Indianapolis 500 drivers know that the best way to celebrate a victory and refuel after a grueling race isn’t by popping some champagne, but by taking a swig of ice cold milk.
But how does that milk wind up in the winning driver’s hands?
Every year, an Indiana dairy farmer is chosen to be the Milkman–the farmer who hands the famous Bottle of Milk to the winning driver. Also every year, the Rookie Milkman is “in training” to be the Milkman next year.
This year, the Milkman is Ken Hoeing, a dairy farmer from Rushville, Indiana. Ken lives and works on the dairy farm his grandparents established in 1947. He and four of his brothers take care of 400 dairy cows and raise crops on 3,000 acres.
Ken and his wife, Denise, have two children, Kim and Chris.
Ken is a true dairy farmer at heart–his favorite part of his job is working with the cows. A typical day for Ken begins before sunup and ends after sundown, but Ken says he can’t imagine any other life.
Taking a look around the beautiful farmhouse where the Hoeings live (it’s the house where Ken grew up and was built by his grandfather), you can’t help but notice that easily three-quarters of the decor is dairy-themed. Cow pictures adorn the walls (as well as picture from Victory Circle last year showing Ken and then-Milkman Duane Hill with winning driver Tony Kanaan) and numerous old-fashioned glass milk bottles grace end tables and shelves. From the driveway, you can see calves relaxing in the spring sun and some pastures for the cows are just behind the house. Like most Indiana farmers, Ken lives on the same land he and his family have farmed for generations.
This year’s Rookie Milkman is Alan Wright. Alan and his father and brothers have a dairy farm near Muncie, Indiana called All Wright Farms. You can catch up with Alan on Twitter by following @AllWrightFarms.
Alan said that a family member has been at every single milking (over 29,000 milkings since the farm began four generations ago!) except for one day when a Wright brother got married out of town. The family woke up, completed the morning milking, and drove to the wedding. Some helpful neighbors milked in the afternoon, but the Wrights were back on the farm in time to wake up for the next morning’s 3 a.m. milking. If that doesn’t impress you, I don’t know what will.
Alan and his family milk 220 cows, including a few favorite “pet” cows that his daughters showed in 4-H while they were growing up. Alan and his wife, Renee, take animal care so seriously that when we stopped by their house to shoot some video of their farm, they had a baby goat inside the house for bottle feeding!