Tara Vander Dussen, the New Mexico Milkmaid, is “udderly in love with dairy.” I was fortunate to meet Tara and witness her passion first–hand during a recent visit to her family farm, Rajen Dairy, in Eastern New Mexico.
Tara is a fifth–generation Dutch dairy farmer who left the farm after high school to earn an environmental science degree from the University of Arizona. It wasn’t her plan to come back, but after marrying her husband Daniel, Tara returned to dairy. Now she works alongside Daniel, his parents and five brothers – and with other dairies – as an environmental scientist to help farmers become more sustainable.
During our chat, I learned we had a lot in common. Not only our love for animals and the environment, but we are both so thankful that we’ve had the opportunity to raise our kids on the farm – my husband and I with our three daughters and Tara and Daniel with two. There are important lessons to be passed along, like the circle of life, responsible care for animals who provide wholesome food for us, and environmental stewardship. From kids to calves, our conversation took many twists and turns – and it’s all on video!
Sharing these lessons with others is important, too. Having great conversations and finding that common ground on the things we all value when it comes to our food. It’s about bridging the gap between those who produce food and those who are removed from agriculture today and have more questions than ever before. We talked about the importance of connecting with today’s consumers.
That’s what Tara is all about. From her blog and social media outreach to her community involvement and speaking engagements, Tara is telling the story of dairy farming to everyone she meets – particularly how science plays a vital role.
Dairy farmers ensure their cows – and our earth – are tended to with the best care by hiring nutritionists, veterinarians, agronomists and environmentalists. Modern dairies embrace technology to improve herd health, reduce water use, use manure responsibly, and so much more.
For someone who didn’t intend to live life on the dairy, Tara is all in. “I don’t know what I was thinking! Now, I can’t imagine doing anything else.”
I invite you to learn more about The New Mexico Milkmaid and her dedication to family, healthy cows and a better planet.
Tara Vander Dussen is a fifth-generation dairy farmer and environmental scientist from Rajen Dairy in Eastern New Mexico. You can connect with her on her blog, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter.