Confessions of a Lactose Intolerant Dairy Farmer

Subway Employee – Would you like your sandwich toasted?

Me – No thank you.

Subway Employee – What kind of cheese would you like on your sub?

Me – No cheese either, please… just spinach, tomato, pickles and sweet onion sauce… thanks!

My Judgmental Friend – No cheese? Aren’t you a dairy farmer or something? Or are you one of those people who think “not eating dairy” is going to make you loose weight? *LOL’s to herself*


So, this scenario ACTUALLY happened. I was getting lunch with a friend at Subway and I skipped the cheese on my sub, which resulted in IMMEDIATE judgement from my peer. But how about we take a moment to set the record straight.

  1. I don’t do “diets” so no, that’s not why I skipped the cheese. Being 100% in shape and “thin” will never feel as good as chili fries taste. Or chocolate truffles.
  2. I’m lactose intolerant, so she should have actually been happy I skipped the dairy on my sub.
    • Lactose intolerance occurs when the small intestine does not make enough of an enzyme called lactase. Your body needs lactase to break down, or digest, lactose. 

Let me tell you what, being a lactose intolerant dairy farmer isn’t easy. Chocolate milk, cheese, and ice cream are pretty big no-no’s for me. It also doesn’t help my rep that I’m not always consuming the products I’m constantly pushing others to include in their diets so they get the calcium and overall goodness their bodies need.

So, how do people “like me” get the calcium they need? A lot of people end up resorting to products like “almond milk” or “soy milk” to replace what they (think) can’t get from ACTUAL milk without getting an upset stomach. And though I will confess, flavored almond milk tastes good (because it’s sugar content is on steroids) you will NEVER see me drinking that wanna-be “milk.” Wanna know why? I’ll give you 3 reasons.

  1. For pete’s sake folks, IT’S NOT MILK. You don’t milk an almond or a soybean. Is it a beverage with added calcium? Yes. Is it milk? Hell no, so just stop calling it that right this second.
  2. It’s (for lack of a better term) total crap that it’s marketed as “better” than real milk. Bessie and Daisy go bonkers in the milking parlor when they hear that people actually believe that. Nothing is better than the real thing. Click here if you’re not convinced. And here. Or here.
  3. Products like Lactaid exist, so I can still get the calcium I need.

I have found my solution. Lactaid is a brand of dairy products (mainly milk, ice cream and yogurt) that are made with REAL dairy milk. How is this possible? This brand has created a line of dairy foods with the lactose already broken down in the product. They also make a dietary supplement that provide you with the lactase you need to consume other dairy products, without feeling discomfort.

So yes, I am a lactose intolerant dairy farmer. And yes, milkshake dates at the local creamery sometimes make me a miserable person. But that doesn’t mean I’ve turned my back on dairy products. I dug and I searched and I found a solution that allows me to still enjoy REAL dairy products and give my body the calcium it needs. Because of that, I challenge YOU, fellow lactose intolerant community, to do the same as I did.

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Watch your tone, boy

Going through my computer bag this morning, (my dad calls it a black hole) I came across a pamphlet from a man I encountered at World Dairy Expo this past fall (yea… it was almost 3 months ago, don’t judge me).

For anyone who knows me, what I just said explained two of my clearest attributes…

  1. I’m always losing and re-finding things (sounds bad, but it’s fun when you find a pair of shoes you forgot about, it’s almost as exciting as buying a new pair, just cheaper!)
  2. I LIVE for the week spent at World Dairy Expo

World Dairy Expo is a time for dairy farmers, industry members and business men and women to come together. We’re all there to celebrate our love for the dairy industry and the beautiful cows that are in it. What we’re NOT there for is the bashing of “factory farming.” Except for one guy…

Entering into the Expo grounds, there was a man standing outside with a sign that read “Stop Factory Farming.” Outraged, I ignored my sister’s urge for me to “forget him.” So I stomped right on over to sass that man right off the grounds. However, when I approached him, the conversation was less dramatic:

Mr. Factory Farming: “Hi Miss, do you support factory farming?”

Me: “Do you know what factory farming is? Because I find your set up ignorant and rude at such an event, that showcases successful families and farms, large and small. Some that you may consider ‘factory farming’ in your vocabulary.”

