want to live off lettuce and plums.
Dairy farming is a way of life. I know that no matter what I do or say, that is simply not something anyone will be able to understand until they have actually lived it. I say this as someone who did not grow up on a farm. We do what we do every day because we love it. If for some reason we had to quit farming; we would not grow food for vegans, our farm would not become an animal sanctuary and our cows wouldn’t spend the rest of their life having their every need taken care of while smelling flowers but instead head off to the chop house.
At the end of the day, our way of life is taking care of our cows. It’s a reciprocal relationship. We take care of them, and they take care of us.
Krista Stauffer is a wife, mother of three, and first-generation millennial dairy farmer. Krista works side by side with her husband and kids on their 140-cow dairy.