Opinion: Finding Meaning

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Wisely Adapting in Midway

As your Indy traveling correspondent, the Beautiful Wife and I are in Midway, Utah, a mountain village high in the Wasatch Range of the Rocky Mountains. It’s a Lake Wobegone kind of place where the women are strong, the men wear Wranglers (not Levis), and the kids are all above average. Midway was settled by Swiss immigrant families back in the mid-1800s, including the Beautiful Wife’s great-grandfather, Johannes Huber.

Huber was a Renaissance man, a farmer who wrote poetry and hymns, started a choir and band, kept the town history, and was the Johnny Appleseed of the valley. His home and orchard, Huber Grove, is preserved in a state park. We live in the Beautiful Wife’s grandparent’s home, an 1890 Victorian cottage (not a Swiss lodge; the only architect was English).

The Beautiful Wife’s ancestors were farmers, growing apples, grains, potatoes and onions, crops suited to the short growing season. They kept cows and sold the extra milk and butter. The women kept a large kitchen garden, baked bread twice a week, gathered eggs from the chickens and fed leftovers to the hogs. The town was known for modest prosperity, abiding spirituality, and an over-the-top harvest celebration called, of course, Swiss Days. Swiss Days attracts over a 100,000 visitors to this tiny town with the biggest craft show west of the Missouri River, a parade, and much more.

This idyllic town has been discovered; there are now more golf courses in the valley than dairy farms. The dairy business has gone big, you can’t compete with a 100 cows anymore. The Kohler family runs the last surviving dairy—the secret of their success is innovation. They automated the dairy and switched to making artisan cheeses. The Beautiful Wife and I recently toured the dairy. Feed and water are brought to the cows’ open stall by an automated system. An automated scraper and washer removes the waste. The cows are given control of when they are milked, done at a robotic station. When the cow is ready to be milked she ambles to the station where she is identified by her tag. A dose of special food is delivered to a feeding trough to entertain the cow while her udders are automatically cleaned and connected to a milking device. A computer monitors the quality and quantity of the milk. When the process is completed the cow returns to her stall. Cows were traditionally milked two times a day; it turns out they prefer three. Who knew?

The Kohler Creamery converts the milk to cheese products, including their Wasatch Back Jack, Swiss Girl, and a variety of Cheddars including Snake Creek Sharp (named after the creek that runs through town). Snake Creek got its name from the thousands of rattlesnakes discovered by the first settlers. The story of how the town got rid of the rattlesnakes is as entertaining as the legend of St. Patrick in Ireland, a subject for a future column. It’s all about wisely adapting to changing times. There’s meaning in that.

Skip fell in love with Laguna on a ‘50s surfing trip. He’s a student of Laguna history and the author of “Loving Laguna: A Local’s Guide to Laguna Beach”. Email: [email protected]

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