Mr. Factory Farming: “You don’t know my case against factory farming. Take my handout.”

Me: “And I don’t want to. Have a nice day.”

After fuming on his case all day, I finally decided that it would be better to just read his handout and hear what he had to say. One, because it would help my argument against him, and two, to regain my sanity. When  I grabbed a handout leaving, I realized that he wasn’t anti farming. He was a leader of an organization that supported small farmers in Wisconsin. They believed larger, “corporate” farms took away profit opportunities away from them. But in the big picture, he was still a supporter of dairy farming.

Even though I still don’t agree with his opposing position that degrades “factory farming,” I was expecting someone who had the same values and opinions as a PETA-type organization. It was his tone and presentation of information that made me believe something that wasn’t necessarily true. Our encounter served as a reminder that sometimes, things don’t come out sounding the way you intended them to. Kind of how my jokes are never as funny as I think they will be…

The Farmer Body Workout

(Originally Published July 23, 2014)

It’s summer, and we all want washboard abs and muscles to go with our farmer tans. But have you ever felt like the girls in the barn are just out to ruin your summer workout plan? “Oh, you wanna work out?” says Bessie the milk cow, “Guess I’m going to have a baby JUST when you’re getting ready to leave. No abs for you, Farmer Ted!”
Well does the Cow Chronicler have a solution for you! Developed with the help of my personal trainer/not-so-little little brother, I have a work out plan that you can do at home on the farm!

ARMS

We all complain about carrying the watermelon up the front stairs. Instead of whining, turn that hard-to-carry melon of goodness into an extra “oomf” during your squat routine!

Down....

Down….

...and up!

…and up!


cat pushup 1

Those kittens are adorable until they won’t leave you the heck alone. Use these balls of fluff as an extra weight to push you even harder through that one push up. (Cause let’s be real, you’re not going to make it past one push up with cats on your back). Now do some bicep curls until one bites you. A calf has probably gotten loose somewhere on the farm at this point anyways.

cat curls

LEGS

Fighting with a sibling about who’s feeding calves tonight? Squat out the anger kids.

human squat rack 1

…squat it out

human squat rack 2


This move worked out for Karate Kid, didn’t it?

karate kid


wheelbarrow 1

Wanna be the fastest wheel barrow driver in the 4H barn this year? Give this one a try… Just don’t throw your back out…. and watch out for those meddling kittens who like laughing at your struggle.

wheelbarrow 2


That bag of sawdust? Do a few lunges with it. Grunt like it weighs 50 pounds… people won’t think you’re as tough if they know how much it actually (doesn’t) weigh.

sawdust lunge

ABS & CARDIO

tractor abs 1

Nobody’s using the tractor? Good, because you and your workout partner are going to use it to get that to get that 6 pack that you can’t buy at the local beer distributor.

tractor abs 2


Do your show heifers need to lose a little weight too? You know what, do it together. It’s like the new version of halter breaking, except… not at all.

heifer cardio

Now get up off that tractor and go get that farmer body you’ve been dreaming about!

Dedicated to Dairy – In the Classroom

(Originally Published June 27, 2014)

In the world of agriculture, we are always battling false facts and crazy fads that consumers are introduced to. To fight the wrongs, we need education. And with education, we need teachers.

Without the agricultural educators, finding success in educating our “tomorrow” is going to be very, very difficult. And judging by the personality I carried through high school (I was a terrifying 14 year old.. sorry mom and dad!), dealing with teenagers can’t be very easy either! Sheri Boardman, a dairy girl born and raised, has dedicated her career to teaching youth about the importance and truth in agricultural and dairy industries. Enjoy!

1. Introduce yourself!

My name is Sheri Boardman, I am a High School Agricultural Teacher/FFA Advisor in Connecticut where I teach a little bit of everything from animal science to plant science and agricultural mechanics to biotechnology in an Agricultural Program with 4 teachers. I was raised on Carlwood Farm, in Canaan, CT where my mom and grandfather operate a 65 cow registered Holstein partnership. In my spare time (haha!), I also work at my boyfriend Greg’s Family Dairy Farm, Maple Downs Farms II, in Middleburgh, NY. Both family farms are 2 of the 1,200 proud Farm Family Owners of the Cabot Creamery Cooperative where we are very proud of the high quality milk that our happy cows produce. I continue to enjoy being able to house my  small herd of registered Holsteins at my mom’s farm, and love every opportunity that I have to be able to milk cows, bale hay, or pull a calf with Greg at his farm. 

