Wednesday, October 08, 2008


The following is a part of a writing project I'm working on for my kids that I'm calling an ideal childhood.


One of my favorite coffee cups is one that is a one of a kind in our cupboard. It’s brown and smaller than most of the cups. On the side it says “MoorMan’s.” The cup was celebrating the 95th birthday of a company that provided feed and feed supplements to farmers.

On our farm my dad used MoorMan’s feed exclusively until I went off to college. He used it, my Grandpa Leininger used it, and so did a lot of other farmers. You could spot a MoorMan’s farm by its distinctive sign. Almost all the farms that used MoorMan’s were given a sign like this one. Some farms hung their sign in prominent places, ours never made it out of the old garage. My Grandpa’s was on the inside of his feed room door.

The MoorMan’s people were great at marketing their product with things for the house. Before I can remember John Deere coffee cups or dishes, MoorMan’s put their name on a coffee mug. They even made a wood cutting board that had a big pig on it. Their salespeople made sure to endear themselves to the kitchen as much to the feed room.

My dad always said that some people didn’t feed MoorMan’s because of the cost. He claimed that though it cost twice as much as other feed supplements you only had to feed about one fourth. Those cost differentials along with the changing scope of agriculture meant that this well known company was acquired by a larger company sometime in the late 1990’s and became part of Alliance Health, owned by Archer-Daniels Midland (ADM).

The MoorMan’s cup that I have cherished for many years came into my life as a boy. As the date says it was produced to celebrate 95 years of the company in 1980. One night our salesman came by and we had three cups. I suppose he brought four, but I can’t remember the precise number. I remember for the longest time there were three in the cupboard. When I left for college, we were down to two and I took them with me to Indiana Wesleyan.

The cup holds lots of memories and there are countless stories associated with the cup and the company.

The cup itself is a constant reminder of the warmth of our home, its physical warmth on cold and blustery days, and the warmth of the spirit in our home.

One fall day we were filling the silo with corn silage. It was after school and I remember being at the Brawly farm riding one of Jim Emen’s 4020’s with a full silage wagon headed for home. The ride was only two and a half miles, yet in the open air, no cab on this tractor and no windbreaker, the cold and slightly damp air cut through me. As soon as I got home I rushed to the house. I was looking for something warm to drink. My mom went to the cupboard and pulled out the hot chocolate pan. This was before we had a microwave oven. She poured milk into the pan, put it on the stove to heat it up. Then she added chocolate to it, poured it into the MoorMan’s cup and gave it to me.

I slipped my fingers around the cup and felt it warm my freezing digits. It was always a joy to sip hot cocoa from the MoorMan’s cups. The cup did have one drawback, its smaller size meant you couldn’t load it up with too many marshmallows.

The feed provided lots of other memories. We would get shipments on pallets that we’d place them in the old garage. There was never room to put in a car or truck, occasionally in winter the Bobcat would find its way into the garage. When the straight truck bearing the big MoorMan’s sign on the side pulled into the driveway, Brent, my brother, or I would go out to meet the driver and show him where the pallet of feed could be set. We enjoyed watching the stack come off the truck. After he had finished his task the driver would turn to us and hand us the bill. We’d carry the bill into the house so that it could be added to things to be paid. We felt like we carried some great responsibility as we carried the bill to the house.

MoorMan’s had feed supplements that came in pellet format, granules, and mineral blocks. We’d mix the pellets in with the feed that we gave to the cattle in the morning and evening. After the feed was in the bunk, we’d shake out the amount that dad had put in the bucket. Dad always determined the amount of pellets. Then we’d kick in the pellets with the feed. Today farmers try and achieve a total mix ration or a TMR. This was our attempt at TMR before big machinery came into general use.

The mineral blocks were always available for the cattle at the end of the feed bunk. The block was about a 9 or 10 inch cube block. They’d come wrapped in a plastic that we’d have to unwrap before we placed the block in the bunk. The cattle would lick the block down until it was finally gone. You should have seen the shapes that a mineral block took over the course of its life. It would have made a great piece of “cattle art.” The cattle would lick here and there, the patterns were as fantastic as the cloud patterns that can seldom be captured yet always are cause to marvel.

I don’t remember dad buying a salt block from MoorMan’s. He might have. But I think he bought that from a local feed store, either in Fayette, Pittsford, or Hillsdale. We’d have the salt block and the mineral block alongside one another at the end of the feed bunk. One of life’s little questions that a boy faces when he feeds all of these things to cattle is what does this stuff taste like? Why do the cattle like it so? How does it compare to our human fare. Let me assure you that the good things my mom put in the cup and used the cutting board for were far better than the taste of the mineral block or the pellets. The salt block was another matter. It did taste good, even after you knew it had been used by the cattle. The mineral block was gritty, the pellets made my lips pucker, but the salt block was worth a few licks now and then. I suppose I stopped that practice by the time I got into junior high.

With these memories and more I took a piece of my childhood with me to college. When fall comes, or a cold wet wind blows over my spirit, I recall that marvelous cold day met with the warmth of our house and my mom. I get out the MoorMan’s cup, fill it with something hot and I’m reminded of a house with a warm spirit, a mom full of compassion and love, and all is good. For good results, my parents fed MoorMan’s.


Zachariah said...

Do you remember the name of the salesman? Both my father and grandfather sold MoorMan's feed, and we had a small dairy farm in Gladwin.

I have similar memories of those mugs and the other promotional items we used to hand out. I wish I'd hung on to them, as the company is now part of ADM and those items are no longer available.


Duke said...


I do not remember the names of the salespeople, but my dad does. He gave me the name of two: Lou Stowell and Warren Thron. My dad said Warren Thorn was a regional rep with Moorman's for a long time.
I did check E-bay and sometimes some of Moormans stuff will show up for sale.

PS - you've got a great name.