Dairy Focus: North Dakota has rich dairy history

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Coming off a successful North Dakota State University sports season, I am reminded of the passionate speeches from coaches when my son was a high school grad looking at colleges. One of the resounding and repeated impressions (for me, at least), was the importance of “tradition” and how the efforts of those before us built a program of success.

In 2014, we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Smith-Lever Act, which established the Cooperative Extension Service, a state-by-state national network of educators who extend university-based research and knowledge to the people. The Smith-Lever Act has stimulated innovative research and vital educational programs for youth and adults through progressive information delivery systems that improve lives and shaped a nation.

So what does that have to do with tradition?

On May 8, the day the Smith-Lever Act was signed in 1914, we will celebrate another tradition: helping people put knowledge to work.

We have much to be thankful for today related to education, and most of it is not from our doing but from those who have gone before us. What hardly seems possible during the year of this momentous event in our educational history is that I will begin my 39th year as an Extension educator.

For me, names such as Clarence Olson (1947-1961) and George Fisher (1961-1988), two Extension dairy specialists (Extension dairymen back then) conjure up memories of people who devoted their lives and vocation to extending knowledge from the university (or Ag College, as it was known) to the citizens of our state and region.

They would tell you, as would I, that the participation of producer families, citizens in your community, rather than our efforts, is what makes our jobs rewarding and memorable. Their innovations, volunteerism and adaption of ideas are where the real education begins.

Many family names come to mind. The list of them is too long for me to try to mention here for fear of leaving out the obvious ones. But you know who they are: They’re in your communities, churches, schools, local boards, etc.

Dairying has changed immensely in the last 100 years. In 1934, North Dakota had more dairy than beef cattle. A big effort was made to bring people to the state to dairy. But as technology replaced the scoop shovel, one person could care for more animals with more speed and precision. So we’ve seen a reduction in the number of families in all of agriculture.

I share this with you in a quest for more notable historical events that relate to dairying in North Dakota and put out this call for you to share some of your stories and pictures. Granted, I am not much of a historian, but I admittedly enjoy learning more about the history of our state and its cultures.

Send your stories and photos to me at jw.schroeder@ndsu.edu or NDSU Dept. 7630, P.O. Box 6050, Fargo ND 58108.



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