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The Expo experience

Agriculture.com Staff 03/30/2006 @ 11:31am

A few years ago, a dairyman was talking to a dairy expert-type person when he -- the dairyman, that is -- said, "You know what would be cool? Getting a bunch of the latest dairy-related stuff together in one place so dairy farmers could stroll around and 'ooh' and 'aah' at it all! It could be centrally located and we could call it 'The Dairy Show'."

"What you should do instead," countered the expert, "Is get a bunch of experts together to educate and inform dairy farmers. We could call it 'The Dairy Experts'."

"You're wrong! It should be just a plain, old show!"

"Experts!"

"Show!"

This, approximately, is how the Central Plains Dairy Expo was born. It has evolved and grown since its humble origins -- the first Expo involved a handful of booths being perused by a smattering of dairy farmers in the lobby of the Brookings Holiday Inn -- into something truly spectacular.

I again had to man a booth at this year's Expo. I was stationed right next to the AMPI booth, which was both good and bad. It was good in that AMPI was giving away cheese curds, which meant I could enjoy cheese curds whenever I wanted. It was bad in that consuming too many cheese curds tends to make one look, well, like a cheese curd.

There were many "gee, whiz" items on display. One was a manure spreader that was so huge, it could have easily accommodated Roseanne Barr. The thought that sprang to mind as I strolled past the behemoth is "Whoa, I would hate to load THAT thing by hand!" My understanding is that Rosie has quite a foul mouth.

Another nifty item was demonstrated to me by a milking equipment salesman. It has finally happened: technology has now given dairy farmers the ability to monitor what's going on in their milking parlors via the Internet.

"You mean," I said to the salesman, "I could be sitting on a beach in Hawaii and could fire up my laptop and check on how milking is going? That I could get on my cell phone and call the herdsman and tell him 'Better check unit 7, looks like it's running slow'? And then order another Mai Tai?"

"Absolutely," replied the salesman, "But only if you like Mai Tais."

Talk about efficiency! And speaking of efficiency, I sat in on a talk by a farmstead cheese maker who hailed from California. One of his specialties is a cheese that has been soaked in cabernet sauvignon. I guess it's for those who are in a hurry and don't have time to consume their wine and cheese separately.

Speaking of cheese, a contest was held wherein Expo goers were invited to identify a variety of cheeses. I didn't participate as my knowledge of cheese extends to if it is: a.) sliced; or b.) Velveeta.

Evening at the Expo brought great excitement, as I got to attend the South Dakota Dairy Princess contest. It was extra exciting due to the fact that there were no fewer than 3 current state Dairy Princesses -- Minnesota's, plus North and South Dakota's -- in attendance. All that royalty made me feel as if I'd somehow managed to sneak into Windsor Castle.

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