Being a Good Friend is Always in Style

Gratitude Day 325

Sat., Sept. 14, 2019

Luke 10:36-37: “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

Being a good friend never goes out of style.

Ever.

This story has been shared all across the U.S. And it’s a good one. It also happened within the school district where I graduated high school!

The first day of school can be daunting. It was for 4-year-old Axel. Nervous about his first day, his mom wanted to mark the occasion by taking a picture of him on the school bus. While Axel was super excited to go, when the bus door opened, he started crying.

The bus driver, Isabel Lane, had an opportunity to make a difference … and she did. She comforted Axel and showed him an open seat right behind the driver’s seat. Lane held out her hand, Axel grabbed it and they became friends. Lane knew Axel needed to be comforted and this was the best she could do at the time. Axel’s mom snapped this photo. She declares that Axel now gets on the bus every day, ready to go to school. Best part? He loves school.

While his teachers may be great and he gets to meet new friends, my guess is Axel’s bus driver has made all the difference. She embraced the opportunity to be his first new friend with his school experience. Thank you, Isabel, for being Axel’s Good Samaritan. Being a friend to every person who steps on your school bus is always in style.

This story is a bit of a follow-up from a blog that I did earlier this spring.

In 2018, Brenda Statz’s husband committed suicide. They farmed and milked cows. For years, Hubby Rick picked up their milk and delivered it to a processing facility. When Rick stopped hauling milk, his son Darran hauled the Statzs’ milk. While the Statz’s had stopped milking cows before Leon committed suicide, the stress of farming was an issue for him.

Earlier this summer, NBC came to the Loganville, WI area and captured information about this story, as well as how the current challenging dairy and agricultural industries are impacting farmers. Here’s the story aired on the NBC nightly news a few weeks ago. If you look closely, you will see Darran, Rick’s son, who has a cameo appearance. He’s the guy kneeling down by the milk tank. He’s at Randy Roeker’s farm, who is also featured during the story.

Loganville is a small, rural Wisconsin community. After Leon committed suicide, others came forward and shared the stress they are feeling because of the challenging state of agriculture. A group now meets regularly at one of the Lutheran churches in Loganville. It’s open to anyone struggling. Speakers share information. My guess is that knowing there are other people who have some of the same feelings that you are having is the most comforting aspect of this group. People have a place where they can share what’s going on in their lives. While some of these people may have been geographical neighbors for years, they are discovering and sharing a new way of being a friend.

Being a neighbor never goes out of style.

How might you be a good neighbor today?

Jesus tells the story of a man who is attached by robbers while traveling along a road. Two mean, one a priest and another a Levite, walk by the man and choose not to help him. These are religious leaders who should have known that helping their neighbor is the second most important commandment in God’s kingdom. But they chose not to.

Instead, it was the Samaritan who stopped and helped this man. Samaritans and Jewish people didn’t really get along during Jesus’ day. He took pity on the injured man and bandaged his wounds. It’s the Samaritan who found a safe place for the same to stay and even covered the expense of doing so. As the story ends, we discover it’s the person who extended mercy who is identified as a good neighbor.

Maybe you won’t see an injured person along the side of the road today. But you might see someone who is scared and anxious who just needs a helping hand. Or someone who is going through an awful time who needs a listening ear and a long hug.

Be a good neighbor. It’s always in style.

For the opportunity to be a good neighbor, I am grateful. 

Lord God – too often, we see an opportunity to do something and we justify inaction by saying, “Someone else will do this.” But maybe, just maybe, You put us in this situation so we could be a Good Samaritan. A good friend. May we embrace these opportunities before us today. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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We Are Never Alone

Gratitude Day 290

Sat., June 22, 2019

Deuteronomy 26:15  – Look down from heaven, your holy dwelling place, and bless your people Israel and the land you have given us as you promised on oath to our ancestors, a land flowing with milk and honey.

The text message arrived Holy Week. It read, “Good afternoon Diane. I brought last load of cows to stockyard just now. Harvest View Dairy is no longer a dairy. Fed God’s people for 49 years. Pray He is satisfied with that. Happy Easter to you and Rick. God Bless.”

The sender was our friend, Gary Paulman. Gary and his wife, Cleo have dairy farmed all of their married lives. Their son, Dale, has farmed with them the last couple of decades. Dale’s wife, Julie, and Cleo work off the farm. Gary and Dale, along with a hired worker and family help, milked cows as long as possible. This spring, they could no longer justify milking cows and continuing to lose money. They sold the cows to stop the financial bleeding.

