Bovine Heritage Goes Beyond Beef

When you think of cattle in the Santa Maria Valley, it’s hard not to think about Santa Maria Style BBQ!

But a new book published by a valley native celebrates another local bovine industry: dairy cows.

The Purple Cow: A Dairy Daughter’s Heritage

The Purple Cow: A Dairy Daughter’s Heritage is a compilation of family stories gathered and retold by Laura Lee Tognazzini Dias, a direct descendent of one of the region’s earliest dairy pioneers and the daughter of a Guadalupe dairyman. Published by Janaway Publishing, Inc., the book’s 244-pages tell the story of the local industry’s historic course, as well as lighthearted anecdotes related to more than 80 dairies and creameries that were once located in Guadalupe, Lompoc, Los Alamos, Santa Maria, Sisquoc, Oso Flaco and Nipomo. It also includes a scrapbook-style collection of dairy photographs, recipes, songs and more.

The book’s foreward, written by Santa Maria Valley historian Shirley Contreras, sets the table for the story, explaining that many of the early Central Coast dairymen were young Europeans who came to California in the mid-1800s seeking new opportunities. While the majority of them were Italian-Swiss dairymen from the Canton Ticino region in Switzerland, the book also tells the stories of American, Portuguese, English and Danish dairymen who played a part in the industry. Most of the descendants of these pioneers eventually quit the business by 1986 because the cost of transporting milk to production plants had become cost prohibitive. The DeBernardi Brothers, the last dairy family in Santa Maria Valley, closed shop in 2005.

The Purple Cow: A Dairy Daughter’s Heritage is available in soft cover only for $38 (includes shipping). It is available exclusively through the Santa Maria Historical Society Museum.