Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! In honor of the holiday, I’m featuring a special family today — one that I’m especially thankful for.
Today’s Faces Behind the Food are the DeMent family, dairy farmers from DeWitt County, and my grandma, grandpa, aunts and uncle.
My grandpa Don started DeMent’s Jerseys when he was seven years old after his grandma gave him a calf that was out of a Hereford bull. He traded that calf for Jersey and the rest is history. He started milking cows out of his parents’ garage and selling it for $.10 per quart. In 1947, he bought his first registered cow.
But my favorite story isn’t how he got started — it’s how he met his wife.
“Shirley had a cow that I just couldn’t beat in the show ring,” Don said. “I had to milk that old cow at night and she would beat me the next day when we would show, I never could beat her. They always accused me of marrying Shirley to get that cow. When we got married we brought her to our house and I always milked her by hand. She was a good cow. Even back then she was really good.”
DeMent’s Jerseys has always been a relatively small farm compared to some of the bigger farms out west, but it has always been a purebred farm, and family-run to boot. In fact, the DeMent family has showed at the Illinois State Fair consecutively since 1965. Don also was named Land of Lincoln Breeder of the Year in 2003.
Today, DeMent’s Jerseys has changed from it’s original format of milking 25-30 cows and raising its own replacement heifers. Instead, my Uncle Ted and Aunt Cheryl, along with my Aunt Nancy, Ted’s sister, partner with the Kilgus dairy in Fairbury, Ill.
While Ted, Cheryl and Nancy still own the milk cows, the Kilgus family houses the cows and milks them to help supplement their direct-to-consumer milk sales. In return, my family grows all of our own and Kilgus’ heifers.
It’s a partnership that benefits everyone.
“The milk has more value up there because they bottle it and sell it on the farm,” Ted said. “And, with us having the young stock, it frees up more room for them to produce more milk up there. It lets us both be more specialized in our operations and ends up being a win-win for everyone.”
After nearly 70 years in the dairy business, the DeMents have learned a thing or two about dairy production and what consumers are curious about.
“You know, it’s not a job that you can turn off — it’s a full time job, even in bad weather,” Cheryl said. “But we do it because we love it and we love the animals.”
“I know consumers have questions about a lot of things, but one of the things I get asked a lot is, ‘How do you eat all those dairy products?'” Cheryl added. “The important thing to remember is whole milk and butter always get bad reputations, but they have a place in a healthy lifestyle. They’re good for you, especially in a balanced diet.”
Don’t forget to check out all the awesome blogs happening this month over at Prairie Farmer.
For the full Faces Behind Your Food Series, check out the links below:
- Intro: 30 Days
- Day 1: Managing…everything
- Day 2: Building Relationships
- Day 3: 50/50
- Day 4: Irons in the Fire
- Day 5: Loaded Up and Trucking
- Day 6: Variety is the Spice of Life
- Day 7: Beef. It’s what’s for dinner.
- Day 8: You have got to start somewhere.
- Day 9: The earth that calls me.
- Day 10: Teaching changes the way I look at things at home.
- Day 11: A Family Affair
- Day 12: Diversification.
- Day 13: Bigger is Better
- Day 14: Working for the Weekend
- Day 15: Three Generations of Pauling Brothers
- Day 16: “Quality and consistency is what makes us great.”
- Day 17: Community Supported Agriculture
- Day 18: “We wouldn’t sell something to our customers that we wouldn’t eat ourselves.”
- Day 19: The kitchen table is still the board room.
- Day 20: It all starts with a seed.
- Day 21: 24/7
- Day 22: Heart and Soul
- Day 23: More than Food, Feed and Fuel
- Day 24: “Farmers are technologically advanced.”
- Day 25: Thank God for the farmer.
- Day 26: Farm Business Farm Management