Gary and Dale continue to raise non-milking animals for now. There has been and will continue to be soul searching. What is next? Can they hang onto the farmland and buildings? While Gary is theoretically retirement age, like many farmers and self-employed folks, he doesn’t have a typical retirement plan to turn to.

The Paulman’s are not the only Wisconsin dairy farmers in a similar situation. In the last 12 months, about 9% of the Wisconsin dairy farms have exited the dairy industry. After five years of recording-setting low commodity prices, declining dairy product consumption and recent tariffs on products sold overseas, it has been impossible for these dairy operations to survive a struggling and depressed environment.

This situation is not unique to Wisconsin. Every state with significant milk production has a similar story. Most of these operations are family run. When dairy farms exit the industry, companies and businesses they work with are affected. In Midwestern American, small and rural communities depend upon on a local agriculture economy. In Wisconsin, dairy is a $88 billion industry. When farmers exit, communities are impacted by a loss of their local economic base.

How this affect you? Here’s the deal. Everyone is affected by the dairy industry. If you drink milk, eat cheese, yogurt or ice cream, you are affected. If you spread butter on bread, you are affected. Maybe dairy products aren’t your deal. You are still affected. By-products from dairy animals are used in thousands of products from hand cream and lotion to handbags and shoes. There are lots of other non-dairy edible products which also utilize products from dairy animals, such as gelatin. It would be very difficult to find an American household without something from a dairy cow in it.

The spring weather has also dumped insult to injury for many struggling producers. Thousands of acres of land will not be planted to corn or beans this year because the ground has been too wet. In some areas, perennial crops that normally regrow after winter did not because of an incredibly cold winter. Prices for commodities used to feed animals is increasing and already strapped producers do not have the resources to purchase feed.

American was built as an agrarian society. Agriculture was the original way people earned a living. As fewer people were needed to raise food, people moved to town and pursued other occupations. We take for granted that we have a cheap, safe, diversified and accessible food supply here in the U.S.

But agriculture is changing … rapidly. People who have spent their entire lives raising food can no longer do so financially. They are faced with difficult choices. After pouring decades and years into a business, the operators often aren’t sure what to do next. Historically too proud to ask for help, several operations have turned to Go Fund me pages and the like to simply scrape by.

I believe Gary envisioned watching his grandkids explore being involved on a farm. Parker and Elsa’s mom, Ann (Gary and Cleo’s daughter), works in the dairy industry. They know where milk comes from and that brown cows do not produce chocolate milk. Yet, it’s impossible to Gary’s shoes and not struggle emotionally and mentally.

Throughout the Bible, we hear of a land “flowing with milk and honey.” This is an indication of rich land, valuable land, land ready for food production. It can be easy to blame God for the challenges in American agriculture and the dairy industry right now. There are a whole bunch of factors that have contributed to the current situation. I pray that folks like Gary, Cleo and their family, are assured that God journeys with they through these difficult days.

One night, Hubby Rick and I ate Friday night fish with Gary and Cleo and listened. Can we fix their situation? No. But we can listen … and this, we tried to do. We pray that they, and countless other farmers who are struggling right now, turn to God for support. This problem is bigger than themselves.

When we struggle with something in our lives that feels completely out of our hands, I pray that we turn to God for support, comfort and assurance that we won’t be alone. This is my prayer for Gary, Cleo, their family and all affected by a challenging dairy industry.

For confidence God journeys with us daily, I am grateful.

Holy God – you know the names of those people who are struggling with something they feel is out of their control right now. You know the details of every situation. I pray that you will be very present for these people so they can receive the assurance that they won’t be alone. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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June Dairy Month

Gratitude Day 283

Mon., June 10, 2019

Job 10:10 – As cheese is made from milk, you created my body from a tiny drop.

Here in Wisconsin, we love June Dairy Month.

It’s an entire month dedicated to eating as many dairy products as we like. Why? Because so many dairy products are produced here in Wisconsin! We love ourselves milk, chocolate milk, butter, cheese, ice cream, custard and yogurt all month long. Throughout the month, lots of events hosted so people can get on a farm, eat some dairy products and witness how well dairy cattle are cared for.

