Mark Crave: Reasons to celebrate National Dairy Month
National Dairy Month in June is a month-long annual celebration dedicated to the contributions of the dairy industry. Dairy farms, including Crave Brothers Farm LLC and its farmstead cheese facility Crave Brothers Farmstead Cheese, require a year-round commitment.
On behalf of Crave Brothers Farmstead Cheese, Mark Crave provides insight into the role of dairy farms today and answer questions consumers might have about National Dairy Month.
As General Manager of Crave Brothers Farm LLC, he oversees 30 employees working in the Crave Brothers’ farming operations in Waterloo, WI. Milk from the family’s own dairy herd is used to produce the line of award-winning varieties of Crave Brothers Farmstead Cheese, overseen by licensed cheese maker George Crave.
What is National Dairy Month in June about?
As consumers, it’s easy to take for granted the abundant, wholesome food supply we enjoy in this country. By celebrating National Dairy Month, we recognize the hard-working farm families, processors, retailers and restaurateurs who allow us to enjoy nutrient-packed dairy foods that are important to us at all stages of life. National Dairy Month is also a fun way to recognize everything that we love about dairy products. The fact that it takes place during the first month of summer makes it extra special. Kids of all ages can take part in activities around Wisconsin.
What do we need to know about local milk and cheese?
Milk is produced in all 50 states. In some cases, it’s produced right in the same areas where many consumers live. Local dairy products are important to consumers. The feed is grown, the cows are cared for, and the end products are made locally. We all benefit from local farms because they provide green space and views, offer a boost to local commerce, provide jobs and pay a big share of property taxes that benefit local schools. The farmers themselves often have leadership positions on local school or church boards, and hold elected positions in local, county and state offices.
Why are family traditions so important for consumers and dairy farmers alike?
With 99 percent of Wisconsin dairy farms being family owned and operated, traditions are important because farmers not only pass along knowledge of farming, they carry those traditions back into the communities and spread them around the country. Family owners also provide management and labor on our farms, enabling American dairy farms to be the gold standard around the world.
The traditions also involve the dairy products that are part of our lives. Among the fun traditions we share are pizza parties after football games, ice cream that accompanies birthday cakes, and squeaky cheese curds enjoyed at county fairs. And don’t forget about cream puffs at the Wisconsin State Fair.
Why do the Crave Brothers produce both milk and cheese?
We built our cheese factory in 2000 to grow our family business and give opportunities to our family members and our employees. Milking our cows and making award-winning cheese is what we do every day, day in and day out. We are very proud to build the rural economy.
What are the changes that have taken place on farms, specifically dairy farms, in the past five years?
One of the biggest changes is the continuous improvement in both crops and cows. Our crops are more vigorous. They grow in challenging weather conditions and have more natural resistance to pests. The cows in our herds are healthier and more fertile. They produce more milk with less labor and water. The cows are making the farmers’ jobs easier because the cows are easier to care for and allow farmers to spend more time with their families. A generation ago, that didn’t happen.
How are Crave Brothers Farm and Crave Brothers Farmstead Cheese addressing today’s concerns about sustainability?
We love to share facts about modern dairy’s role in improving our environment. Today, a gallon of milk is produced with only 37 percent of the carbon footprint that we needed in 1960. On Crave Brothers Farm, we use practices every day to use less inputs. We employ crop rotation and minimum tillage. Cow comfort allows cows to produce more milk. One of our very visible sustainability tools is our biodigester that uses manure as the raw ingredient to produce electricity. In fact, we produce enough electricity to power nearly 300 homes.
How can consumers better inform themselves about dairy farms and the food we eat?
With the advent of social media, a lot of information is shared about farms and food. Much of it is from people who are lacking in knowledge, or do not have correct facts. I’d encourage anyone with an interest in the topic to ask farmers about where milk comes from, and how the cows are cared for. A lot goes into it. Farmers are the experts, and often they love talking about it.
Celebrate National Dairy Month by learning more about Crave Brothers Farmstead Cheese at www.cravecheese.com.