Mother-daughter duo a fixture at Calgary Stampede’s Aggie Days

woman with cows
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Danielle Lee hasn’t missed a Calgary Stampede’s Aggie Days yet.

Her mom, Debbie Lee, brought her newborn daughter — along with some Jersey calves — to the very first Aggie Days 30 years ago. Debbie also led the cow-milking demonstrations, which both Lee women still do today.

What’s changed is the kind of questions that visitors ask.

“When we started Aggie Days, people were maybe one or two generations removed from the farm,” said Debbie. “Now, they’re two or three generations, and many don’t understand the connection between the farms and food in the grocery store.”

woman with cow
Debbie Lee photo: Kim Taylor

“The kids mostly just want to know about what they eat, how you milk the cows, why they’re skinnier than other cows,” added Danielle. “But we also get the chance to clear up some myths about things like hormones in milk. Many people don’t know there are no hormones in milk in Canada.”

Operating a mixed livestock and hay farm near Springbank, the Lee family lives agriculture every day, and understands that very few people have the same level of exposure to food production.

Aggie Days strives to bridge that gap with interactive displays in everything from cow milking to meeting live animals and learning about how crops grow. Geared toward schools and families, the event brings agriculture to children who may not have other opportunities to experience it in the city, said Debbie.

Debbie and Danielle have led the cow-milking demonstration at Aggie Days and Ag-tivity for many years. Twelve years ago, they acquired a plastic Holstein hand-milking cow they named Bluebell, a tribute to the late Jersey cow that the Lees brought to many Aggie Days events in the past.

Of course, Aggie Days has also seen many changes, and both Lee women agree the greatest one is its size. Debbie remembers being excited that 400 people attended the first time the show was extend to the weekend — it now welcomes 30,000 to 40,000 people over two days.

One thing that has not changed is the dedication of the Lee family and the cause of educating people about where their food comes from.

“I think we look forward to this as much as the kids do,” said Danielle, who has been booking the week of Aggie Days off school or work her entire life, even once deferring her exams at the University of Alberta for the event.

When asked to look ahead to the next 30 years of the event, Debbie said there’s nowhere to go but up.

“Aggie Days will always have a purpose, because people will always want to know where their food comes from. They just want the right information from the right people.”

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