Our former neighbors and dear friends, the Lohr Family Farm, hosted such an event last Saturday. For five years, Hubby Rick and I lived literally just down the road from the Lohr’s. Parents Mel and Doris started this dairy farm decades ago. Their son, Greg, oversees much of the day-to-day operation. Doris still manages the books and finances and oversees the calf operation. They hire other folks to help care for the animals, harvest the crops and assist in all activities that make a dairy operation hum daily.

Doris & Mel Lohr

About a year ago, the Lohr’s built a new facility. Their old barn was worn out. They also wanted to build an operation that would provide an excellent environment for their dairy cows, which they accomplished. In a barn filled with 220 cows producing milk every day, you basically never hear a cow “Moo” because they literally feel like they are living in a 5-star hotel and receiving all the amenities which keep them very happy.

Five-gallon buckets soon to be filled with cracked eggs.

Lots of people showed up at the dairy breakfast. Some came on Friday and cracked eggs and set-up tents for food, entertainment and education. Early Saturday morning, people began cooking scrambled eggs and pancakes. Before 7 AM, lines of people enjoyed plates filled with excellent food made right on the Lohr farm. As a live band played in the background, kids swarmed the petting zoo and people enjoyed the near perfect weather for a day on the farm. Before leaving the farm, everyone enjoyed locally made Culver’s a custard Sunday, topped with strawberries or fudge honey topping.

We live in a society today where connections to where and how food is raised and produced are not as close as they once were. Decades of people were either raised on a farm or visited grandparents who lived on a farm. Today, the only chance most people have to be on a real, working farm is when they participate in an event like the Lohr’s hosted. It’s the one time of the year when people may have an opportunity to see happy cows producing tons of nature’s most perfect product: milk.

Here in Wisconsin, lots of this milk becomes cheese. Cheese that is used on pizza, pasta dishes, salads, and sandwiched between two crackers. You can choose from hundreds of varieties and pick your favorite to mix into scrambled eggs or other foods that simply taste better with a little cheese.

It’s hard work, running a dairy operation. The Lohr’s, and so many other dairy farmers, are committed to providing a safe, healthy and excellent product while treating their animals with love that would rival how many children are raised. For the last five years, the dairy industry has experienced historical low prices while input costs have remained elevated. Thousands of dairy producers have exited the industry in just the last two years, unable to provide a reasonable living for their families.

Some of the Lohr family … unfortunately, I didn’t get a photo of the entire family!

During this June Dairy Month, I encourage you to enjoy lots of nature’s most product. Find a local event that you can attend and drink in all the hard work and love that these people provide their animals. Buy a few extra dairy products this month and enjoy your favorites every day.

People could park a few miles away and ride a bus to the dairy breakfast.

You see, just as God created you and your body, God created these wonderful animals called milk cows and the milk they produce. May we appreciate all of God’s creation and celebrate those who care for it so well.

Happy calves at the Lohr Family Farm

For God’s wonderful unique and creation, I am grateful.

Lord God – it’s amazing to discover how carefully you created an animal that can produce a product that feeds our bodies so well. Thank you for the folks like the Lohr Family that have dedicated their lives to providing us with a healthy, safe and wholesome product that we can feed our bodies. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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In Times of Trouble

Gratitude Day 240

Wed., Mar. 27, 2019

Job 35:9 – In times of trouble, everyone begs the mighty God to have mercy.

It takes guts to air our dirty laundry. To admit when troubles consume us. To acknowledge that life is less than grand.

However, I believe this is exactly the reason why Brenda Statz decided to air her dirty laundry. She doesn’t want other families to endure the trouble she’s been living through.

Brenda and her husband, Leon, dairy farmed for years. For a good chunk of those years, Hubby Rick was their milk man. This means Rick arrived at their farm in a truck with a huge tank on the back. He loaded the milk into the tanker and drove it to a plant where it could be processed into dairy products.

After Rick and I became engaged, Rick took a different job. His son, Darran, took over the milk route. Darran hauled milk from the Statz Family Farm the last number of years they milked cows.

The dairy industry has been struggling the last several years. Imagine working at your job for hours and hours every day of the week … and not even covering your costs. This is the reality so many farms are going through right now. This is the reason why Leon and Brenda stopped milking cows.

Without the cows, Leon’s depression exasperated. While he tried various treatment options, eventually, he successfully took his own life.

For more of the story, please watch this video:

Brenda Statz has bravely aired her troubles so that others might find help and resources for family members who are struggling as Leon struggled. She’s trying to take the lemons that are part of her life and somehow make lemonade.

