Why a 14-foot-tall Holstein statue is seen as an educational opportunity in Lake County
A gapers' delay Wednesday morning on Route 45 in Grayslake slowed traffic, but it wasn't an accident that had drivers staring.
Rather, a 14-foot-tall, 23-foot-long, 1,000-pound Fiberglas Holstein in front of the Lake County Farm Bureau office was the object of attention and more than a few photos.
Delivered Tuesday night and installed in a prominent spot Wednesday morning, the to-be-named dairy cow immediately had the intended effect.
"I wanted to go big," explained Greg Koeppen, farm bureau executive director. "We wanted to bring smiles to motorists' faces as they drove by."
Sightings also were posted on social media Tuesday night as the big girl was trucked from where she was "born" in Sparta, Wisconsin, to Grayslake.
"The vet told my mom I was the largest cow he ever delivered!" read a whimsical birth announcement posted Wednesday. As to her weight: "My mom ate lots of delicious Lake County corn and silage while she was pregnant."
The Holstein is regarded as an opportunity to engage and educate the public on an activity that nearly has disappeared in Lake County.
"We want people to give us a name and tell us why," said Koeppen.
He said he was inspired after seeing a similar model of a dairy cow while visiting Door County about 20 years ago.
"I always envisioned something like this here," he said.
Koeppen introduced the concept about 18 months ago.
"The farm bureau (board) saw this as a great educational opportunity for the community," he added.
In 1910, 291,000 acres in Lake County were farmed. Dairy farms once thrived, and Lake County was known for its genetics and breeding, Koeppen said.
Today, about 30,000 acres are farmed. Dairy farming was all but extinguished with the closing in 2014 of the Diebold farm in Fremont Township. Only Golden Oaks Farm in Wauconda with 720 milk cows remains.
The $30,000 expense of the black and white Holstein model mostly was covered by Golden Oaks and the farm bureau, Koeppen said.
"The terminology and understanding of farm animals and (dairy) culture becomes less and less, that's why we hope she'll help tell the story," Koeppen said of the new arrival.
Plans are to add signs with the hope that people will be drawn to stop and learn. Photos with the hashtag #lcfbcow are encouraged.
"We want the public to come and welcome her," Koeppen said.
She'll also contribute to the bureau's Agriculture in the Classroom program, Koeppen said.