2. How are you dedicated to dairy?

The dairy industry has been in my blood since I was born. My mom had me on a show halter of my very 1st Holstein calf when I was 2 1/2 years old and I can say ever since then, I’ve been dedicated to this industry! Providing great care and treatment for my dairy cattle has always been something that I have been dedicated to. There is no prouder moment than when you can successfully deliver a new born calf and provide it with its mother’s first milk. Just as every farmer is dedicated to their cows, there is also a commitment to feeding people that we as farmers care so much about. The commitment also includes sharing our story with people at church, at a school board meeting, or at a county fair. There are several opportunities that I choose to stay committed to the industry, as I have chosen to get involved with our Agri-Mark Young Cooperators Program by attending leadership conferences and advocating for farmers at Cabot Cheese events. I also continue to exhibit cattle with my family at local shows, where we share our story and promote the dairy industry.  

With the guidance of my parents and grandparents, I grew up being very involved with 4-H and FFA which truly instilled responsibility, dedication, and leadership in me at a young age. I have always taken an open opportunity to educate people about dairy cattle and where their dairy products come from ever since I was a young 4-Her exhibiting at local fairs. As an alumni of 4-H and FFA, it is our time to give back to the youth of our future, so I am proud to be dedicated to the youth of our dairy industry as well.  As an agricultural teacher, a member of the Agri-Mark Young Cooperators Program, and an owner of dairy cattle,everyday I continue to stay dedicated to the welfare of our dairy cattle and advocating for our industry! 

3. Can you tell us a little bit about your career?

As a middle school student, I filled out an application to attend Housatonic Valley Regional High School in Falls Village, CT to be able to attend an agricultural high school. Little did I know, that my agricultural teacher, Karen Davenport, would have such an impact on my future career choice in just a few short years of high school. In high school, I was very active in the National FFA Organization as a leader at the local level, I competed at Nationals in the Dairy Cattle Evaluation Contest, and I expanded my herd of Holsteins at home as part of my SAE (Supervised Agricultural Experience) Program.  I always had the vision of becoming an agricultural teacher, once I realized that I could educate future generations about agriculture and incorporate so many hands-on experiences into learning as a career.  

I attended SUNY Cobleskill for 2 years, where I am grateful for the tremendous hands-on learning experiences I had in all my agricultural coursework there. In 2012, I graduated from Cornell University where I had spent 3 years finishing up my undergraduate work as double major in Animal Science and Agricultural Science Education and finally completing my dream goal of a Masters of Arts in Teaching. I thankfully landed a teaching position back near home, in a neighboring district from where I grew up and have been there for 2 years. The National Blue and Corn Gold colors have stuck near and dear to my heart, as an American Degree recipient myself, being an FFA Advisor and Agricultural teacher is one of the toughest jobs that I will ever love! 

4. Why do you believe that agricultural education in schools is so important?

Agricultural education in schools is more important than ever in our world today as farm and ranch families comprise just 2% of the U.S. Population. People want to meet a farmer and want to know where their food comes from. With agricultural programs in schools, students are able to learn at a young age how to produce food for themselves and better understand farm management practices in order to make educated decisions as a consumer and/or a producer. I have a unique opportunity to educate each 7th grade student in my school for 10 weeks about agriculture. One of the units that I love teaching them is the animal science unit, where we learn where milk comes from and we make ice-cream at the end of the unit. It is so fascinating for students to see that milk comes from 4 different teats on a cow’s udder and that milk can be made into so many different healthy snacks. Being able to provide our youth with real world, hands-on agricultural experiences is so beneficial to our future even if  students do not intend to pursuit a career in agriculture. Once they are exposed to Agricultural Education, they are better equipped with life skills, leadership abilities, and personal growth that fosters career success. 

5. What do you find most rewarding about teaching? 

The most rewarding aspect about teaching is certainly the students that I am surrounded with each and every school day. My kids choose to take agricultural classes, so they want to be in class. It is a beautiful feeling to be able to inflict positive growth in students and watch them excel in various areas over time. Being able to share my passion for agriculture with my students is something that I still cannot believe I get paid for. 