For those who are struggling with troubles in your life, take a look at the Book of Job. Job was a highly successful man. He had a great family, was wealthy and no cares in the world. He was also a devoted follower of God. Satan is granted permission to test Job with the limit of not laying a finger on Job himself. God is confident that Job will endure this test; that Job won’t give up on his faith.

Job looses absolutely everything: his animals and thus his source of income, his children, his home. In the midst of all these troubles, Job says, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.”

Wow. Every time I read this story, Job’s unshakable faith humbles me. Even after four of Job’s “good” friends come and try to convince him to forsake God, Job stays true in his faith. Yes, he would like to know why this has happened. But his faith in God never wavers.

Eventually, God comes and dramatically speaks to Job. After a long discourse from God, Job humbly admits to God and his friends, “Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.”

When I’m feeling like there are troubles in my life, I’m not so sure that I would quietly say to God and my “good” friends, “Oops. My mistake. I should have never questioned, ‘Why.’ It’s my bad.”

But Job does.

Brenda Statz

Brenda and anyone else enduring troubles today: it may not be possible to know why these troubles have happened. But I pray that Job will inspire you to keep on keeping with God. It’s easy to turn away from God when we feel like God has let us down. Or impossible to imagine why God intervenes sometimes and seemingly not others. I can’t explain any of these situations. But I do know, as Job knew, God desperately wants to journey with you through your troubles. May you not be or feel alone today.

For a God who never turns away from us, I am grateful.

Holy God – too often, we blame you for our troubles, rather than seeing there really is evil in this world. Too often, we make you the author of everything awful that happens our way. While it is so easy to ask the question, “Why?” may we instead see the “Who?” that journeys with us through our troubles. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 198 – When Days are Hard

Sat., Jan. 19, 2019

Psalm 119:28 – My spirit sags because of grief. Now raise me up according to your promise!

1986 was a hard year for my parents, Dick and Ann Deaton. At the time, they had operated a small dairy farm in Wisconsin for over 25 years. High interest rates and a very challenging dairy industry landed my parents in an unfortunate financial situation. They literally did not know how they could ever dig themselves out of the financial hole they were in, let alone make even the smallest payment on every bill that came through the mailbox. My Dad was also having significant health issues and needed surgery ASAP.

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In early October 1986, my parents made the difficult decision to liquidate their farm assets. A farm auction was scheduled for mid-November. On an emotionally draining day, my family said good-bye to all of our cows, including our favorite ones. The machinery and equipment were sold. Even the farm truck was auctioned.

Just a few days after the sale, my Dad had shoulder surgery.

After the auction, much changed for my parents. Within a few weeks, my Dad began working off the farm. He went from milking cows and running a dairy to now calling on dairy producers and helping them produce high quality milk.

My parents rarely spoke of the emotions they felt at the time. My siblings and I were very aware of the strain these challenges put on my parent’s marriage. But as a 19-year-old, I didn’t have the maturity or presence of mind to ask my parents how they dealt with all the changes and grief involved in stopping farming. I know my Dad felt like a failure. I know he struggled to make sense of how he could have let this happen to him and his family.

Yet, my parents kept going. Eventually, they purchased a house and moved to town. Both my parents pursued new careers and were able to dig themselves out of their financial hole. But it was a while before I heard joy in their voices again and saw smiles on their faces that came naturally.

About six weeks after the auction, I was recognized as the Wisconsin Holstein Girl. This award is given to a person under 21 who has excelled in the Wisconsin dairy industry and is seen as having potential for impacting the dairy industry in the future. It was a complete surprise. I never imagined that I would be selected. My parents were present when the announcement was made. After the banquet, I handed Dad the plaque. I shared how I felt this honor was just as much his as it was mine. Had not my Dad and Mom made so many sacrifices for me and encouraged me to pursue things that I loved to do, I would not have received this honor.

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This was 32 years ago. A couple weeks ago, my nephew, Zach, was recognized as the 2019 Wisconsin Holstein Boy. I am a very proud aunt. It was surreal to see him receive this honor. At the banquet, I was taken back to the night 32 years earlier. Currently, the dairy industry is in an equally, if not an even more challenging time. In Wisconsin, about 600 dairy farms went out of business in 2018. This means about 600 farm families made the same difficult decision my parents did in 1986. I wonder how these folks are dealing with their decisions and changes. How are they coping with the loss of a career and the disappointment of having to leave a way of living that people find rewarding?

