Dairy farmers and baseball - they have more in common than you might think

Carol Spaeth-Bauer
Wisconsin State Farmer
A member of the Brewers' grounds crew, left, shows the Elbe family, from middle left to right, Kimberly, Kyle, Ryan and Matthew what the crew does to take care of the turf at Miller Park.

It's something many people might not think about. How can America's favorite pastime, baseball, have anything in common with farming? But there are parallels — similarities like working hard every day to care for the land and water resources. 

Representing Wisconsin dairy farmers, Ryan Elbe and Golden "E" Dairy in Washington County swapped places with the Brewers' grounds crew to highlight those similarities in a video shown at the Milwaukee Brewers Farmer Appreciation Day on Aug. 11.

With the farm's fairly close proximity to Miller Park, Elbe was asked by the Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin if he would be interested in doing the video. The grounds crew met at the farm and shot footage for several hours and "then we swapped places" and the four Elbe siblings, Ryan, Kimberly, Matthew and Kyle, "went to the Brewers stadium and pretty much got the field ready for the game that night," Elbe said. 

"That was really neat. It's really precise," said Elbe. 

They learned how the grounds crew vacuums sunflower seeds spit out by players on the field. Special grow lights that provide artificial sunlight when the dome on Miller Park is closed, have to be moved around on the field "so you don't cook the grass." 

"They are doing a lot of stuff that we do on the farm — caring for the turf and stuff," Elbe said. "But they are pretty precise in making it look pristine and up to par."  

When the Brewers' grounds crew headed to the farm for the video, "it clicked very easily for them," said Elbe. The grounds crew has to follow rules on spraying, "they understood all of that." When the Elbe crew showed the grounds crew the farm's hay mowers, they thought it would be nice to use a machine of that size compared to mowing fields with lawnmowers. 

"It (the video) was a comparison clip because they wanted to show the general public (that) agriculture exists in many areas and it exists at Miller Park as well, just on a different field," Elbe said.

At Farmer Appreciation Day, Elbe and his family walked onto the field at Miller Park where the video was shown followed by applause that filled the stadium.

"We were very humbled to represent Wisconsin dairy farmers," said Elbe. "We were representing farmers in the stands and across the state."

Then Elbe tossed out one of the first pitches of the game alongside a veteran and a former Milwaukee mayor. 

"That was something. That was really cool," said Elbe. 

Ryan Elbe, right, shows the Brewers' grounds crew the equipment they use on Golden "E" Dairy in Washington County.

The video is an important message sent to the general public, providing knowledge to them about farming. It's a message that is sometimes difficult for farmers to share because they are busy with the work of farming, but "it's very important to get that message out," Elbe said. 

It's something Elbe enjoys doing — informing the public about dairy farming — that's why he was intrigued to do the video with the grounds crew. 

Being a face for dairy farmers and sharing their story is something Elbe's dad, Chris, who has farmed about 28 years, never would have thought about. 

"He never would have imagined that we would have to sell ourselves and our product to gain consumer trust," said Elbe. "But that is literally the path we have to take."

Elbe says it's important for farmers to "sell yourselves, sell your product, sell your industry. Just talk about it."

Many people have no understanding of what is involved with farming, said Elbe. They may have a picturesque image of a cow on a hill under a tree as the sun rises implanted in their mind or a similar picturesque image they've seen in a commercial. When they see how farming actually works, they have questions. Is this really how it's done? 

The Elbe family poses for photos with Bernie Brewer at the Milwaukee Brewers Farmer Appreciation Day on Aug. 11.

"They lose our trust very rapidly when the picture in their mind isn't actually happening," Elbe explained. 

"I feel there needs to be a face behind the industry and the best face to be behind our industry is the actual people doing it," said Elbe. "I don’t think there is anything more trusting than going into the farmers market and knowing who grew your product. A face behind the product. That’s another reason why it’s very important to tell your message. Hey, I’m your local dairy farmer and this is what we do. I’m the face behind that carton of milk."

Throwing out that first pitch and the round of applause after the video, Elbe felt a lot of energy and appreciation from the crowd. 

"I don't know how to get that back to other farmers and tell them there's a lot of appreciation that the consumer still has for us. They don't necessarily meet us face-to-face every day and tell us that," Elbe said. 

Carol Spaeth-Bauer at 262-875-9490 or Follow her on Twitter at cspaethbauer or Facebook at