By: Terry Simpson
What do ice cream, string cheese, chocolate milk and cookies all have in common? Milk of course!
But, where do we get it and why do we love it so much? Of course, the simple answer is it comes from cows, but there is so much more to it than that.
In honor of June Dairy Month, one set of dairy cows in Monroe County had 42 special guests recently as students from Gamaliel Elementary’s 21st Century Community Learning Center “STARS” came to visit. Students were able to learn about the process of obtaining the milk for all those goodies throughout the day.
The Limited Edition Dairy, located in Gamaliel, is owned and operated by Evans Wright, his daughter Aubrey and her husband, Nathan York. And now, Evans’s granddaughter Remi has joined the mix.
The farm off Witt Marsh Road outside Gamaliel is home to one lone horse, a cat, a few dogs and of course cows—a total of approximately 250, with 65 of those being milk cows.
Wright, a genetics specialist, has owned and operated the dairy for around 35 years.
After graduating from Tompkinsville High School, he attended the University of Kentucky, and then went on to graduate school at Michigan State.
His extensive dairy industry background includes working in Ohio and Wisconsin with the American Jersey Cattle Club and the National Brown Swiss Association.
During his time as the National Brown Swiss Association Executive Secretary, he was instrumental in designing and producing what he refers to as “the best ever done” brown Swiss cow model. This was created by renowned sculptor Francis Eustes who, with Wright’s direction, sculpted and hand painted 100 limited edition models of a first true type ideal model cow with the actual parts correlating with that of the grand champion cow at the Ohio State Fair. The #1 model sold for $4,600.
As the story goes, Wright received a phone call from Eustis, who had become bored with painting the models all in the same color. He was wanting to switch things up a bit, but Wright explained that could not be.
However, after producing the 100 models, he did, in fact, make a differently painted cow that he set back. During a visit to his home by Wright and his wife, Nikki, who has since passed away, the sculptor gave the one special model to Nikki, as a Christmas present. That model now stands in Wright’s home, located just across the way from the dairy.
From that story and those limited edition models came the name chosen for Wright’s Dairy. He explains that when leaving Wisconsin to come home to Monroe County, he brought some of the highest producing Brown Swiss with him and registered them with the name Limited Edition.
The Brown Swiss, being a larger cow, were too big for his daughter Aubrey to show, and this led to eventually bringing more breeds of cattle to his dairy. Wright says he has worked with most breeds of cattle through the years, being at least familiar with all breeds. He cross bred the cows on his dairy — improving herd genetics, health, longevity and milk production.
And that lone horse? Well, that was for his daughter as well. He laughs as he tells a story of the horse being spooked while she was riding it as a youngster and while everything ended well, he notes she was never a fan of riding after that. Now the animal remains in the pasture with the cattle, waiting it’s turn for a pat on the head from the visiting children.
As the big yellow bus drove past the silo and calf houses, the kids’ faces were pressed against the windows in excitement. Some never having been to a farm and some living their whole lives on one, they chatted excitedly about their tour as York separated them into groups, one to visit the milking parlor and one to listen as Wright explained the daily procedures on the dairy. Several pinched their noses, one pulled his hoodie sweatshirt up over his face and one exclaimed, “I wish I had a gas mask” as they quickly noticed the unique smells of a dairy farm.
The children were led through the parlor were York held each up to look into the cooler, where the milk was waiting to be picked up by the milk truck. From there they continued into the milking station, toured the barn, petted the calves and cows and even got the chance to bottle feed the calves and watch the mamas and the horse eat their breakfast of grain.
As the children gathered around Wright and the Yorks, they were able to watch as the milk truck from Bugtussle Transportation backed up to the parlor to collect the milk. York explained to the kids that the truck came every other day to his farm on their route of 12 farms per trip. In order to supply the milk needed for the driver to collect, the cows at Limited Edition are milked twice a day, producing approximately 5,000 pounds of the liquid used to create not only a nutritious drink but the dairy products the children would later consume.
As their tour concluded, with a requested toot of the horn from the milk truck, leaving some kids covering their ears and others laughing in delight, the children were led down to a shallow area of Barren River on the property. They laughed as they skipped stones, collected “Indian money” and splashed in the water.
York watched as he seemed to be taken back to being a kid himself and noted, “We were honored when the school contacted us. It is summer, and they are in school, so we wanted to make this trip special for them. I hope they all enjoyed it, I know we did.”
Leaving the diary and crossing the road to the shade trees and their treats provided by the Yorks and a donation from Walmart, the children talked nonstop about their adventure.
As they received their ice cream cones and headed off to the bouncy houses set up nearby for them to play on, they thanked the family for the tour, with one child exclaiming, “I really like your cows!”
Wright and the Yorks smiled in pride at what they had taught the children that day, as they watched them lick the ice cream running down their faces as it melted in the heat. After all, as Wright noted, children retain so much more knowledge if the learning experience is fun—and this was a day most of them will not soon forget. Who knows what future dairy farmer may be in the making after a day at the Limited Edition Dairy.