Grief is tricky. Grief can smother us and overwhelm us. There are many different stages of grief. We can feel that we’re dealing with our grief and disappointment well until something happens, and well, we aren’t. Sometimes, people feel like they get stuck in grief and don’t know how to get off the grief treadmill.

Sometimes, people want others to take on or absorb or feel their grief. But we can’t. Our grief cannot be someone else’s grief and vice versa. I can try to listen to your grief and be present with you. But I cannot remove or feel just like you do. Why? Your grief is your grief. My grief is my grief. The two are not the same.

What disappointment are you experiencing in your life right now? What is overwhelming you and making you question everything that you know and previously have believed? What disappointment would you like to eliminate from your life … and try as you might, it keeps showing back up like a bad cough?

Unfortunately, I can’t “fix” your grief. Nor can anyone else. If you are experiencing grief right now, I pray you have a friend where you can safely share your grief. I pray that you give yourself space to work through your pain and disappointment, rather than trying to mask or hide it. I pray you do not get frustrated when grief shows up again in your life, especially after you thought you had dealt with it.

What did I learn from my parents through this awful time in their lives? They dusted off their feet and kept going. They didn’t give up on their lives or marriage. They remain committed to contributing to their family and society. They didn’t let losing a farm define the rest of their lives. No, they chose to place their hope in something not of this world but in the promises of God.

When their spirits sagged because of their grief, they sought God’s promise of better days. This, I believe, is what helped them eventually cross over to a place where they could enjoy life again. In time, they found more good days than challenging days.

I do believe the experience going through those challenging days helped me. I watched my parents not give up on God or blame God or determine that faith was no longer important in their lives. Disappointment did change how they viewed faith and their relationship with God. But they decided that faith in God was important.

I pray your experience of pain and grief can help you mature in faith and help you see of God is always there as a safety net.

For lessons learned from disappointment and grief, I am grateful.

Almighty God – when bad things happen, we want quick answers from you. But seldom, do quick answers come. We question, “Why,” when maybe the more helpful question is, “Who?” Who will journey with us through these challenging days? Why, You will, Lord God. Thank you for this gift. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 113 – Milk

Thurs., Sept. 6, 2018

1 John 3:18 – Children, you show love for others by truly helping them, and not merely by talking about it.

A whole bunch of boxes arrived on our porch this week. Later, Hubby Rick asked me “what got dumped on the porch. Did they hit the right house?”

Yes, they hit the right house. And yes, I shared with you a couple days earlier that they would be delivered to our house.

“What is it?”

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Why, it’s milk!

This is the first week of school for our school district. On Friday, we will resume putting together our Blessings food bags for some of the students. These are bags with at least 8 items, most often more, for kids to take home so they have some food for the weekend. Students who might not otherwise have enough food for the weekend.

A typical week food bag has this: 2 breakfast items (think pop tart, oatmeal, small box of cereal or fruit bar); 2 meal items (like easy mac, canned pasta, soup, ramen noodles, tuna and mayo); and at least 4 snack items but often more (examples are filled crackers, granola bar, fruit snacks, can of veggies, pudding, applesauce, Rice Krispy bars, popcorn and my favorite stackable Ritz crackers and individual serving of peanut butter.)

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We know it’s not enough food for the weekend but it’s a start.

Why do we hand out these food bags? Statistics show that students who do not have to worry about food attend school more consistently, do better in class, score higher on standardized testing and have less behavior situations. My thought is: let’s give students what they need to help move them towards achieving their goals!

This will be the third year a group of volunteers in our community have organized the weekend food bags. Time and time again we hear positive comments. Students feel they are “contributing” to their family rather than being a burden; how this IS the food a student has for the weekend; Friday is food bag day! This is exactly why I am involved in our Blessings program.

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The last few months, Wisconsin dairy farmers and their families are in a position that most of them need weekend food bags. Not just for their kids but for the entire family. Farm gate prices the dairy producers have been receiving has been terribly low. Dairy farmers are leaving by droves and there isn’t an end in sight.

This issue is dear to my heart. I grew up on a dairy farm and my family lived through the 1980’s downturn in the dairy industry. My part-time marketing job is directly related to the dairy industry. Nearly weekly, we become aware of a previous customer who is no longer milking cows.

