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Sue's Views: Overwhelmed by what West River does -- and, sniff sniff, doesn't -- offer its visitors

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Morris, 56267
Morris Minnesota 607 Pacific Avenue 56267

Holy cow!

OK, pardon the pun, but this truly seems like the only appropriate response following Thursday's open house at West River Dairy.

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I didn't know what to expect before the tour. Honestly, the only time I think about dairy cows is when the California Happy Cows commercials come on TV. And I have my doubts that anyone is truly happy in California, even the cows.

So I traveled to the West River Dairy, trying to be open-minded and appreciative of the opportunity to learn more about a family business that is under absolutely no obligation to even let me on their property, yet has chosen to allow me and several hundred others to take a look.

Of course, the first thing I did when I got out of the car was to sniff. More than once when I was younger, I got to help clean out a barn and it was not high on my list of things to ever do again. In fact, on more than one occasion, my dad arranged for me to spend a hot July day cleaning a barn as a penance for breaking curfew. So, my memories of cow barns are not necessarily all fond ones. And despite Dad's best efforts, I never got any better at making curfew, either.

There was a scent, but it was as much the smell of hamburgers being grilled as it was one of those "farm" smells.

And for being so close to 6,000 or so cows, it was a pretty quiet place. In fact, I heard more kids saying, "moo" than cows.

Honestly, the California cows can't possibly be better off than these animals.

Here's where the tour went from being interesting to being fascinating. The site has a methane digester. That's right, they turn gallons of cow manure into electricity -- enough to power 1,200 homes. Clearly, the folks at West River Dairy took a different meaning from the proverb, "All is not butter that comes from the cow."

I never really paid much attention in chemistry class in high school and I avoided the science and math divisions whenever possible during college. So the idea of turning cow manure into electricity is mind-boggling to me.

And who among us non-farm types would ever spend time thinking about the many useful things that you can do with manure?

I understand that the West River Dairy didn't invent the methane digester, but I also know that you don't just buy a do-it-yourself kit for one either.

By the time I sat down at the end of the tour for a cheeseburger and milk, I was amazed and ever so much more appreciative that the owners and employees at West River Dairy provided me with a glimpse of their business.

I found myself saying, "Wow" several times throughout the tour. OK, while we were on the observation deck for the milking parlor, I may have said, "Oh jeez, that's a lot of cheese." But that was just to see if my son was listening. He was and he's convinced that his mom is the weirdest mom alive. But even the perpetually under-whelmed teenager was impressed by what he saw.

Thank you to the West River Dairy for the fine meal and the opportunity to be overwhelmed by your business.

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