I was a young girl when I first became involved in the dairy industry - leasing a 4-H heifer from my neighbors. As the older club members helped me fill out the paperwork correctly, and by deadline, and then a few months later guided me through the fitting process, I could already tell there was something different, something special about this industry.
As many years have gone by, that belief has not wavered. In fact, it's only been solidified time and time again with beautiful reminders of the unity the industry possesses, unlike any other community I've been a part of or witnessed.
The morning of June 11 was no different.
I awoke before the sun as thunder crackled against our tin roof and trees bent so the tops could touch the ground below. I prayed our two heifers in the pasture were safe and our flock of chickens were nestled in their coop. The storm was on its way out, and we were left unharmed.
A short time later, my husband, Willie, received a call from his dad and I a text message from my co-workers. The Carlson family, of Pennock, Minn., fell victim to Mother Nature's unruly temperament, and they were in dire need of help.
As Willie made phone calls to those close to the situation, I went online to see if there was any more information available. Almost immediately, we both learned of the selfless acts many people so graciously offered.
From the time of the storm's destruction to late afternoon, people arrived from miles away - from southern Minnesota to Wisconsin - hurrying to clear debris off the animals and around the farm site; tractor-trailers waited in the driveway to load the cows and heifers for relocation.
The rural community buzzed like a suburb as vehicles moved in and out of the farm site, helping in any way they could.
And those who couldn't physically be there were giving their condolences and support online - spreading the news, searching for more lending hands.
My editor, Mark Klaphake, was able to spend time with the family that Sunday afternoon, helping in any way possible. He took photos in the wake of destruction, but also captured the triumph of the dairy industry coming near and far to help someone in need.
Unfortunately, this is not the first time a family within the industry has suffered unthinkable pain beyond their control. However, with each scenario, the industry has stood united in guiding those families back towards the path of normalcy.
And, although we do none of this for attention, people notice. I brought my car in for a repair Monday following the storm, and the entire service department was commenting in admiration of the support the Carlsons received the day prior.
As the clean-up continues, the support is still resilient.
With the end of June Dairy Month approaching, it's been quite a month to reflect on the industry's importance to our communities - from boosting the local economy to fulfilling a healthy, well-balanced lifestyle. But more importantly, it's been an opportunity to show consumers our dedication to the industry and one another. Whether its picking up torn pieces of metal from corn fields after the skies clear or standing alongside the show ring of a 4-H show ready to take control of an spunky heifer, our actions speak volumes to the public.
Together, we are united in our despair and celebration, and we have to take every opportunity to share that message with our neighbors.
Now, grab a bowl of ice cream and continue advocating - National Ice Cream Month is upon us.