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For the past 4 years, I have been attending a conference/summit with Midwest Dairy. At first, it was an opportunity for a great learning experience. Now is it life-changing learning experience. The knowledge I have gained about all aspects of dairy production and farming has made me a better dietitian and also a better person. My weekly wisdom quote above is sincere with all of my heart. I will admit, I took a little sabbatical from Dairy foods for awhile but it was not sustainable. Dairy foods are the real deal. This week launches National Dairy Month and I will be celebrating by sharing how I Dairy 3 For Me. I hope you will share too by using this hashtag, #DAIRY3FORME with your photos on social media.
One of the best parts of this yearly summit is meeting the local dairy farmers and learn about their operation. Each time I visit a farm and meet the farmers, my biggest take away is this:
These devoted humans love their animals and love what they do.
This year we had the privilege to visit family-owned and operated Jer-Lindy Farms & Readhead Creamery in Brooten, Minnesota. This multigenerational dairy farm is a beautiful partnership between parents and children. What is so unique is milk from dairy cows go straight to the creamery that is located on the family farm to make fresh and delicious cheese. The milk is pumped directly from the cows to the creamery through a unique underground tunnel and in less than 24 hours, the magic has happened and the cheese wheels enter the caves below the cheese plant. This type of creamery is called a farmstead creamery, where all of the milk used in Readhead Creamery cheese is produced at the same location as the cheese.
When I can see the passion a farmer has for their farm and animals, it creates a connection between us, where I want to share their store of passion and purpose. VERY much like my podcast. Being dairy farmer is hard work and is a 24 hour a day job. There are no sporadic vacations or a lazy day of watching Netflix. This beauty was only 18 hours old when I met her. Newborns usually weigh around 90-100 pounds at birth and she was doing her best at walking when we visited her. She does need her own little residence to keep her healthy and free from illness-causing bacteria. She receives healthy, nutrient-packed colostrum for the first couple of days to boost her immune system and then transitions to milk and a special grain until about 4-8 weeks.
As these baby girls grow within 6 months, they are eating silage/grains and can also go out to pasture to feed on grass, weighing in around 400 pounds. Around their first birthday, they weigh around 700 pounds and still has a lot of growing up to do. Around year 2 is when they are all grown-up and has had their first calf, starting to produce milk and joining the milking crew. These ladies weigh in around 1100-1200 pounds are are still early in their careers with a lot more growing to dos. An adult and distinguished lady weighs in around 1500 pounds and has had around 3-5 babies. She eats really well and can produce much more milk than when she had her first baby, up to 12 gallons day.
Dairy farmers love their cows. I mean really love them. They do everything they can to keep them safe, healthy and happy. A happy cow means a lot to the livelihood of a dairy farm. Happy and healthy cows produced the best milk, therefore the farmers can give us the best nutritious, great tasting product. There are around 7,400 dairies in the 10 Midwest States represented by Midwest Dairy, with around 97% of those being family owned, like Jer-Lindy Farms. These dairies are right in our backyards and provide us with fresh milk in less than 48 hours from farm to store. We were able to tour the entire farm by the dairy calves and heifers, the mothers-in-waiting (pregnant bovines), the milking cows, the milking parlor (with cows milking) and milk holding room.
Another part of the operation on Jer-Lindy Farms is very unique to the midwest. This family-owned dairy farm also has a farmstead creamery on-site, Redhead Creamery (click to learn more about the creamery). Alise is president of Redhead Creamery and has always had a passion for cheesemaking, since age 14, as well as being part of her family business and living her dream.
Jer-Lindy Farms & Redhead Creamery have a strong devotion to sustainability and stewardship of the land with their farming practices. A farmstead dairy is defined as a creamery that uses on-site milk to produce cheese. Alise designed a perfect system for transporting milk with an underground pipeline that goes from the barn directly to the creamery. Alise gets up bright and early when the cows are first milking to make cheese twice a week (with hopes of more because of wider distribution of her products). Alise shared with us some interesting facts about cheese making:
We were not only served a wealth of knowledge on this family farm, we got to experience the wonderful flavors of Alise’s cheese. Just like the family farm, the names of the creamery’s cheese are also family focused. Lucky Linda’s cave-aged cheddar is named after her mom and incredibly delicious Little Lucy Brie is named after her daughter. She has plans to keep creating new cheese as her business grows. This was a dietitian’s dairy heaven!
Jer-Lindy Farms & Redhead Creamery has tours, on-site cheese shop and hosts private events. If you are ever this way, I highly recommend you make a stop.