Va. Cheese Festival lauds dairy industry

AFP Correspondent

BLACKSBURG, Va. (June 21, 2016) — Bessie the Cow proved to be a star at the Virginia Cheese Festival held on a hotel parking lot here June 11.
The plywood Holstein equipped with a milk-filled udder attracted both young and older fans, her keepers in the Virginia Tech Dairy Club said.
The event included cheese samplings, wine tasting and a variety of arts and crafts as well as educational displays about the Virginia dairy industry. Sponsors reported over 700 people turned out for the event which began before noon and continued until late afternoon.
Wall Brothers Farm, a dairy operation in Blacksburg, coordinated the display of young ruminants including dairy heifers, goats and lambs. Kristi Wall Snyder, a family member, said they had help from local farmer Chuck Shorter and Dave Linker of Virginia Tech.  Shorter supplied the goats and Linker the lambs.
“We wanted to be sure to connect,” Snyder said.  “We especially wanted the children to see where their food comes from.”
This is where the live animals and Bessie were able to help.  Bessie is a member of the Virginia Tech Dairy Club and helps other club in their different activities to educate the public.
Club members Courtney Henderson, Lindsey Barber and Drew Laffey manned the club’s booth at the festival and answered questions from visitors as well as overseeing Bessie and her fans. They reported that as many older people as children wanted to give a pull or two on the teats of the display cow. These people usually had a story to tell from their own youth when they learned to milk the real animals by hand, the dairy science majors reported.
The children pulled and shrieked with joy when they were able to get milk from the cow. Proof of their success included milk running down little arms and dripping off elbows.
“Mom and Dad, look, I’m milking a cow,” was a frequent response, the club members said.
The Wall’s animal display included three heifer calves representing different breeds of dairy cows. The children enjoyed reaching through the pen to touch the animals and let the calves suck on their fingers. The calves seemed to be enjoying themselves as did parents and grandparents overseeing the youngsters.
The VT Dairy Club members added they were pleasantly surprised to hear many of the people attending the festival knew that June is Dairy Month. They were prepared to answer visitors’ questions, supply facts and even cookbooks with ways to create dairy dishes.
Long lines at the cheese tasting booth remained patiently endured the heat throughout the day as visitors waited their turn to taste some of the many artesian cheeses produced in the state. They also had a chance to buy cheese related souvenirs, artwork, jewelry, and a variety of food to eat on site. 
Snyder said her daughter and a group of friends who often come to the farm to learn about the dairy animals and how to care for them were key help at the festival and added she is in the process of organizing them into an official 4-H club. She and her brother and will serve as their leader. Their father, Mack Wall, and uncle, Rick Wall, continue to farm as urban Blacksburg wraps around their dairy operation.