Last week, I was driving along the old Lincoln Highway in western Iowa. Like most mornings, I was feeling a little groggy, so I stopped at Mac’s Cafe in Carroll for a vanilla latte and a much-needed caffeine jolt.

An hour later, I was energized and ready to meet with Farm Bureau member Chad Fertig on his family’s dairy farm near Wall Lake. Fertig, 22, a recent Iowa State University graduate, has returned to the family farm to start his own career as a dairy farmer.

As I looked over at the black-and-white Holsteins relaxing and munching on hay in a barn across the road, I couldn’t help but think how cool it was to shake hands with a dairy farmer who helped provide the milk for my morning latte.

And I felt a little guilty complaining about being tired after learning that Fertig was up a 5 a.m. feeding the cows for their morning milking. Fertig is up before dawn every morning, and his work doesn’t end until the last cow is milked around 8 p.m.

Yet Fertig doesn’t mind his non-stop schedule. In fact, that’s what he loves about dairy farming. “Dairy is one of the few things where you can work very hard and be successful,” the young farmer said.

Fertig also has the satisfaction of knowing he’s helping to put nutrient-rich milk and dairy foods on your family’s dinner table.

Dieticians and nutrition experts agree that milk, cheese and yogurt are an important part of a healthy diet. That’s why the U.S. Department of Agriculture last week gave dairy foods a reserved space on the new “Food Plate,” a simplified replacement for the Food Guide Pyramid.

It’s especially important that our kids enjoy a glass of milk with their meals. Milk is a nutrition powerhouse that provides vitamins, minerals and protein for strong bones and healthy bodies.

Personally, my mom has always been my dairy role model. She prefers milk to soda; she even orders it at fast-food restaurants. Now I happily enjoy my three servings of dairy a day, including my new favorite ways to get my dairy fix – iced lattes and Greek yogurt.

And to celebrate June Dairy Month, I’m drinking chocolate milk after my evening jogs and bike rides. Research shows that chocolate milk makes a better exercise recovery drink than sports drinks. Plus, it’s fun to drink.

If you want to join the celebration, bring your family to one of the many June Dairy Month events planned across the state. Your kids can learn how to milk a cow, and there will be plenty of ice cream for all. Visit for a schedule of events.

Written by Teresa Bjork
Teresa is a features Writer for the Iowa Farm Bureau.