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Kerry Estes goes from 'rookie' to 'veteran' Milk Man

The Estes farm in Shelby County is made up of mom, dad, four kids and about 150 dairy cows.

FOUNTAINTOWN, Ind. — As the sun rises over Shelby County, so does the Estes family at their dairy farm just south of New Palestine.

The farm is home to mom and dad, four kids, and about 150 dairy cows.

"Being a team here, working together," said high schooler Kylee Estes, "that is what this is all based around."

Estes Farm and Dairy also cares for about 100 calves.

"We mix the grain day and night, so they have fresh grain," said youngest sibling Jason Estes. "We put it in the feeders, so they can have access to it day and night."

The calf barn is Jason's favorite spot on the farm, he says.

"They are so high energy," said Jason. "They're always just go, go, go."

Leading the farm is father and co-founder Kerry Estes. This year, Kerry is also known as the 2023 Veteran Milk Man at the Indianapolis 500, representing the American Dairy Association.

"He works so hard on our operation pretty well unseen," said Kerry's wife, Christiana Estes, "and here he gets to be showcase at the Indy 500 as the Milk Man. I am so excited for him."

"It is such an honor," said Kerry. "It really is."

Kerry, however, is no stranger in Victory Circle. In 2022, he served as the Rookie Milk Man, delivering a bottle of milk to the winning team owner and chief mechanic.

"This year, it's a little easier," said Kerry. "It's like, 'find the guy standing in the car with the wreath around his neck. Give him the milk.'"

The milk making its way to Victory Circle starts at Estes Farm and Dairy, where the oldest child, Damon Estes, now works.

"I'm going to be letting all these cows up to the parlor for milking time," said Damon. "They get so excited. We don't have to remind them that it's time for milking. They know."

Inside the parlor is where the Estes family takes turns milking the cows.

"Twice a day, every day," said Christiana.

The flow on the parlor floor is more like a dance, rivaling even the best crews on pit row.

"We race down here to get our jobs done," said Christiana.

It all started in 1999, when Kerry and Christiana bought the farm in Fountaintown.

"This was my vision," said Kerry. "This is what I just dreamed of."

Kerry says it was a dream to watch his family grow and learn together.

"The reason we're here is because my parents wanted to spend time with us," said daughter, Laura Estes, "and wanted to get to know us in that really special way. Every time we are here, it's just a little reminder of, 'Wow, we are so loved. We are so cared for,' and that's been really neat."

"It is one of the greatest joys of my life," said Christiana. "It really is."

"Here, we get to work with each other every single day," said Kylee. "It really teaches you hard work and responsibility."

The Estes kids range in age from 15 to 21 years old, but Kerry says even when the day starts before the sun comes up, the kids don't complain.

"Our day is crazy," said Kerry. "We get here early in the morning, and we start as a family."

"The amount of care, time, purpose and intention that it takes to run a farm is something that people overlook," said Laura. "We genuinely care about our animals, and I think that's something that people just don't think about."

Kerry says he knows, as the Veteran Milk Man, he represents all dairy farmers, near and far.

"It just blows my mind that I get to do something like this," said Kerry. "I understand I am just a small piece in a long line of history, but it's an important piece."

 "Oh, so proud," said Laura. "It is so cool getting to see him in the spotlight, especially because he was the brains of this operation and set it all up. So it's really neat that he gets that moment to get honored and celebrated."

"It's really cool to be representing all of the dairy farms in Indiana," said Jason. "Not just in Indiana, but the whole country."

The Estes family says they are thankful for a decades-old decision over in the Racing Capital of the World.

"Milk is going to be the tradition," said Kerry.

"It's really neat," said Laura, "where milk and dairy farmers are put in the spotlight. It's really touching."

On Sunday, the ice-cold tradition continues in Victory Circle.

"When that milk is running down the inside of their suit," said Kerry, "we want them to feel it."

That's because, in Indiana, winners drink milk.

"I love the farm," said Kerry. "I love the cows, but I love the family 10-times more than all those."

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