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Cows & curiosity draw crowd to Royalwood Dairy
By By Jill Meier
Challenger editor

June 20. 2013 6:00AM
As the orange-colored school bus rolled up to the Ode farm Saturday, it wasn’t the herd of dairy cows that caught 6-year-old Paul Armitage’s attention.

Instead, it was something else brought in for the “Lunch on the Farm” event at Royalwood Dairy.

“Look at those huge porta-potties!” exclaimed the blonde-haired youngster.

And soon as he was off the bus, he headed for the porta-pots to test them out.

But not all of the guests that attended Lunch at the Farm – now a six-year event at Royalwood Dairy – were as enthralled by the porta-pots as Armitage. Instead, they came to see how a large-scale dairy farm is the starting point for the milk they pour on their cereal or drink at dinnertime.

Lorna Stratman and her two children, Samirah, 10, and Lucas, 7, ventured out to Lunch on the Farm for the first time Saturday. After the rainy skies had turned sunny, the Stratman clan boarded the bus for the short trip to the dairy.

“We wanted to see the baby calves,” Lorna Stratman says. “And Lucas wants to milk a cow.”

Lucas and other youngsters had that very opportunity. While it was simulated, children could plunk down on a pint-size milking stool and milk “Bessy” the cow.

The day also featured guided tours of the dairy and music by children’s entertainer, Phil Baker, along with a free pork sandwich lunch and an ice cream treat to top it off.

Inside the dairy barn, South Dakota Dairy Princess Audrey Sousa (of Milbank) and Steve Wilke educated folks on procedures in the milking parlor. Sharon Hoium of Brandon said after seeing the event on Facebook, said that sparked her curiosity enough to come out to the dairy.

“I’m an old hand at milking,” she said.

As for the Bryant family of Sioux Falls, it was 2-year-old Benson’s love for cows that drew them to the countryside.

“Benson just loves cows so we thought we’d take advantage of visiting a farm,” said his mother, Jen.

Since 2008 the Ode family has hosted an open house at their dairy every June in celebration of Dairy Month. “We appreciate the Ode family’s willingness to open up their farm to their neighbors and folks from the surrounding communities,” said Kelly Nelson, outreach director for Ag United, one of the sponsoring agencies of Saturday’s event. “It is a great opportunity for people to see firsthand how committed South Dakota Dairy farmers are to their cows and the environment.”
Royalwood Dairy, one of more than 500 dairies currently operating in South Dakota, dates back to the 1870s but the dairy in its present state was updated seven years ago to accommodate the near 300-head of cows the family milks twice daily. Cows that have recently calved are milked four times a day. The Odes explain that the extra milkings are better for the cows and increase the quality of milk produced.

The milk is stored in two 2,000 gallon bulk tanks. To ensure freshness, the milk is picked up by tanker trucks daily and hauled to Dean’s/Land O’ Lakes in Sioux Falls.

Brothers Gregg and Doug Ode now operate the dairy, which was passed on to them by their parents, Bob and Marilyn. The Odes also farm more than 800 acres where they grow corn and alfalfa to feed their livestock.

The event was also sponsored in part by South Dakota Farm Families, Midwest Dairy Association and South Dakota soybean farmers and their check-off.

Benson Bryant, 2, of Sioux Falls, points out some dairy cows to his mother, Jen, Saturday, during Lunch on the Farm at Royalwood Dairy. Photo by Jill Meier

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