For 64 consecutive years a bottle of milk has been handed to the winner of the Indianapolis 500, and Ft. Wayne, Indiana dairy farmer Andrew Kuehnert has the honor for the 103rd race Sunday afternoon. The avid race fan is thrilled to represent all dairy farmers in such a high-profile event.
“It’s all about the dairy farmers and dairy farmer image, and it’s amazing that the iconic trophy at the end of the race is that bottle of milk. All dairy farmers everywhere should be proud to be dairy farmers, and I get to represent not only the 900 dairy farms across the state of Indiana, but also every dairy farm across the country. It’s a big responsibility and I want to be sure our voice is heard, so I am so proud to be able to represent all dairy farmers across the world.”
Kuehnert is part of a 6-generation family dairy operation, and many of those family members are still involved.
“I have the honor of being the milkman, but that wouldn’t be possible without my family,” he said. “I mean we work there together and a lot of times there is four generations working on the farm at a time.”
NBC has the race television broadcast for the first time this year, and they recently spent time at the Kuehnert farm. Expect to see that trip featured on the pre-race coverage.
Last year Andrew was the rookie milkman handing milk to the winning car owner and crew chief. That responsibility this year goes to dairy farmer Jill Houin of Plymouth Indiana.
“I am super excited to represent the local dairy farmers in Indiana, the family farms that work so hard every day and have a tradition of working hard and caring about their animals,” she told HAT. “And then to carry that over into the tradition of the Indy 500 is such an opportunity.”
She married into the 4th generation dairy farm family and is one of the 14 family members caring for the dairy cows and helping them produce wholesome milk. When she met her future husband Brian in college, she had no idea what she was getting into.
“My husband was going to school for meteorology and Spanish and I went to school for teaching. And right before the wedding, his story is different, but right before the wedding he said he wanted to go back to the dairy farm. I was nervous and overwhelmed! However, it took me a little time and I got to see the passion he had and the hard work and the initiative that they have to keep those cows producing milk in the best way that they can, and then I just fell in love with it. So now I raise all of the calves, I give the tours, all of the social media, just to tell people how amazing dairy farmers are.”
Houin says those farm tours are a great opportunity to see what happens on a farm. Take a tour if you have a chance.
“The value of visiting a farm is giving you the opportunity to see what farmers do and if you don’t understand you ask questions,” she explained. “Farmers are passionate about what they do and they love to share their story, so let them have that opportunity and visit a farm. Whether it’s my farm or any other Indiana farm or around the world, if you have an opportunity to go to a farm, please visit because it’s amazing how hard family farms work every day.”
And if you’re looking for a great way to watch or listen to the end of the Indy 500, head milkman Kuehnert has an idea.
“I’d like to encourage everybody to drink milk. As the winning driving toasts victory and drinks that milk, go to your fridge. Get a glass of milk and toast in the festivities with the winning driver. Join in that fun!”
American Dairy Association, Indiana awards the bottle of milk and a $10,000 cash prize to the Indy 500 winner and $5,000 to the fastest rookie in the field each year. This year the fastest rookie is Colton Herta who was honored along with all the rookies at a luncheon Tuesday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
The milk tradition was launched in 1933 when the race’s first three-time winner Louis Meyer asked for a cold glass of buttermilk to quench his thirst in victory circle. Visit winnersdrinkmilk.com to see the milk choices of this year’s 33 drivers.