June is National Dairy Month, so it seems like the perfect time to tell about a "road side attraction" I accidentally stumbled onto a while back, when making a road trip to Grapevine, Texas. This gigantic jersey dairy cow makes its home in the town of Sulphur Springs, Texas ( www.tourism.sulphurspringstx.org/ ). This town of about 16,000 residents is located on Interstate 30, halfway between Dallas and Texarkana.
Beside the jersey cow stands an equally over sized Holstein dairy cow. These two bovines let you know you have reached the location of the Southwest Dairy Center and Museum. The facility is designed to look like a huge dairy barn, with a tall silo functioning as a conference room.
It is not just my background as a Registered Dietitian that would make me aware that June is National Dairy Month. It goes back to 1965, when a pretty young home economics instructor (Wilma Blevins) from my home county of Boone County, Arkansas, beat out hundreds of other competitors, to be named the American Dairy Princess. This created lots of publicity in the small town where I lived, and was perhaps a factor to cause me to still associate June with dairy, to this very day! Likewise, in my career as a Registered Dietitian, the National Dairy Council, was always a major educational resource for providing colorful handouts to teach about good nutrition. At the time of my visit to the dairy museum, the USDA's official teaching tool was the Food Pyramid, and the museum displayed a large graphic of the pyramid in their exhibit area . (Currently, the USDA is using a different graphic to teach good nutrition, which can be accessed at www.choosemyplate.gov/ )
One of the missions of the Southwest Dairy Center is to teach good nutrition. I thought this skeleton on a bicycle was a fantastic visual aid to teach about the importance of calcium intake to assure healthy bone development.
Another mission of the Southwest Dairy Center is to teach current generations about the development of the dairy industry during the pioneer days of our country. Displays of vintage dairy processing equipment, such as this cream separator and accompanying milk tins, are examples of milk processing in days gone by.
Likewise, these cheese presses provide visual aids to explain how the liquid is pressed out of curds and whey, to make various types of cheeses.
I was intrigued by this collection of antique milk bottles, because they were similar to what I had seen in my own home, when I was a child.
Likewise, I remembered going to restaurants when I was a child where the tiny clear bottles and tiny white pitchers were used as individual cream servers in cafes, when a customer ordered coffee.
The Southwest Dairy Center has an old-fashioned soda fountain where customers can order ice cream and light snacks. This inviting space is appropriately named "The Creamery".
There is a gift shop on site selling milk-related souvenirs. These items and more, can also be ordered from their website www.southwestdairyfarmers.com . This website will also give you the contact information, operating hours, and calendar of events for the Center and Museum. ( There is no fee to visit the museum. ) The term "southwest" in their name reflects the fact that it is an association made up of dairy farmers from Texas, New Mexico, Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma.
The Dairy Center hosts student groups, which probably enjoy stamping their notebooks with these dairy-themed rubber stamps, as a memento of their tour.
Other groups, besides students, can arrange to visit the facility and use their spacious meeting room. It is interesting that the stage has a full-size cut-out of a football player, as an incentive to get kids to choose milk over soda as a beverage. Their campaign must be working, at least locally, since Sulphur Springs has had several of its "kids" go on to play college and professional athletics!
One of the exhibits shows how electric milking machines are used in current dairy operations. If one makes arrangements in advance, tour groups can participate in milking demonstrations, as well as, ice cream and cheese-making demonstrations.
After touring the dairy museum, I have a greater appreciation for the #9 metal milk tin that sits at my back door. My grandparents used the tin at their farm at Locust, in Marion County, Arkansas. They would milk their cows, pour the milk into the tin, and then set the tin in the "spring house" down by the dirt road, where it would be picked up by the milk processor. The next day, the emptied and washed #9 tin would be returned to their spring house, and the whole process would start over again. Likewise, the metal cow bell hanging from the milk tin, was used to tell the location of their reliable old milk cow, when she would be away from the barn.
I also have the churn my grandmother used to make her famous "cow butter". One of the benefits of making the trip to my grandparents' house on Sundays after church, was getting to take home a mound of her hand-made butter with us, when we left! It was delicious! Now the churn is just a depository for empty shell casings!
I include these photos of some of my vintage glass milk jugs, which I now use for vases. The current generation would not have a clue to what the original purpose of these jars were, so maybe this photo will be educational! Milk has not always come in cardboard cartons!
This Hiland Dairy glass jug represents one of the few dairies from long ago ( www.HilandDairy.com ) that is still in operation. They started over 75 years ago, as a processor for dairy farmers in Arkansas, Missouri, Kansas, and Nebraska.
This is a vintage gallon-size glass milk jug. Our family did not usually have this size, because they did not fit well in our tiny little refrigerator.
Folks today are familiar with the practice of placing the photo of missing children on milk cartons. This photo collage of the front and back of a vintage glass milk quart container, shows that even back decades ago, there was an association between children and milk. In fact, the association goes back even further: For example, 1 Peter 2:2 states "Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good." My Bible has a notation with this verse that says the unrestrained hunger of a healthy baby provides an example of the kind of eager desire for spiritual food that ought to mark the believer. If all this talk about milk and dairy products has whetted your appetite, visit www.NationalDairyCouncil.org/ to see some great recipes, learn the benefits of dairy products, and find out about June Dairy Month activities in your area. Drinking a delicious, tall glass of milk will give you that famous milk marketing tool, called the "Milk Moustache", to go along with your "Miles of Smiles"! Tricia