No Longer Taking for Granted

Guest blogger Vannika Rice is the 2019-2020 Pennsylvania State Alternate Dairy Princess

Ooh, I smell something delicious! It is the cheese platter for our hors d’oeuvres, the cream cheese mashed potatoes and the whipped cream on the pumpkin pie. Hello there and happy Thanksgiving! Won’t you join me and take a seat? But, I forgot to introduce myself, I am Vannika Rice, the 2019-2020 Pennsylvania State Alternate Dairy Princess.

As I sit waiting for my family’s Thanksgiving meal to start, I am reflecting on something. I realize I have taken all these smells and other blessings in my life for granted and I want to change that today.

I am grateful for eighteen wonderful years of life on my family’s dairy farm. Thirty years ago, my farm consisted of a tie-stall barn and eighty milking cows. However, my family wanted to diversify, so we began primarily grazing our cows and put in a New Zealand-style swing parlor.

A few years after that, we started looking into a way to bring extra value to the milk we were producing. We decide to sell cheese and began shipping part of our milk to a cheesemaker to create our own line of cheeses. Twelve years ago, we turned our old tie-stall barn into a cheese plant with large walk-in coolers. Thus, Clover Creek Cheese Cellar was created.

It’s taken me a long time to realize how blessed my family is with our business. We make over fifteen different kinds of cheese, and sell it at markets, stores and restaurants. Two years ago, we stopped shipping milk to a co-op, and now all our milk is bottled into jugs or made into cheese.

My family no longer has to rely on the unreliable price of milk. However, many of my neighbors still don’t have the cushion of a diversified income and I see how challenging it is when the milk check barely covers their cost of production. Their struggles and the hard work of all Pennsylvania dairy farmers inspired me to get involved in the dairy princess program.

I am so thankful to dairy farmers for the opportunity to promote such a wonderful industry.  I am inspired by farmers resiliency, even though they know farming is not an easy job they still continue to farm because they love it.

I spend my days telling people about the incredible care farmers give their cows: feeding them balanced meals, giving them comfortable bedding and providing regular health check-ups. I share how nutritious and delicious dairy products are at schools, meetings and senior centers. I am the dairy farmers voice to the you because farmers are busy at home caring for their cows.

It is such a blessing to be raised on a dairy farm; it truly is one of the best ways to grow up. Nothing is more rewarding then feeding and caring for cows, and in return receiving milk that feeds our families. Being able to take that deep breath of fresh air in the morning with the knowledge that even though it will be a busy day, it will be out in God’s creation.

I often overlook how fortunate I am to work with my family day in and day out. On our farm, my brother and I milk the cows, I go to markets with my mom and our whole family pitches in when making cheese. Making food brings my family together while eating the food we make, brings yours together.

I am so thankful for those who love and purchase local dairy foods. The boy who excitedly shouts that ice cream is his favorite dairy food. The woman who shares that she just loves cheese. The grandfather who relates that he drinks milk everyday and has his whole life. You are what keep our farmers working day in and out and for that, I am so udderly grateful.

As my family gathers around the Thanksgiving table, I will say an extra thank you to those who created the food that brings my family together. I will remember to be thankful for our farm, my family, dairy farmers and for you. What are you thankful for that you have taken for granted? Tell me in the comments!

Happy Thanksgiving!