Heritage, educational losses decried from dairy reorganization

Friday, February 27, 2009

The Jersey cows at the state dairy farm here provide an important lesson for school children, county leaders and area residents are telling University of Tennessee officials speaking at the county commission meeting on Monday.

"Our children will lose a lot of opportunity to see a first-class Jersey operation," said Commissioner Dean Delk who's also the principal at Chapel Hill Elementary School, one of several schools with field trips to the dairy farm each year.

And as county officials are turning to state lawmakers to press their campaign to keep the Jersey herd at the New Lake Road property, County Mayor Joe Boyd Liggett announced another campaign in the making.

"The school system is going to get students to write letters to tell what it meant to them," Liggett said Wednesday. Commissioner Tony White, a dairy farmer himself, "is delivering a milk can to the central office to carry the letters to Nashville."

As youngsters' are to send their support that way, seniors attended the commission meeting on Monday to show support for continuing the center and preserving that heritage they remember from their school years.

"In the early 1940s, I was part of a livestock judging team for the Future Farmers of America at Cornesvilleville High School," said James L. Allen, 83, who graduated in the spring of 1943. "It was a teaching process on their part and a learning process on our part.

"I remember the guy who said whether we got right," Allen said. "Tom Miles was the guy, telling us about judging of the cow for the qualities that would give the most milk. Sometimes the judging teams got to go to the State Fair and judge cattle. I didn't get to do that."

Allen attended to show support for a friend who works at the state dairy farm.

Dawson Smith attended for the same reasons.

"I am retired," Smith said. "But I was raised on a dairy farm. I milked cows until I got out of high school. I have three children and they went to the dairy farm."

His grandchildren have also visited the farm.

While he supports keeping the milk cows here, he also noted that the restructuring of the system may result in benefits for Marshall County from the heifer program that's planned here.
Meanwhile, Smith notes that "Mildred Chapman, who works at the fire tower, carried a petition around to keep the dairy farm and she got dozens of signatures."

State lawmakers and the governor will make the decision about keeping the herd in Marshall County, he said.

Wynonna Clark, chairwoman of the Marshall County Farm Bureau Leadership Committee, said, "We carry about 450 fourth graders from across the county to the experiment station every year.

"We feel it's very important to take them," Clark said. "It's not only important to teach the students, but also the teachers and the parents who are far removed from the farm.

"They especially liked the milking parlor," Clark said of children's preferences during their field trips to the dairy farm. "One little girl asked me, "Do those cows give chocolate milk?

"That's how important it is," she said.