By Sherry Bunting, Farmshine, January 31, 2020
HARRISBURG, Pa. – It may be the Farm Show’s “best kept secret,” and in its third year at the 104th Pennsylvania Farm Show, the Milk-A-Cow exhibit drew 500 people over a two-hour window on Friday, January 10.
Those wanting to see what it is like to milk a cow came in all ages from young children who were excited just to be touching a cow to senior citizens claiming the experience of milking a cow was on their “bucket list.”
“People just love it,” says Jill Dice of the exhibit she started three years ago with her friend and Spot On AgriMarketing co-founder Stacy Anderson. “The questions we get are really good, and people are so thankful to be able to bring their questions to real dairy farmers.”
(Jill had her hands full that day as the Dice family’s Jersey cow was supreme championof the 2020 Pennsylvania Farm Show!)
Of course, the Milk-A-Cow opportunity would not be possible without the producers and volunteers who bring the cows and work with the public to help them quickly learn how cows are milked so they can try their hand at the chore right there on the spot.
In addition, Jill and Stacy appreciate the volunteers helping answer the public’s questions as they come into the equine arena and get in line for the experience. And they appreciate the dairy princesses who engaged the crowd with milk facts in a fun and entertaining manner while they waited in line or sat in the stands to watch.
Jill and Stacy tag-teamed the crowd, with Jill involved in the milking experience area, which is set up in the equine arena after the celebrity milking contest on ‘dairy day’ at the Farm Show. Meanwhile, Stacy trots a heifer out into the hallway to lure-in visitors who are walking through the show so they are aware of the event. Children can come in and pet the heifer and pose for photos before moving on to the milking area.
WGAL sent a television crew for a Farm Show news spot this year and the camera-man, himself, wanted to give it a try.
New this year was the table manned by 97 Milk volunteers, handing out information about whole milk and getting signatures for the “bring whole milk back to schools” petition.
Also new was the increase from four to six cows ready for milking.
In general, the activity is low-key and comfortable. It’s meant to make learning fun, and organizers take every opportunity to use the experience to help the public understand how farmers take care of their cows, the attention they pay to food safety and milk quality and freshness, as well as the nutrition that milk and dairy products provide.
As one local third grader said after his turn “milking” for the first time: “That was really cool!”
He paused and reflected for a moment to say, “Well, actually, it was warm.” He then proceeded to repeat, with authority, what he learned from his helper, Seth Miller of Tulpehocken FFA, that milk comes out of the cow at her body temperature and “goes through pipes to get cool in a huge refrigerator.”
Adults were even more wide-eyed and curious than the children about the whole experience. Some thought the milk would come out faster, others thought it would be easy to do and were surprised to learn it’s not so easy.
One woman who had been wanting to do this since she was a child, was relieved to learn that the cows were milked earlier so it’s not like they were full of milk like at a normal milking time.
“That’s a relief,” she said. “But the farmer had no problem getting the milk to flow, I could only get a little bit. I guess I have renewed respect for what it takes to milk a cow.”
She was also impressed by how calm the cows were: “It’s obvious they really don’t mind this at all!” the first-time milker said, smiling.
To see the smiles on faces young and old and to share knowledge in such a hands-on and individual way was rewarding for everyone involved.
The event is organized by Spot On AgriMarketing and supported by the Friends of the Pennsylvania Farm Show Foundation.