6. If you could tell the public one thing about your involvement in the dairy industry, what would it be?

If you ever have a question about anything regarding agriculture, do not hesitate to contact a farmer or someone at your local cooperative extension agency! We know how easy it is to just “Google-it!” Take the time to hear an explanation from a producer about why a certain management technique is practiced, or maybe you want to know more details about why cows eat a special diet and a farmer may direct you to someone who they work with closely, such as their Animal Nutritionist who may be better equipped to answer the question.  Whether you are passionate about the dairy industry or not, my advise to you is to get involved in something that you are passionate about! Continue to educate yourself because the world around you is not standing still!

Dedicated to Dairy – On the Farm

(Originally Published on June 16, 2014)

There are hundreds of different career opportunities in the dairy industry. You can be a writer, graphic designer, nutritionist or an ice cream guru. However, none of these careers would be possible without the backbone of the dairy industry – the dairy farmer. It’s kind of like “what came first, the chicken or the egg?” Except we know which came first … the dairy farmer and then the thriving dairy industry.

For dairy month, I had the privilege of working with Rod Hissong, a dairy farmer residing in Franklin County, Pennsylvania. As you can see below in his interview, it’s no secret that his passion lies with his cows and entire farm, making him dedicated to dairy. Enjoy!

1. Introduce yourself!

My name is Rod Hissong.  Along with my brother Rick and I we operate Mercer Vu Farms Inc. in Mercersburg, Pennsylvania.  I am a graduate of Penn State University with a degree in Dairy and Animal Science.  My wife Amy (who is the farm bookkeeper, hence making her all of our bosses!) have two children Carter who is 6 and Maggie who is

2. How are you dedicated to dairy?

I grew up on our dairy farm and have been involved with the dairy industry my whole life.  I grew up milking cows, feeding calves and just about anything in between.  During those early years I learned the value of hard work and many life lessons that have served me well later in life.  It takes those kind of lessons and dedication to run a 24 hour a day, 7 day a week operation.  When your success or failure depends on a cow and her welfare depends on you, there are no days off.  They take a dedication and an investment in time like very few jobs. 

3. Can you tell us a little bit about your business?

Mercer Vu Farms was originally started by my grandfather who bought our original home farm after returning home from service in WWII.  He and my grandmother started with 7 cows and eventually grew the farm to 60 cows when my dad joined the operation in the 60’s.  My dad built a milking parlor and barn in the 70’s bringing cow numbers to 120 total.  My brother and I returned home from Penn State in the 90’s and started to develop a plan for what it would take for us to continue the operation for our generation and beyond.  In 2002 we built a new milking parlor, freestall barns and waste handling facilities for 800 cows.  Since then the business has continued to grow to the current size of 1735 total milk cows, 1700 head of young animals, 2800 acres of crop ground (growing corn and alfalfa for cow feed), 35 full time employees, a milk hauling business that hauls 50 million pounds of milk annually to Land O Lakes and one farm dog!

4. What do you like most about being involved with the farm? 

It is hard to say that I like one thing the most.  It is an accumulations of many things that I like about the farm… I enjoy the challenges and rewards of running a growing business that produces a valuable product to consumers.  I enjoy working with good people and good animals and seeing their development and eventual success.  I even enjoy learning from our failures to make our business and our team stronger.   I enjoy the beauty and satisfaction of working the open land that provides our animals feed and us with some beautiful countryside.  I enjoy working alongside family members for a common goal.  With my family being young I have enjoyed that I can bring them to the farm with me and expose them to life lessons that happen daily on a dairy farm.  I am one of the few people who get to be involved with an industry that doesn’t consider their job “work.

5. What’s your number one goal for your business? 

We have a mission statement at Mercer Vu that is a pretty good summary of all of our goals, 

To produce high quality milk efficiently, safely, and profitably as to benefit management, employees, cows, the environment and the community in which we live.  

We work hard to follow through with this mission and I feel we have been fairly successful and living up to it.  In any business these days there is very little margin for error.  For a business to be successful they need to stick to their core values and that is something we strive for every day. 

