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1106 PD: Making friends of strangers

Published on 10 November 2006

“This is wonderful, no?”

That’s the question a 39-year-old A.I. salesman from Colombia asked me as we rode a charter bus through a small town somewhere in Michigan. The inquirer, Juan Pablo Gordillo, and I were guests of Alta Genetics on a 1,500-mile trip through the Midwest. Alta invited us to see its new Alta Advantage showcase program and more than 200 of its sires’ daughters (see story and commentary on pages 30-34). But we couldn’t help but see much more along the way.

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Within seven days, we saw 11 dairies and spent a day and a half at World Dairy Expo. Any international dairyman would have enjoyed the trip. The dairies on the tour were well-managed, tidy, high-production facilities. In addition, they were spread between picture-perfect fall agricultural landscapes.

Juan, who sat next to me for most of the trip, would frequently point his digital camera out the window of the bus. Watching the passing landscape through his picture viewer, he would wait for an antique home with an open-air porch to appear before snapping a photo. His camera captured the brown stalks of harvested cornfields. As a father of two teenage children, he would most definitely show his digital captures of American landscape in muted fall colors to friends back home.

The size of homes and cost of land in America surprised the dusty-gray-haired visitor, when he asked how much land cost. The view from his home, a condominium window, included much more concrete than sky.

Yet he told me later that the part of the trip people in Colombia would find most difficult to believe was not related to U.S. culture or its landscape. Instead, he said the amount of milk and components produced by U.S. dairies would surprise his South American companions.

I never learned the full context of Juan’s inquisition. But in questioning him further, his responses made me think his wondering awe was referring to the American dairy dream. That dream gives any enthusiastic, hardworking dairyman, both natives and immigrants, the opportunity to create the dairy he or she wants. We saw small and large operations. Each found its own way to make the dream economically viable, even prosperous.

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That idea makes me grin and smile, and that’s just what I did when Juan asked, “This is wonderful, no?” I nodded my head and answered, “Yes.” PD

—Walt Cooley, Editor

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