I’ve tried to come up with some small, easy ways local people can assist dairy farmers. Donate cheese to the food pantry. Share how people are donating milk to the food pantry. Encourage cow milk consumption versus alternative options. (Honestly, an honest comparison of the nutritional facts might surprise you.)

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When our small group of Blessings leadership team met, I suggested including milk in our weekly distribution. With no refrigeration available, I know the milk needed to be a product that does not require refrigeration.

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There is such a product available. It’s called UHT milk: ultra-high temperature milk. This milk goes through a special process so milk can set upon a shelf for a few months without refrigeration. I had purchased samples for the ladies to taste. Quickly, it was decided to include milk every week. We would keep our weekly average packing cost to about $2.63/bay/week. The milk would be above and beyond this and would not affect the number of products receive. The milk would be a weekly add-on.

The favorite sample happened to be a chocolate milk variety. And it was good!

I had purchased a few samples. Obtaining a large quantity was another question. After some digging, the best option was to order it online. As much as I prefer to purchase locally, this time, going online became the best option.

Hence, all the milk on our front porch. On Friday, every student will receive one of these 8-oz cartons of chocolate milk that does not have to be refrigerated. We pray the kids are as excited about receiving the milk as the volunteer leaders are about donating it.

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UHT milk has not become as popular in the US as it is in other parts of the world. With UHT milk, you can take milk to a weekend sporting event and not worry about refrigeration. Milk can be use camping, on vacation or when traveling. Think about the additional ways you could use milk this week if it did not have to be refrigerated!

I’m anxious to receive feedback from the Blessings kids about receiving milk. It’s a great way to offer nutritionally sound items in our weekend food bags.

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For different products which allow creative milk consumption, I am grateful.

When students need help, Lord God, I pray that we respond.  Thank you for providing the recourses needed to offer our Blessings weekend food program. I pray students will encourage through these food bags this week. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 55 – June Dairy Month!

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Sat., June 2, 2018

Exodus 3:17 – and I promise to lead them out of their troubles. I will give them a land rich with milk and honey, where the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites now live.

In the United States, the month of June is celebrated as June Dairy Month. Folks are encouraged to discover a bit more about the health benefits of dairy products as well as how the dairy industry impacts their local economy. This is especially important for people like me, who live in America’s Dairyland. In Wisconsin, the dairy industry contributes $43.4 billion to Wisconsin’s economy each year. Every Wisconsin resident benefits from the economic ripple effect of family dairy farms that dot the state’s landscape.

Friday was June 1st – the official beginning of dairy month. How did the Vielhuber’s celebrate? We hosted a neighborhood ice cream bar.

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About 20 of our neighbors stopped by our house Friday night for dessert and drinks. The main attraction was build your own sundaes with a variety of ice cream and topping choices. The most popular option for the evening: homemade grasshoppers, a minty ice cream drink. With other dessert treats and a lovely cheese and crackers tray, our June Dairy Month-based gathering was super simple to host and a lot of fun.

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The dairy industry is very cyclical. For the last three years, nationally, the industry has been at the bottom of the cycle with thousands of family farms struggling. You won’t find anyone who is more passionate about their work or willing to work long, hard hours than the folks who operate a dairy farm. Every dairy farm I know is deeply concerned about producing a safe and wholesome product for consumers.

I grew up on a small Wisconsin dairy farm. Our family depended upon selling milk which was made into cheese as our main source of income. Being raised in this setting taught me many things: hard work, how to problem solve and persistence. From a very young age, I observed the cycle of life. I also knew what I did on our little operation made a difference. Growing up in this environment, I witnessed many things we read about in scripture: the cycle of growing crops, dependence upon the land, how to be a good shepherd. For me, the intersection of where and how I grew up is deeply linked to the basis of my faith in God.

For this, I am grateful.

It’s summer and a great time to discover locally-produced dairy products in your neck of the woods. Find a local dairy operation and take a tour. Indulge in your favorite ice cream treat a couple extra times this month. Explore the many great cheese options that abound. This supports the U.S. dairy industry, which would appreciate a little boost right now. Or, host a neighborhood build your own sundae event. I think you’ll be glad you did!

Lord God – Thank you for designing creation is such a unique and special way. For creating animals that provide food for us and help us sustain our bodies. Help us to see how your creation is part of our daily lives. Amen. 

