The philosophers’ stone

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Contributing Editor Walt Pickut
Contributing Editor Walt Pickut

Riddle: How is Aristotle like Farmer Jones’s pure-bred Holstein cows?

Hints: It’s not their hairdos. And only one of them will produce 75 pounds of milk in a day.

Answer: The philosopher’s stone. That’s probably not obvious, so here’s the rest of the story.

The philosophers’ stone was a mythical object or substance able to turn lead into gold. It was also imagined to be an elixir of life that created health, immortality, and heavenly bliss.

Neither Aristotle nor the thousands of philosophers, sorcerers, and alchemists who followed him ever discovered the philosopher’s stone. And even today, you can’t buy it in any store, any catalog, or anywhere online.

And yet, there may be a way to get close to obtaining it. According to American singer and songwriter, Ivan Moody, “Every wish, every dream, every idea comes to existence only through blood, sweat, and sacrifice.”

That’s where our beautiful, black & white, 1,300-pound Holstein cow comes into the picture—she and the farmer who feeds and cares for her. They are the philosopher and the philosophers’ stone. But it’s not wizardry or alchemy. It’s hard work and love.

Cows are incredible animals. Well cared for, they turn things we simply can’t eat, like pasture grass, into wonderful things we can—like milk, ice cream, and a thousand kinds of cheese.

June is National Dairy Month. This week your Jamestown Gazette and Katelyn Walley-Stoll, Cornell Co-op’s Farm Business Management Specialist with the SWNY Dairy, Livestock, and Field Crops Program, invite all of our readers to thank a farmer and be amazed by a cow—and even go pet one if you can.

That shouldn’t be hard with nearly 700 dairy farms in our corner of New York State caring for 75,000 dairy cows. They’re hard to miss, yet too seldom thought of.

Dairy farming is not like any other job. It goes on all year, every day, regardless of holidays, rain or shine, sleet or snow. And cows never take a day off, not Thanksgiving, Christmas, Juneteenth, or Hanukkah. They also have to be fed and milked, two or three times on every one of those days. So dairy farmers don’t take many days off either. Their bovine philosophers’ stones can’t take care of themselves.

Then consider one more way that cows can turn lowly things into treasures. It’s the alchemy of their waste feeding the fields where they graze, the farmlands where our food grows, and even making electricity from the methane they make out of hay.

So, the answer to my riddle is that there really aren’t many ways that Aristotle is like Farmer Jones’s pure-bred Holstein cows, except maybe that for the last 2,400 years, Aristotle has given us plenty of food for thought.

If my turning of that lowly pun into encouragement worked for you this week, please help us celebrate National Dairy Month. Go thank a farmer and pet a cow—and it doesn’t even have to be a Holstein. Philosophers’ stones on the farm might be Jerseys, Brown Swiss, Guernseys, Ayrshire and more.

In the words of Dale Jones at Jones Dairy Inc., “We are passionate about what we do. We love our cows and are happy to produce a healthy wholesome product like milk!”

Read all about it in this week’s Jamestown Gazette.

And to continue our celebration of the lives and work of the people who make up Western New York, On page 1 of this week’s paper, the Jamestown Gazette invites our readers to celebrate Juneteenth with us on Saturday and Sunday, June 19 and 20, at Jackson-Taylor (formerly Chadakoin) Park.

The Juneteenth festival commemorates the official end of slavery in Texas. This family-friendly program will include music, food, fun and games. The place to be this weekend.

Enjoy the read.
Walt Pickut