6. If you could tell the public one thing about your involvement in the dairy industry, what would it be?

There is a lot of misinformation and misrepresentation out there about the dairy industry and especially larger farms.  While there are always examples of bad behavior in all industries I think our entire industry has been tarnished by a few bad examples that has been provided by sources that have many ulterior motives.  I know on our dairy and on other dairies that I have traveled to across the country, I could not be more proud of how we care for our animals, our environment and our communities.  If you do not take care of your cows or the environment they will not take care of you.  Sustainability, all natural and all the hot buzzwords of today are words that our dairy has lived by for generations and continue to live by every day no matter our size.

Dedicated to Dairy – Painting the Scene

(Originally Published June 11, 2014)

It’s not everyday that you find a person with incredible talent using a paint brush. It’s even more rare when you find that talent paired with a charming and kind personality and true passion for an industry. Bonnie Mohr is one of the most well known icons in the dairy industry, and rightfully so. A painter and wife to a dairy farmer, Mohr’s work ranges from cows to motivational and inspiring pieces (for those who don’t necessarily consider bovines appropriate wall decor, which I think is absurd).

After enjoying my interview with Bonnie Mohr, check out the links below to Mohr’s Facebook and official website. Trust me, if you’re a “cow” person or a “not-so-cow” person… you won’t regret it!

Bonnie Mohr Studio Official Website & Facebook Page

  1. Introduce yourself!

Formally Bonnie Mohr, many know me as the “cow lady” or “cow painter,” which I think is a wonderful and flattering thing. I am the second oldest of eight kids and grew up near New Ulm on a dairy farm. I am married to a dairy farmer—John Mohr—and so I became a dairy farmer’s wife and a mom to our five children (Amanda, Katelyn, Taylor, Jacob, and Zachary). I have always been active in the dairy industry, beginning with a career early on at Holstein World and eventually fulfilling my own journey of becoming an artist. I love my life and feel blessed every day to be able to use my God given talents and skills to be an artist advocate for the dairy industry and more recently, expanding my subject matter and contact to include inspirational art.

  1. How are you dedicated to dairy? 

My work is a reflection of who I am; I paint the sites and scenes or rural America and the face of the dairy industry and its lifestyle. It is all about the life I’ve lived and what I believe—it is the things that bring me joy and happiness. I am an advocate for this lifestyle by supporting the events and happenings of dairy farmers and the dairy industry through my artwork and personal contributions.  I am appreciative that there are people who love the same things I do, as it’s the people who buy my work who give me a reason to paint. Success and happiness lie in working hard and believing in what you do. I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to not only grow up on a dairy farm, but also to raise our family on one. There really is no greater place in the world to raise a family and to teach your children about responsibility, family values and working together, laying a foundation and preparing them for the life that lies ahead.  Whether they end up in the dairy industry or otherwise, it’s a great way to prepare them for life with the daily life lessons that occur on a dairy farm.

  1. Can you tell us a little bit about your business?

Art was my favorite subject in high school; I don’t think for a second that I was born a genius artist or any extraordinary talent. I have just had a love, fascination and interest for color ever since I was a child. I went to school for dairy production and agriculture communications. Evenings and weekends, however, I continued to pursue my desire of wanting to learn to paint. To feed this hunger, I went to art shows on the weekends and slowly but surely taught myself how to paint. About 30 years ago I began showing my work around and Select Sires commissioned me to paint one of their bulls. It was then that I decided to leave my job and give painting a try; John was very supportive and encouraged me along the way. From there, it was a slow process of developing my skills, painting style, and establishing myself as an artist—I knew it was cows that I really wanted to paint. Because there were very few other artists painting cattle, there was a market for it. I really learned everything on my own—it was a series of trial and error.

Throughout the beginning stages of my career, we also bought our farm, moved out to Glencoe, and started a family. The first 15 years of my career is a blur of sorts; I was helping on the farm, up at night with babies, and at that time I had no employees, so I was also the one answering the phone and taking orders—in addition to painting. At a certain point, I realized I had grown enough and was able to start up the studio and hire some employees, eventually leading to the launch of our website and a catalog to show my work. The more I painted cows, the more my skills developed, the more true-to-life my paintings became, and I knew I was painting what I was supposed to, and that brought great satisfaction to me. I was painting who I was and what I loved.

