June 8 2023 09:42 AM

Coaching our county’s dairy bowl team fills me with happiness and enthusiasm for these young people and the mark they will leave on the dairy industry someday.

School’s out, and June Dairy Month is upon us as we celebrate all things dairy. As a farm kid, my summer breaks included working with my fair calves, long days riding (or napping) as a passenger in the tractor or chopper, practicing and competing in 4-H dairy quiz bowl and dairy cattle judging, helping with random chores around the farm, and so much more.

Summer tends to be a very nostalgic time for me, especially these early weeks of June when school has just ended and summer activities are in full swing. There are so many reasons to appreciate the month of June — the sun shines later, fireflies emerge around campfires, and dirty bare feet run through sprinklers — but one of my favorite things about June is the focus on celebrating and paying tribute to dairy farmers, wholesome dairy products, and the beloved dairy cow.

I have been helping coach our county’s 4-H dairy quiz bowl team over the past few months, and the state contest is coming up next week. These weekly practices studying dairy trivia with industry-loving youth fill my heart to the brim and remind me of my days doing the exact same thing when I was younger. It is truly incredible to witness kids anywhere from fourth to twelfth grade studying and grasping dairy topics like history, diseases, influential people, nutrition, crop science, health, biosecurity, business, products, lactation, and beyond. These kids come eager to learn each week, setting aside their Friday nights to do worksheets, have deep discussions, participate in learning activities, and take tests all in the name of dairy.

Whether it’s through watching kids compete at a dairy quiz bowl competition, showing their calves at fair, or just stepping up to lend a hand on the family dairy farm, seeing the next generation’s enthusiasm for all things dairy is truly inspiring and rejuvenating. They are the ones who will be responsible for carrying on the legacy of our industry and the promotion of delicious dairy products in the future.

So, please join me in encouraging and supporting dairy youth this month, throughout the summer, and for years to come in pursuing their passions and getting involved any way they can in our great industry. Some of the experiences I’ve mentioned are among my most treasured memories from my own youth, and I hope generations to come will be able to cherish some of the same moments.

Molly Ihde (Schmitt)

The author dairy farms with her parents and brother near Hawkeye, Iowa. The family milks approximately 300 head of grade Holstein cows at Windsor Valley Dairy LLC — split half and half between a double-eight parallel milking parlor and four robotic milking units. In the spring of 2020, Molly decided to take a leap and fully embrace her love for the industry by returning full time to her family’s dairy.