Rose stands up for Farmland Preservation

Published 2:26 pm Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Editor&squo;s Note: The following was submitted by the Polk County Agriculture Advisory Board in support of farmland preservation. Polk County has called for a referendum this November on a proposed increase in the land transfer tax to support farmland preservation. Current county commissioners have pledged to use the tax, which applies to all property sales, for farmland preservation, although the county cannot permanently designate funds from the tax for a specific purpose.

Poster girls are most often leggy, blonde types, who get noticed while draped over the hood of a fast car or posing on Hollywood&squo;s red carpet.

Polk County has its own poster girl now, and though she&squo;s more at home in a pasture, her picture is attracting attention at local tailgate markets, Calvert&squo;s Restaurant, and Green Creek Farm Supply. This beauty&squo;s name is Rose, and she is definitely leggy ‐ four of them, in fact ‐ but she&squo;s more brown and white than blonde, and she also gives milk.

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Polk County&squo;s poster girl is a gorgeous Guernsey cow, and she&squo;s the subject of a &dquo;Save Our Farmland&dquo; stand-up poster, displayed recently at these popular locations. What people may not realize about this poster girl is that Rose is a real, working dairy cow and a long-time resident of Polk County.

Rose first came to Polk County as a child&squo;s calf-raising project when she was just a few days old. By age three, however, her special talents earned her a job at Harmon&squo;s Dairy Farm in Green Creek, where she has lived for the past 15 years. Once on the job, Rose quickly became one of this county&squo;s most productive residents. Dairy cows usually produce milk for only 7-8 years, but Rose, who is an exceptional cow in every respect, continues giving milk today.

Rose&squo;s world is a wide pasture of green, rolling hills, spreading shade trees, and the Blue Ridge Mountains framing her horizon. At age 18, she is the &dquo;Grand Lady&dquo; of Harmon&squo;s Dairy, but she keeps her busy work schedule and seems to take her growing celebrity in stride. She graciously consented to an interview one evening while waiting with the herd for milking to begin.

Q: Rose, how did you get into the dairy business?

I&squo;d have to say, it came naturally to me. I started out as a child&squo;s project, but once I began producing milk, it turned out that I was rather good at it. The Harmon family gave me my chance here on this farm, and the rest is history, as they say.

Q: Do you know how much milk you&squo;ve produced over the years?

Well, at five to six gallons each day, I suppose I&squo;ve produced more than 25,000 gallons during my career. I&squo;m rather proud of that. I&squo;ve never missed a day of work during my milk seasons.

Q: What happens to your milk, Rose?

Well, the Harmons send it to Asheville to be bottled, and then it goes to children all over Western North Carolina, so they can drink it or eat it on their cereal and be healthy.

Q: Is your family in the dairy business?

Why, yes, I have raised more than a dozen calves here in Polk County. I am proud of all my children, but I am happy to say that several of my daughters, granddaughters, and great-granddaughters live right here at Harmon&squo;s Dairy, and they are good dairy cows too. I am concerned about our family business though. I am getting older, and I worry about whether my descendents will always have a place to live and work.

Q: That leads to my next question. Why did you pose for the Farmland Preservation poster?

I posed for that picture to support the Farmland Preservation program and to encourage people to vote for the Polk County Land Transfer Tax. Farmland preservation helps ensure that there will be farms here in the future. Our farmland is disappearing as it is being used for other purposes. You know when the Harmon family started this dairy, back in the 40&squo;s, there were about 40 small farms selling milk. Now there are only three. I want to know that there will be places for cows to live and work and where human children can see farm life and learn about dairy cows. You&squo;d be surprised, but some grown people do not even know that milk comes from cows long before it gets to the grocery store.

We need farms to supply milk; to grow grains for feed; grass for pasture and hay; and to grow fruits and vegetables for people. Farmers also have to have to have a place where they can make a living. You know we all need each other. Without farmers, we cows would have a tough time getting our milk to market, and people would have no one to grow fresh, local food for them. So, I&squo;m happy to help in any way I can if it means preserving our farms and forests.

Q: Why is the land-transfer tax important?

It&squo;s important because it will help us preserve farms. In the future, when someone buys a piece of property in Polk County, they will pay a land-transfer tax. Our county commissioners have promised that the money will go to farmland preservation. This program will raise money to buy land development rights for farms and forests. That means when the land is sold to a new person or family, it will have to remain as agricultural land or as a forest.

I like that. It means a farm like ours can stay a farm and not be developed for something else. You know, the Harmon dairy cows produce about one million gallons of milk each year. If our farm disappeared, where would all the cows go? Where would the milk come from?

Q: For such an important cow, you seem to be very approachable.

Thank you. You know I have been given many wonderful opportunities to meet the people of Polk County. I&squo;ve visited the children at Polk Central School several times, and Mr. Chauncey Barber has brought his agriculture students from Polk County High School out to meet me. I&squo;m proud to say that I have attended the Green Creek Heritage Festival every year it has been in existence. Well, every year except one. Mr. Harmon took my daughter Rosebud one year, just to give her an opportunity. Unfortunately, she misbehaved, and I have been going ever since. I&squo;m looking forward to this year&squo;s festival too. I like meeting people.

Q: Why do you make these appearances? Very few cows would stand still for strangers to come up to them?

Well, you know, a dairy cow has few opportunities to get out in the world ‐ milk production is such a full-time job. But I see it as a great educational opportunity for children and their families to learn about cows and farming, and especially about dairy farming. So I stand real still and let them try to milk me. It can be very amusing.

Q: You seem very dedicated. Don&squo;t you have any bad habits?

You know I wouldn&squo;t want to tell on myself, but Beau, our dog, does give me a nip when I don&squo;t hurry to the barn fast enough. And I do like to eat ‐ I always try to sneak just one more bite of feed from the trough when my milking time is finished.

Q: Rose, what are your hopes for the future?

Well, I have been wondering if I might get called for one of those &dquo;Got Milk&dquo; ads. But what I really hope is that people will vote for the land-transfer tax to support farmland preservation. I hope to protect the rural character of our county and to preserve our agricultural heritage. I think that&squo;s something I share with most residents. This farm is the only life I&squo;ve ever known. It&squo;s a good life, and my family and I wouldn&squo;t want to live anywhere else.

Q: How can people learn more about you and Farmland Preservation?

People can visit me online and see more pictures of our farm on my site at I also have e-mail:; I don&squo;t type very well, but I do try to answer my fan mail personally. To learn more about farmland preservation and the land transfer tax, please visit the Polk County Farmland Preservation website at

Thanks, Rose. We will look forward to seeing you again at the Green Creek Heritage Festival on September 6 and at Columbus Day on October 11.

‐ the Polk County

Agriculture Advisory Board