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HERd Management: Our tucked-away treasures

Janet Bremer for Progressive Dairy for Progressive Dairy Published on 24 May 2021

We walk by it several times each day. We walk by every morning when we feed and milk our cows. Every evening when we repeat this routine, we pass by it again. Need a tool?

That’s where we go. Need oil or other supplies? We’re back there again. So what is this place we go to or pass by multiple times each day? We call it our tool room, but it was originally built as the milk house that cooled the freshly filled milk cans before our milkman made his pick-up to deliver our milk to the creamery. Eventually most things need replacing, so it’s time to say goodbye to our old tool room.



My in-laws bought our farm in 1952, and soon after, they became husband and wife. Over the years, nearly all the wooden structures on the farm have been replaced. Our tool room is one of the three original buildings that still graces our farm. Rotting wood, deteriorating shingles and tired walls that barely support the window frames signal that it is time to say goodbye to this old friend.

Besides having many useful purposes, this little building was also a place to “tuck away” treasures that would be reexamined and reevaluated another time. I think of it as our farm’s kitchen junk drawer. You scoop things up and tuck them away to deal with later. That is what our tool room lent some of its square footage to. Now that our original milk house is being demolished for a shiny, well-organized (I hope) building, it’s time for my husband, John, and I to rediscover these treasures. A lot has changed over the years.

Ten 5-gallon milk cans awaited us on a long, sturdy wall shelf. These milk cans that were once used to transport our dairy farm’s milk were later used to store important documents. Papers from decades ago that were used for filing taxes and receipts for important purchases were safely tucked away from the mice and other critters that inhabit farms. It was interesting to see how little was bought each year and how low the cost was of each purchase.

John and I then uncovered the stainless steel strainer that first sat atop the milk cans and later was propped on the bulk tank waiting for the milk to trickle through the strainer filter. Over in the corner, the bright orange plastic box that stored the filters, hung on the milking barn wall, was still filled with a partial box of filters looking brand new.

Several tractor and other implement manuals were tucked away in the old metal kitchen cabinet that was repurposed as a makeshift filing system. John reminisced about the 1952 John Deere R that was the workhorse of the farm. While John scans the farmyard and sees the powerful equipment and numerous tractors we now have, he wonders how the old R tractor could possibly do all the daily chores. I think about the resourcefulness to reuse that old kitchen cabinet as safe storage for all those important manuals.


Over on the final wall hangs a 1959 calendar and a mercury thermometer advertising the local, now non-existent, hardware store. Its phone number reads GE-3401. More signs of the past.

Preparing for the tool room demolition began as a dreaded chore but quickly became a fun experience. It gave us the fuel to reminisce with Grandma and our children about what farm life was like when Bremer Farms began. Taking a step back to think about the past makes us appreciate the present. It can be a not-so-subtle reminder of how blessed we are. It reminds us to be thankful for the advanced technology, past experiences and improved farming practices that we get to enjoy.

I love the stories that each of these treasures brings to mind. They serve as a sweet reminder of our farm family that strongly believed in being thrifty, hard work and producing a safe product. Each of the 10 milk cans will now be passed on to each Bremer child and grandchild. They might be displayed indoors or they may house a flower pot on someone’s front porch, but each will be a reminder of their farm family roots. The other newly found treasures are displayed in our garage. Each time I see them, I think back to my family’s previous six generations, all farmers, all scrimping and saving to grow a successful farm to support their family and to pass on to our next generation of farmers.

“One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” Our treasures are not high in monetary value, but they are priceless to us. And let’s hope the new tool room becomes more tool and less kitchen junk drawer.

Happy National Dairy Month. May you all enjoy new-found treasures!

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Janet Bremer
  • Janet Bremer

  • Dairy Producer
  • Hastings, Minnesota
  • Email Janet Bremer