The group helps schools pay for milk vending machines.
By NANCY TULLIS
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
LISBON -- Dairy farmers at the Columbiana County Fair are scooping up ice cream and information at the Buckeye Dairy Boosters ice cream stand.
Boosters sell milk, ice cream cones, sundaes and milkshakes at reduced prices to boost the dairy industry and educate the public about agriculture operations in general.
Jody Bock of Winona said she and her husband Larry are members of the dairy boosters because of the importance of the dairy industry to their livelihood. She said Larry was raised on a dairy farm and is a animal nutritionist. He sells feed primarily to dairy farms.
She said the ice cream stand at the fair gains more popularity each year, and several times a day there are at least 20 people waiting in line. The boosters staff the ice cream stand with six to eight volunteers on a shift.
The stand is a permanent structure on the east side of the fairgrounds near the milking parlor and dairy barns.
Bock said the boosters' other major fundraiser each year is a cheese sale before Christmas. They sell cheese and also cheese baskets ready for Christmas entertaining or gift-giving. Last year, they sold about 500 baskets, she said.
Proceeds from the boosters' fundraisers go to scholarships and for promotion of dairy products and farming. The group helps pay for milk vending machines in schools, she said.
Lou Ann Zehentbauer of Hanoverton said educating children, and many adults, about where food comes from is still important. She said when family members talk about the economic impact of agriculture and how farmers struggle to make a living when expenses are so much higher than commodities -- the price farmers are paid for what they produce -- many people just don't understand.
"They say, 'What's the big deal? If you need food, you go get it at the store.' They don't have any idea how it gets there. I don't think people will ever understand milk prices," she said. "When milk has a high cost in stores, they think we should be doing really well, but we don't see that."
Zehentbauer, her husband Neil, Neil's brother Richard and Richard's wife, Jenny, and both couples' children milk about 165 cows of their 300-head Holstein herd.
Lou Ann said with escalating operating costs, today's dairy farmers aren't paid much more for milk than their parents and grandparents were paid. Added to that is the skyrocketing prices of gasoline, diesel fuel, natural gas and home heating oil, which have only compounded the problem.
She said Neil is a member of the Dairy Farmers of America, which lobbies for better milk prices.
Despite the struggles, Neil and LouAnn's four children are still committed to dairy farming. Josh, 20, is a junior at Ohio State University. Caleb, 18, hopes to take over the farm one day. Jill, 16, is the 2006 dairy princess. Abram, 12, helps on the farm and brought a dairy beef feeder and dairy heifer to the fair. He showed poultry last year and holds the record for auction price for a pen of three chickens at $1,050.