The tradition of an Indiana dairy farmer handing a bottle of ice-cold milk to the winning driver of the Indianapolis 500 continues this year with Milk Man Andrew Kuehnert. Also serving is the Rookie Milk Woman, Jill Houin, who will award bottles of milk to the winning car owner and chief mechanic–and train for his big moment next year. Let’s meet our 2019 Milk People.
Andrew Kuehnert grew up on his family’s sixth generation dairy farm in Fort Wayne, Indiana. There are four generations still involved in the farm today, from Andrew’s grandfather to the youngest member—Andrew and his wife Brittany’s daughter Kennedy. It is a true family operation including his brother Nathan and wife Sarah, their daughters Briar and Allie, parents Alan and Cindy, and his Uncle Stan. Andrew also works off farm as a cattle nutritionist, creating scientifically formulated diets for dairy cows around the area. At home, Andrew brings his nutrition skills to his family’s farm to make sure each cow is staying healthy and well-fed. Kuehnert Dairy Farm has four robotic milking machines that allow cows to “milk themselves” whenever they would like. This doesn’t mean that the work is done, though! Each family member still works hard to ensure the cows have everything they need. Andrew is also passionate about creating great food for people, too, and serves up his award-winning grilled cheese sandwich, the Mousetrap, at the Kuehnert Dairy Farm Fall Festival each October.
What does it mean to you to represent all other dairy farmers on race day?
I couldn’t be prouder to represent all the family dairy farms across the state and country. I love being able to relate how hard they work to make milk daily to the public. To showcase that dedication and to be a part of Indy 500 tradition is truly and honor. It makes me proud to be dairy farmer!
What are your earliest memories of race?
As a little kid, I remember my parents taking us to watch the race. When you’re at the track, you can literally feel the tradition! The race brings such a following to the state, and being a Hoosier, you really grow up with that passion for the race. As a dairy farmer, that tradition of milk in Victory Circle makes me feel like part of the race every year.
Born in New Jersey and never having been on a farm, it was a culture shock when Jill married a dairy farmer named Brian Houin in 2004. Learning to adapt to the country lifestyle, she retired from teaching in 2016 and has become the calf manager at Homestead Dairy, in Plymouth, IN. Homestead Dairy is a 4th generation farm that milks 4800 cows on 3 different farms, all with unique systems for the cows. They use both traditional milking and robotic milking practices to create the best environment for their animals. Jill manages the calves, social media channels, Homestead Dairy’s website, and gives all farm tours to groups around the state, country and world. They also participate in virtual farm tours, allowing people that can’t travel to the farm to have a first-hand experience with them. Having no background in agriculture or dairy, Jill has a passion for teaching consumers about the dairy industry and the way farmers care for their animals and for the environment.
Have you received any advice from Andrew or past milk people?
They’ve all been so helpful at preparing me for the day and telling me to embrace and enjoy every minute of it! It’s such a unique experience to represent our Hoosier dairy farmers and handing that winner the amazing, nutritious glass of milk.
What are you most looking forward to this year?
Seeing milk as such a prized trophy in Victory Circle is going to be so cool! Knowing that it started at a local dairy family farm that had the passion to care for the animals. Then to see it be presented as a trophy less than 48 hours later, along with the excitement of the winner to receive it, is just going to be awesome!