Over the course of time, I painted all the different breeds. The highlights of my career have been painting the Ideal Holstein cow and bull for the Holstein Association, updating the Dairy Breeds of North America poster, and the Hoard’s Dairyman Foster Mother of the Human Race image. In the last ten years, I’ve broadened my subject matter and have painted various rural American scenes, and most recently inspirational artwork, which has become a very big part of my work. This is a growing area for me because it is a measure that has the potential to touch everyone in the world. I have felt a calling to branch out to try new and different things; I am thankful that my work brings joy and happiness to people.

In addition to having an art gallery on our farm, I do a few shows during the year. World Dairy Expo in Madison, Wisconsin being the biggest (this will be my 29th year!). I also have a website (www.bonniemohr.com), and my work can be found in various shops and galleries all over America, as well as internationally.

  1. What do you like most about your artwork/business? (the combination of art and the dairy industry, it’s peaceful, etc) 

As I look back, I am surprised that the gold treasure we all seek in life was right in my own back yard. The joy and reward of being a dairy farmer and living the dairy farming life has become the staple of who I am and how I make my living. It is ironic that you grow up thinking you have to search the world over to find the treasure, when in reality, it was right there the whole time. I love the fact that I can be sitting in my chair painting and look out the window and see cows in the pasture. I love that when I have my windows open in the morning, I can hear the cows mooing and the tractor and TMR (totally mixed ration) mixer driving across the yard. I love that I can hear the sound of my children right outside of my window working and growing, laughing and playing. That is a real joy that a lot of people never get to have—that true meaning of family and life right here, right now. On the business side of things, I have always had an interest in marketing and have always been a “people person.” A big part of selling your product is believing in your product; that’s why it is so easy for me to have a passion for what I do—I believe in what I do.

  1. What’s your favorite painting that you’ve done? 

“The Beautiful Cow.” I believe I captured both the inner and outer essence and beauty of the dairy cow. Those cows look like they are in cow heaven. They are so peaceful—the look I captured exemplifies that they are happy, well taken care of, and loving their life, too. As dairy farmers and stewards of the land, that is our job…to take care of everything we’ve been given. The look on their faces say that they are joyful and happy; they are basking in the sunshine in a lush pasture on a warm summer day—if there’s a cow heaven, that’s it right there! I also wrote a verse for this painting which summarizes my, and I believe most dairy farmers, passion for cows, and why we live this lifestyle

The other reason this piece is so special to me is because I donated this original painting  to the Holstein Foundation, which ended up raising almost $20,00 for them at auction. It was my opportunity to give back for the gifts I’ve been blessed with and the wonderful life I’ve had. I think from time to time, we all need to give back, and that’s why “The Beautiful Cow” makes me especially happy and proud.

The Beautiful Cow_Bonnie Mohr

 The Beautiful Cow

  1. If you could tell the public one thing about your involvement in the dairy industry, what would it be?

I believe I have been a positive spokesperson to both dairy farmers and non-dairy farmers through my form of artwork. I feel it is an educational, enlightening and complimentary message for this lifestyle. My work is a tribute to all of us who work hard in the dairy industry. There aren’t too many professions that require this amount of hard work and dedication. My work is a celebration to the people who live this lifestyle, and that makes me really happy.

I also think my work is who I am, through and through. Born and raised a dairy farmers daughter,  I live what I know. My work is an extension of my heart and that brings me great satisfaction.

The other thing that brings me joy is knowing the happiness my art brings to others. To share the things you’ve been given in life, is really why we are here, it’s a big part of our journey.  I’ve been able to use my work to share with others for contributions, donations for fundraisers and benefits.  It is a wonderful way to help others…we all have something to give… this is my way of giving to help other people raise money for worthy causes, and that brings me joy and satisfaction.  

Bonnie Mohr

Dedicated to Dairy – At the Family Creamery

(Originally Published June 8, 2014)
One of my favorite parts about the dairy industry is the variety of delicious products that milk can make (including milk itself!). Especially in June, what’s better than an excessively large ice cream cone after a long day at work? Not much.

Here is my interview with Jaylene Lesher, family member of Way-Har Farms, who helps run the family creamery.

Q1. Introduce yourself!

I’m Jaylene Lesher and I call Way-Har Farms LLC my home and family’s business.

Q2. How are you dedicated to dairy ? 

