Milking cows in the middle of a baseball game? As a farm boy and lifelong baseball fan, there was no way in the world I was going to pass that up.
Mayo Field in Rochester, Minnesota, was home to Dairy Night at the Ballpark, featuring the 22nd annual cow milking contest to help promote agriculture. (photo by Chad Smith)
The Rochester Honkers baseball team was home to the St. Cloud Rox in Northwoods League baseball on Friday night, July 8. The night’s sponsor included the Olmsted County American Dairy Association, with help from the Minnesota Farm Bureau Federation. It was Dairy Night at the ballpark with an unusual way to promote agriculture.
The highlight of the night was a cow milking contest that took place at the end of the first inning. And this wasn’t a new idea, either. For over 20 years, the Honkers have been hosting an annual milking contest. This year’s edition featured coaches from both teams in a one-minute, old-fashioned milking contest. There wasn’t a milking machine to be found for miles. This one was done by hand.
St Cloud Rox Assistant Baseball Coach Phil Imholte is ready for the Dairy Night at the Ballpark main event, a cow milking contest intended to help promote agriculture at Mayo Field in Rochester, Minnesota. (Photo by Chad Smith)
Honkers Manager Trevor Hairgrove was the Rochester entrant and Rox Assistant Coach Phil Imholte was a good sport by jumping into the contest for St. Cloud. Hairgrove was the eventual contest winner in spite of the fact that his cow was much more agitated and jumpy than Imholte’s.
“It was the 22nd annual Cow Milking Contest,” said Minnesota Farm Bureau Southeast Area Program Director Katie Brenny. “It was put on by the Olmsted County American Dairy Association and we were glad to join them and help promote agriculture.”
The cows were on loan from the Shea Dairy farm near Viola, Minnesota. June was officially Dairy Month across the country, but they wanted to continue to promote agriculture with the Rochester Honkers here in early July.
A dairy cow on loan from the Shea Dairy farm near Viola, Minnesota, isn’t excited about being in the Dairy Night at the Ballpark milking contest on Friday night, July 8, at Mayo Field in Rochester, Minnesota. (photo by Chad Smith)
“It’s important to do this because consumers have questions,” Brenny said. “They want to know where their food comes from and how it’s grown, and we hope they also want to know the people who are producing their food, getting up early in the morning to do the chores and drive the tractor.”
If agriculture doesn’t promote itself, she said consumers with questions typically get their information from non-factual sources . Farmers want to tell their stories, similar to the way a teacher wants to tell others what they teach or doctors want to talk about what they do.
“There’s always work to do to tell our story,” she said. “Agriculture changes almost every day, and if we’re not sharing the change, no one will know what we’re doing. For instance, 97 percent of our farms are family owned and we love to share that message with others. Farmers are more than willing to answer any questions about what they do.”
Heading home to the dairy farm after the Cow Milking Contest at Mayo Field in Rochester, Minnesota, on Friday night for Dairy Night at the Ballpark, sponsored by the Olmsted County American Dairy Association (Photo by Chad Smith
Katie is the Southeast Area Program Director for the Minnesota Farm Bureau Federation. She spends a lot of time keeping things organized for Farm Bureau members in this part of the state.
“I work with all 11 counties down here in the southeast,” Brenny said, “doing anything from working with our elected officials on Ag policy to consumer events such as tonight, partnering with Ag commodity groups, county fairs, Ag in the Classroom, and more. We were just at the Rochester Farmer’s Market last weekend and doing all kinds of events to promote the voice of agriculture.”
Brenny and some volunteers spent some time Thursday at the Ronald McDonald House in Rochester. Some of the pictures can be found here.
In addition to the dairy contest, there was some pretty good baseball too as you’ll see in a few highlights I’ve put together here.