Nothing exemplifies a rural lifestyle as well as a cup of cold milk; that’s why the Missouri Farm Bureau Building offers white or chocolate milk for only 25 cents to visitors during the Missouri State Fair. If projections are on target, they expect to pass out more than 18,000 cups of milk this year.
“Last year it was like 18,800 cups of milk,” Diane Olson, Farm Bureau director of promotions and education, said. “I think we’re going to meet or exceed that this year because the first days of the Fair have been so strong.”
On opening day they passed out 3,000 cups. On Saturday, Olson said there were “wall-to-wall” people lined up for milk; so many that she couldn’t see the front windows.
“We had four people actually filling cups, one person transporting them to the front, and one person taking money,” she added.
Chocolate is everyone’s favorite and milk mustaches are welcome.
“We sell three to one chocolate,” she added. “We have a four spigot dispenser and we keep three of them in chocolate and one of them in white. Chocolate goes faster, and we have repeat customers. There are people on the fairgrounds who come back sometimes multiple times a day.”
She added that a man on a “motor cart” comes in two and three times a day.
On Monday, Audrey Burch, of Lohman, bought milk for her grandson, Oliver Stoermer’s, sippy cup. After getting the cup filled she helped the 2-year-old with a puzzle in the Children’s Corner.
“We already had ours,” she said of the milk. “But he wanted more.”
Repeat customer William Diaz, of Knob Noster, ordered six cups of milk.
“I bought 10 (cups) yesterday, and I’ll probably buy six more after while,” he said.
The Salazar children Samuel, 6, Eli, 8, and Isaiah, 12, all of Butler, visited the building for the first time with their grandmother Mary Salazar and great-aunt Sue Merritt.
“We didn’t know it was here,” Mary Salazar said. “It’s very good!”
Olson has worked for the Farm Bureau for 30 years and she said they have been selling milk at the Fair for as long as she can remember.
Years ago the Farm Bureau sold milk for 10 cents, but Olson added it was a small cup. Now they offer 8.5 ounces and it’s served at a colder temperature, making it extremely refreshing after a a hot day at the Fair.
With all the unusual food available at the Fair, why simply serve milk?
“It’s a dairy product, first of all,” Olson said. “It’s something that the fair-goers have become accustom to; it’s kind of a tradition for us. We have people who have from generation to generation come by the Farm Bureau Building to get ice-cold milk. It’s certainly a bargain.
“People say ‘well I can’t buy milk this good in the store,’” she added. “Yes you can. This is Hiland brand milk. The difference is, we keep our coolers very cold. We keep them at 33 (degrees).”
Visitors and families to the Farm Bureau Building will also find other activities.
“We have a children’s area,” Olson said. “When you go around the fairgrounds almost everything is for adults, so it’s nice to have something that kids walk up to that’s child-sized. So, we have a floor puzzle, but we have it up on an elevated table that’s just right for a child. This year we added a dry-erase color board.”
They also have an educational gaming platform called “My American Farmer” that teaches facts about agriculture. A grains exhibit with a poster is available. It explains the process of grains and how they are integrated in everyday life.
“It’s just to try and help them understand that agriculture is everywhere,” Olson noted. “Even though they may not be a farmer that is directly involved in agriculture, they are (involved) because they eat, they wear clothes, they live in houses, they drive cars.”
With Monday being Farm Bureau/Family Farm Day at the MSF, Olson said she expected to see 6,000 to 10,000 people come through the doors on that day alone.
“Our building has been very busy throughout the Fair, but we have about 100 counties that have families coming to participate in Farm Family Day,” Olson said. “Monday is a good day for us. We have people come here to register for the Farm Family Day … so we pretty much see all the farm families.”
Olson and Gary Noland, assistant building manager and specialist for milk, said they thought 2,000 cups of milk would be passed out Monday. Noland has been a Farm Bureau member for more than 40 years.
“We keep about 200 gallons (a day) on stock here,” Noland said.
“We also sell tea, just because not everyone wants milk,” Olson added. “We decided to meet that need as well.”
“It’s a labor of love,” Noland added.
Faith Bemiss can be reached at 826-1000 ext. 1481 or @flbemiss.