David Gunter believes connecting directly with consumers is the best way to educate them about what it takes to produce quality milk.
“Whenever someone hears how passionate you are about your profession and providing quality milk for their family, it makes a big difference,” he says.
Gunter and his wife, Courtney, milk about 70 cows in partnership with Gunter’s parents at their dairy, Gunter Dairy in Conway, Mo. The family also farms 400 acres of alfalfa, corn silage and wheat. A fifth-generation dairy producer, Gunter grew up on the seasonal grazing dairy he now helps operate.
Since 1990, the family has been milking Brown Swiss cows after Gunter’s sister raised two for a 4-H project. Since then, the herd grew to mostly registered Brown Swiss.
“We like them because they have a great temperament, good feet and legs, and they handle the heat well,” Gunter says. “They are good for grazing because we’ll get 100-degree or more days, and they can still be out grazing and not clumped up under a shade tree.”
Every October, the family opens up their farm to the public with a pumpkin patch, corn maze and hay rides. In addition, school children tour the farm before taking in the fall festivities. Between 5,000 and 7,000 people visit the farm each October.
Before a school tour begins, someone from the dairy gives a 15-minute presentation about dairy cows and how milk gets from the farm to the grocery store.
“It’s an eye-opening experience for some of these kids,” Gunter says. “A lot of them have never been to a farm before. They think milk just comes from the grocery store.”
Gunter also works with the Midwest Dairy Association (MDA) to speak to schools and other groups about dairy farming.
“I think it’s valuable for people to hear from the people actually producing the product,” he says. “I tell them, ‘we drink the same water our cows do.’ ‘We live right on the farm.’ When they hear the pride we have in taking care of our animals and our land and soil, that gets through to them.”
In addition to his involvement with MDA, Gunter and his wife were recently selected to serve on the Southeast Area’s Young Cooperator (YC) Program Steering Committee. The couple have attended YC conferences for the past two years and recently attended National Milk Producers Federation’s Young Cooperator Conference in Orlando, Fla.
“At all of the YC events I’ve attended, I’ve always gotten something out of it,” Gunter says. “It might be something I want to do on my farm, or it might be something I don’t want to do on my farm. I feel like you should always get something out of it. You never quit learning.”
Gunter cites visiting with other young producers as a main benefit of DFA’s YC program.
“As young producers, the YC program is very beneficial,” he says. “There aren’t very many of us, and we need to come together and work to improve the Cooperative. We might have a new and different way of thinking. It’s hard to get started as a young dairy farmer, and it’s good to know you’re not alone.”