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NOFA-NY Stories: Dairy Month

June Dairy Month Image Midwest DairyAs I sit here next to my husband in the early morning light, listening to him snore from the exhaustive work of dairy farming I ponder the thought: June is Dairy Month. What does that mean to our community, our family and our consumers?

June was designated National Dairy Month in 1939. Since that time is has been used as a way to promote dairy products. It is an opportunity for the dairy industry to showcase our products to consumers and share our stories with the intention of increasing sales during the summer flush. How do we do that? 

I’ve never been the princess type and I would guess that might be common for a dairy farmers daughter. You grow up tough, with a love for animals and strength for hard work. I would say many of us dairy farmers daughters fit into the “Tomboy” label pretty easy. Not afraid to get dirty, lend a hand and speak our mind.

It is interesting to me that the Dairy Princess Program was created 55 years ago as a way to showcase our industry. Don’t get me wrong, we clean up nice and maybe I’m just a bit more of a tomboy than the rest.

I was never a princess to my parent’s disappointment, but I did want to help our county dairy promotion committee so I agreed to the ambassador role. It was a better fit for me to share my story without the pageantry. Participating with our county’s dairy promotion committee taught me to speak to friends, consumers and dignitaries about the work of farming, quality of our products and their benefits to health. Maybe part of what set me on a path to my work with NOFA-NY today.

A Family Tradition Continues

Owego Dairy Court 2018

My mother, Nancy Weber (who some NOFA-NY Farmers may remember from the Winter Conference Food Program), has been on the board for Oswego County Dairy Promotion since the early 80’s. As a member of the committee she worked for years to support young women to become dairy promoters through the dairy princess program. Then we hit a slump, it has been more than 5 years since there has been a princess in our county. My mother held the torch for dairy promotion for our farmers, hoping that despite the dwindling number of dairy farmers in the county, one day she would have more help from the next generation. The time is finally here and in 2018 Oswego County once again has a princess court with my daughter joining the ranks as a Dairy Maid.

Wallis Family 2Working in the organic dairy industry with the dairy princess program not able to promote organic milk specifically is a bit of a conundrum for me. While maybe the program doesn’t seem like a great fit for our farmers, it works to build leaders in our industry. In 2011, the first year NOFA-NY held our Annual Dairy and Field Crop Conference, we were so fortunate to be joined by Madeline Kuhlman of M.K. Dairy the first State Dairy Princess from an organic dairy farm. I look forward to seeing that number of youth from organic farms promoting dairy grow; organic dairy has a place amid these longstanding traditions too. 

I’ve always been the type to drive my own path, question the things around me and strive for a better way. I see these same qualities in my daughter, she is tough, an animal lover…a “Tomboy”. But she is happy to put on a dress to speak about dairy farming, serve milk punch to her county legislators and share with them why dairy is important to her, and to the community.

Bethany and Family

As I sat with my father, a retired dairy farmer, at the county dairy banquet I could see his pride well up inside for his granddaughter to be raised on a dairy. That he instilled a work ethic and love for dairying in me that has passed on to her through mine and my husband’s lifestyle. You see June is Dairy Month, a chance for us to share our lives, our products and our passion.

Bethany Wallis oversees all of NOFA-NY’s educational programming, while also raising four wonderful children, and helping on her husband on his family’s dairy farm in Pulaski, NY.

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