Current Progressive Dairy digital edition

Do I really need to loosen up?

PD Editor Walt Cooley Published on 29 October 2012

This is the first issue that was written and published completely after the end of this year’s World Dairy Expo. The show is always a great place to meet story sources, find new article ideas and meet with producers.

Our group happened to arrive at Dane County Regional Airport in Madison, Wisconsin, at the same time as California dairyman Ray Prock. He was coming to the show to work at the dairy checkoff’s booth. We gave him a lift from the airport to his hotel. His parting words were to “have fun” during the week-long exhibition.



I passed him several times at the DMI booth that week between my meetings. He chided me for being too serious and buttoned-up. (I was wearing a collared shirt and tie much of the week.) “Loosen up,” he said. It got me thinking, “Are you really that stiff, Walt?”

You probably are a dairy wonk if you read about the dairy industry on the way to a dairy show. That was me this year. My review copy of Milk Money by Kirk Kardashian had arrived just a few days before I left for Madison. (See my review of the book by clicking here and my one-on-one with the author by clicking here .) I read much of the book on the flights to and from the show.

Here’s two factual tidbits I learned from the book that I found interesting. I follow them with a few editorial comments.

According to a study published in 2010 in the Journal of Agromedicine, farm culture recedes from a person after three successive generations of having no connection to the land. However, the author of the study, Mike Rosmann, found it comes back strong during just one generation of revival.

Perhaps this is why we hear of the growth of farmers’ markets and rooftop gardens among urban city dwellers. Most of them are probably on the cusp of or are themselves the third generation removed from day-to-day agriculture. I believe they are discovering their inner longings to survive off the land. I believe these individuals would welcome a discussion about food production practices.


My concern is that their agriculture revival returns them back to production practices that were used more than three generations ago, while they’ve been “away” from farming. While we should welcome their interest in food production, we don’t have to slide back to outdated practices known by the outspoken minority of those just now returning to agriculture.

Educating consumers about the dairy practices that have changed over the last 50 to 75 years is one of the greatest communication challenges of this generation.

• The strongest genetic selection in human history is the one that allows us to drink raw milk as adults, otherwise known as lactose tolerance. Matthew Collins, a protein chemist at the University of New York, says, “Just this one mutation gives you about a 10 percent higher likelihood of surviving to the breeding age.”

While this information is interesting, I’m not sure how practical it is. I’ve always been grateful to enjoy dairy products. I know because of some close relatives who weren’t as lucky. However, I’ve never considered until after reading the book that if I were a chimp my lactose tolerance would give me a survival advantage. I think I’m most grateful that I’m not a chimp.

I’ve resigned myself to the fact I’m probably perceived in public as a formalized nerd. However, the few who know me best will still know my dry humor can tell monkey jokes, and other quips, with the best of them. PD



Walt Cooley