I am the fourth generation of the Lesher family to work on the dairy farm. I contribute to all parts of the farm and store by helping milk the cows, raise calves, haul silage, and run errands for the store. My dairy roots motivates me to promote the true story of agriculture to consumers and fellow students at Penn State.

Q3. Can you tell us a little bit about your family business?

In 1970 my grandfather and great uncle, Wayne and Harold Lesher respectively, opened a dairy store where they bottled the milk produced at the farm. Way-Har Farms’ two main products were farm fresh milk and ice cream. Today, Way-Har Farm Market offers milk, chocolate milk, sixty flavors of ice cream, a variety of baked goods, and a deli. Everybody in the family pitches into the business by helping make the ice cream, deliver milk to restaurants, and pick-up supplies.

Q4. What do you like most about being involved with your family business?  

With so much to do in a family owned dairy farm and creamery, it’s hard to pick my favorite part! Taking care of new born calves, tasting ice cream fresh from the batch freezer, and handing a delicious cone of ice cream to a happy customer are the various highlights of my days.

Q5. What’s your favorite product in your creamery? 

Some customer favorites found at Way-Har are the chocolate milk, peanut butter ice cream, and peanut butter eggs. You will have to stop by and try them yourself to discover why our customers rave these products! My personal favorite products at the store are the peach ice cream and coffee cakes.

Q6. If you could tell the public one thing about your involvement in the dairy industry, what would it be?
If there was one thing I could share with the general public about the dairy industry, I would share that there is no greater source about food than farmers. If you ever have a question about your food, simply ask a farmer in your community!
jaylene lesher

Dedicated to Dairy – Through Communications

(Originally Published June 5, 2014)

When someone says they work in the dairy industry, what comes to mind? That they’re out milking cows and feeding calves every day? Or maybe they’re out in the field planting crops. While that it is the case for many, there is an incredible variety of careers off the farm.

June is Dairy month, and I am here to show you how many different ways that men and women are dedicated to making the dairy industry an incredible place. Here is my interview with Emily Caldwell, East Coast Editor with Progressive Dairyman magazine, who is dedicated to dairy through the power of communications.
 
Q1. Introduce yourself!
I’m Emily Caldwell. I’m from a dairy farm in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania. I’m the East Coast Editor with Progressive Dairyman magazine. The company is based in Idaho, and I work remotely from PA. 
Q2. How are you dedicated to dairy?
I write about the dairy industry! I also enjoy being involved in dairy-related activities, such as the Penn State Dairymen’s Club and serving as a volunteer for the All-American Dairy Show. I was recently a participant of Holstein Foundation’s Young Dairy Leaders Institute, where I received media and leadership training for the purpose of being a better dairy advocate.
Q3. Tell us a little bit about your average day in the industry – are there any challenges you face?
I typically travel once or twice a month to cover a conference or interview a farmer. When I’m in the office, I’m usually conducting phone interviews, writing articles and editing submissions from industry contributors. PD has a team of editors, and each editor is responsible for certain topic areas. Some of mine include calf and heifer raising, milk quality and women in dairy. Our team meets twice a month via conference calls and in person twice a year. We share ideas, pass along story leads and divvy up conferences and events to attend.

There’s never a lack of ideas to write about – it’s just a matter of lack of time! So one of my biggest challenges in this career is deadlines, particularly when a print deadline hits at the same time as our e-newsletter deadlines. Luckily, we have a great team and everyone is willing to pitch in to help get an issue done or write content for the e-newsletter.

Q4. What do you like most about your career? 
What I like most is that I’m always learning something new. In the topic areas I cover, there is always new research being done and new products being developed to help dairy producers. I feel like I’m doing something different every day. 

Q5. What’s your favorite story/article that you’ve ever written? 

I most enjoy writing feature stories about dairy producers. I like being able to visit a farm, talk with the producer and find out what it is about their operation or the dairy industry that makes them proud. My favorite piece was about an Indiana dairywoman who battled cancer. She unfortunately lost that battle and passed away in January 2013, but her incredible story of moving to the U.S. from the Netherlands and starting a dairy continues to inspire people. 
Q6. If you could tell the public one thing about your involvement in the dairy industry, what would it be?

