Local farmers help beat the heat with ice cream


June Dairy Day returned to Columbia last Friday with an event sponsored by the City of Columbia and the Adair County FFA.
The event, which was hosted in the Adair County Cooperative Extension Office, serves as a culmination of national June Dairy Month.
It opened with a brief proclamation from Mayor Pam Hoots. She also used the time to introduce and congratulate FFA State President Trenton Page who was in attendance. Page, the first FFA State President in Adair County history, gave a speech expressing his excitement at the return of Dairy Day and his appreciation of Adair County.
“The community that we’ve built here is one of a kind… I’ll make sure to represent the values and beliefs that Adair County has instilled in me my entire life.”
At least one of the values and beliefs Page mentioned is an appreciation for dairy farmers.
Adair County’s history is at least partially written by its prominence as a milk producer. In 1974, there were 1,620 farms in Adair County and of these, 472 of them owned dairy cattle.
As such, National Dairy Month, which began in 1939 officially, according to The Dairy Alliance, was especially important to Adair County and often came with multi-day celebrations with games and prizes, almost akin to a fair.
Large trophies used as rewards, such as the one for The Farmer’s Pride Sunday Slam winner given out in the Y2K era. Since then, however, Dairy Day has slowly dwindled. The last Dairy Day event on the square was hosted in 2015, and the next time Dairy Day appeared as a public event in Columbia, it was an Ice Cream social at the Extension Office in 2022.
Even while Dairy Day declined in extravagance, Adair County continued to honor farmers through a Farmer Appreciation Event held annually save for the COVID years.
Part of the decline has also been due to a decline in dairy numbers. The 472 farms with dairy cows in 1974 has, 50 years later, dropped to 19 farms.
“While relics of the past dairy industry can still be found in the form of old milk parlors, many of them are disappearing as time has passed and their condition and design are not suitable for other uses,” SAID Agriculture and Natural Resources Extension Agent Nick Roy, who was also present at the 2024 Dairy Day.
This is not to say Adair County has quit producing dairy or that the remaining dairy farms are not sufficient. Roy says that the reported dairy sales in 2022 were over $22.4 million, close to the what the 1974 sales would be if adjusted for inflation ($3.7 million in 1974 would be $23.5 million today). Adair County still ranks second in the state of dairy producers. The return of June Dairy Day this year signals that dairy is still a central tenet of the community.
While activities such as elaborate contests and games were missing in this iteration of the event, June Dairy Day 2024 was sponsored by The Dairy Alliance, which donated shirts to be given to the public, and Prairie Farms, which donated ice cream sandwiches and drumsticks that were free to all in attendance—much needed refreshments given the heatwave outside the extension office. Once the speeches concluded, those in attendance were able to mingle and come and go as they wish. A steady stream of families and farmers trickled in and out throughout the social.
Mayor Hoots says she and the local FFA are working to bring June Dairy Day back to its previous versions.
“We are already planning on additional activities for next year,” she said, such as live cattle for audiences to milk. Hoots expects “substantial activities for our community” for 2025’s June Dairy Day.
By Kenley Godby

Thank you for supporting local journalism.
Click here to Subscribe.
Click here to donate.