Holsteins and Jerseys put kids through college

Because my brother was only 16 months older than I, our parents knew they’d have to scrounge for money to pay for both of us to attend the University of Missouri at the same time, during the Depression.

Jim got up long before daylight, loaded the truck with heavy crates, each holding 12 quarts of milk in glass bottles. Then he loaded other crates with pints of milk and cream and various other items needed to deliver dairy products to regular daily customers - scattered over the city of Columbia. All four of us worked in the small family dairy.

Jim was just one of the fellows who helped put himself through college in the l930s. My boyfriend hauled milk to make ends meet while studying electrical engineering, and Columbia had quite a few other family dairies like ours.

Everyone in those families worked toward one goal: putting all of the kids through college.

Dad and Mom often said, "We want you two kids to get an education so you don’t have to farm for a living."

Later both of us chose rural living; Jim was a farm adviser, a county agent, for many years before settling down to farming as his chosen way of life.

Many of Columbia’s 30 wholesale and retail dairies were operated by families that had moved to this area to be near the university. There were various breeds of milk cows in those small dairies, and the "richest" milk - the milk with the most cream - probably came from Jersey or Guernsey cows.

Some of Dad’s friendly competitors teased him, saying that his Holstein cows produced "skim" milk. Holsteins produced more milk per cow, but in those days people liked cream and used lots of it in pies and cakes with whipped cream for a decorative topping on those deserts. Most liked the taste of creamy whole milk and poured cream on their cereal and puddings.

For a time Dad separated cream from whole milk and added it to the milk that went into bottles for customers - in order to compete with those farmers whose milk had a deeper natural cream line visible in the bottles.

Times changed, and public attention was directed to the health of the cows and the people who milked them, the sanitation of the barns, the sterilizing of buckets, coolers, bottles and other equipment. Large dairies bought wholesale milk from small and large farms where people had little training about sanitation in handling the product.

One large dairy advertised on radio almost continuously for sour cream for making butter - urging people to ship them "sour cream without regard to age or condition." In the 1930s the "big dairies" competed with expensive advertising that individual farmers could not match, but those big dairies bought milk from many different farms and poured it all together.

My boyfriend hauled wholesale milk in big cans, from about 10 farms, some of which had no running water or hot water available for washing milk buckets and strainers. He delivered the milk to the three big dairies and saw it all poured in together.

Without doubt, strict regulation was necessary when consumers had no contact with the farmers who milked the cows.

On Dec. 21, 1932, the city of Columbia adopted the Missouri Standard Milk Ordinance "to govern the production and sale of milk." The city employed a sanitation officer "to enforce the ordinance and to help improve the quality of milk sold here."

Only our dad’s dairy and three others, out of 30 dairies inspected, passed with the "Grade A" rating!

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