I think I’d most like to tell the public to not be afraid to ask questions and do their research about agriculture. I have discovered that you learn a lot more by not being afraid to ask the “dumb” questions and starting with the basics than by making assumptions. On the dairy  side, I don’t think it is our job to force-feed that information. We just need to be open to having conversations and sharing our story.

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Farm to Facebook

(Originally Published March 31, 2014)

One of today’s biggest topics in our agricultural industries is social media. There is no doubt social media is one of the most powerful forms of communication… and it’s growing. It’s convenient and reaches a lot of people, really fast. However it can be hard to convince everyone how important it is to make a presence on social media, and more specifically, Facebook. It is even more important that we convince those who are farming and providing the mass majority on Facebook with the food they’re eating while scrolling through old high school flames’ profiles.

The first problem and doubt I’ve heard over and over again – “I don’t need to be on Facebook. Who is there that I need to be talking to?” I can answer that question… everyone on there is someone you should be talking to. I mean, just look at this video to see how many people are using Facebook, every second, of every day:

The scary part? Every single person on this social media trend is being force-fed information every time they log into their profile. What’s something even scarier? It’s a lot of false facts thrown around to drive people’s opinions and views in a certain way. Conventional agriculture is taking a hard hit, and so are our farmers. That is EXACTLY why all of our farmers need to create a presence and voice on Facebook, to promote their products and the love and passion that is their business and livelihood.

I was recently a part of an eye-opening discussion that broke down what farmers need to focus on while creating their Facebook page:

1. Delegate. Who associated with your business has the personality for social media? Is it you, a spouse, your son or daughter? Maybe it’s even a sister-in-law or grandma. No matter who it is, the person in charge of your Facebook needs to have the patience and determination to put enough information out there to gain a respectful and significant following.

2. What’s your purpose? Are you trying to sell your products? Are you trying to let the public know how important it is to you that you to keep the care of your animals and land a number one priority? Or is it a way to be an advocate of your industry and practices? Know why you’re on social media and what message or image you are trying to portray.

3. Build your credibility. No one is going to listen to you if you’re not supporting your claims with cold hard facts. And if you don’t have a certain and confident answer, BE HONEST ABOUT IT. It’s is completely and totally OK to NOT have an answer. Just be clear that you are unsure of the correct answer, and have a backup of resources that you can guide them too.

4. Know your opponent. There are a lot of different character on Facebook. And in those interesting people, are individuals who are everything you stand against. Remember that arch enemy in high school that had a retort for everything you said? Yea, well they’re back… and they’re back with friends. Thousands of them. It is crucial to be prepared for people to lash out at your Facebook content with negativity, and to know how to respond to them in a professional manner. Always be the bigger person, and know how to listen before you speak.

Acknowledge the importance of the direction our industry is going, and be willing to change with it. Now get out their and show ’em what your made of farmers! And show a little sass while you’re at it 😉

Hug a Farmer

(Originally Published March 25, 2014)

If you’ve been on any form of social media, you already know what day it is. It’s National Ag Day! One of my favorite days of the year. It’s a day to post pictures of your favorite farmers, farmer tans, cow selfies and family pictures by the farm sign. However, I saw a girl roll her eyes and turn up her nose to all of the “annoying posts about farmers today” on Facebook and Twitter. At first I was mad, but then I realized… how does she know any different? Does she even know what a farmer does every day? And then came along this “10 reasons to thank a farmer” picture floating through Facebook:

10 reasons to thank a farmer

Now that you have reasons to thank them, here are 10 reasons to hug a farmer on National Ag Day:
  1. They work hard to provide food not only for consumers, but a good life for their family as well
  2. A farmer doesn’t work 9-5… they’re on the clock 24/7
  3. They don’t get a vacation day on Christmas or a 4-day weekend for memorial day
  4. A farmer is up at the crack of dawn to care for their animals, land and the environment
  5. Farmers are passionate about what they do
  6. They’re responsible for beer, cheese and milkshakes
  7. …….Oh yea, and pizza
  8. Farmers are goodhearted, incredible people who never hesitate to lend a helping hand
  9. Without farmers, you’d be naked and hungry
  10. No farms, no food
So if you’re like the entire human population and enjoy eating and living the life the way we do, give a farmer a hug and say “Thank you, for all you do.”