Blessings –

Dianne

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If We All Donated 5 Dairy Products …

sliced cheeseTues., Apr. 25, 2017

2 Chronicles 15:4 – But when they were in trouble, they turned to the Lord, the God of Israel. They looked for him and found him.

Early in April, about 75 Wisconsin dairy farms received a letter from their milk processor. As of May 1, the milk processor will no longer purchase milk from their dairy operation. They have to find another place to sell their milk within 30 days.

Let me help us understanding the challenge these dairy producers face. Most dairy operations have milk picked-up from their farm and delivered to the milk processor every day. On-farm storage is extremely limited. Milk must be moved within 24- or 48-hours. Because milk is perishable, milk not processed within a few days cannot be marketed. Most Wisconsin dairy processors are currently running at or over 100% capacity. There is no demand for additional milk in Wisconsin and neighboring states right now. Finding another processor for the milk is literally more daunting than trying to find a needle in a haystack.

The cows, well, they can’t just go on “vacation.” They aren’t a factory that can be stopped and started at will. For most dairy operations, the majority of a farm’s income is derived from the sale of milk. Over the past year, the farm gate milk price paid has been low. Missing even one milk check is devastating. Do you see the very difficult pickle these dairy operations are in, with very limited options and alternatives?

The ag media has reported that about half of the dairy farms who received the letter have found another processor. This is good news! But what about the other folks who do not know where their milk will go next Monday, other than down the drain?

I grew-up on a Wisconsin dairy farm and was very actively involved in the day-to-day operation. I have spent more time professionally and personally involved in the dairy industry than I have as a pastor. I’ve milked cows more times than I’ve given sermons. My husband says, given the choice, I would be milking a herd of dairy cows today rather than trying to shepherd a flock of sometimes unwieldy sheep. I continue to have a part-time job in the dairy industry and spend at least one day a week helping dairy operations around the world.

This situation is very close to my heart. I know the difficulty of saying “good-bye” to a herd of cows you’ve grown to love, respect and treat like family. I’ve experienced the daily anxiety of trying to keep a dairy operation going while caring for a family. I’ve fielded phone calls and spoken with dairy producers who could not afford Christmas presents for their children and did not know where to turn for help.

The series of events that led up to this predicament are long and varied. The problem didn’t happen overnight. Long-term solutions are even more daunting. Industry folks have worked tirelessly the last few weeks exploring possible short-term and long-term remedies.

Yet, I keep wondering what I can do. I don’t own a dairy processing facility. If I can’t affect the processing end of the equation, what can I do to help increase dairy product consumption?

Recently, a suggestion surfaced of one way we can help. We can find ways to increase consumer dairy product consumption by 5 dairy products. Drink 5 gallons of milk. Eat 5 gallons of ice cream. Incorporate 5 lbs. of cheese into cooking. Use 5 lbs. of butter for baking.

This, I can do. It’s not realistic for Rick and I to consumer 5 more lbs. or gallons of dairy products in the next week. We’re just two people. But I can encourage others. So, I went to the grocery store and purchased more than 10 lbs. of sliced cheese and donated it to the local food pantry. During food distribution on Tues. and Thurs. this week, I’m optimistic 10+ families will choose sliced cheese for sandwiches or to make grilled cheeses for supper. Maybe this cheese will allow kids to have cheese and crackers as an after-school snack. Or a quick snack for on-the-go families. I pray some families will think the unusual availability of cheese is something that will benefit their families.

Wisconsin is not the only state dealing with this dilemma. Increasing consumption of dairy products and alleviating some of the current surplus of U.S. dairy products WILL help the entire American dairy industry.

Why am I encouraging us to increase dairy product consumption this week? Because it’s a way to assist families whose livelihood is being challenged. Think of this as another way of serving our neighbor in need. This neighbor just needs a place to market their milk.

For the dairy families currently affected and those who may in the near future face the challenge of no market for their milk: I pray you can turn to the Lord and find the Lord. Unfortunately, the Lord does not remove all the challenges in our lives. What the Lord does is journey with us as we navigate life’s pot holes and road blocks. The Lord wants to take this journey with you. For this, I thank the Lord. Please invite the Lord to join you in your journey.

Lord God – today, we lift up those operations and families who are dedicated to helping feed the people of this country and those around the world. As we struggle with a food distribution challenge, be with those who are deeply affected with the current situation. Bring forth wisdom with ideas and options. In these days of trouble, hold those affected in the cup of your hand and bring them your comfort and peace. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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