DROTTNINGHOLM, Sweden – Despite a cold wind and chilling temperatures, spring has come to Sweden. At least, spring for the milk cows.
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In an annual event that warms hearts across the country, "koslapp" (KOOH-slep) — the cow release — has become a popular family outing for urban residents. That's when the farmers of Sweden free their cows from the barns and stables where they have spent the long, dark, cold winter.
Dozens of dairy cows were frolicking and jumping Saturday on the outskirts of Stockholm, the capital.
"I live in the city and it's really nice to come out to the countryside," said 37-year-old Linda Lundberg from Stockholm who attended the event with her friends. "It's fun to celebrate spring together with the cows."
In recent years, milk farms across Sweden have seen a growing number of people attending what used to be simply a big day for Sweden's agricultural community. Last year, alone, dairy cooperative Arla Foods saw around 165,000 people flock to their farms across the Scandinavian country to watch the cows, frisky with excitement, race out into the sun and the lush summer pastures.
"We make a lot of people happy, both families and children," explained Elin Rydstrom, 37, who has spent the past week preparing to welcome about 1,000 people at her small organic farm in Drottningholm. She's noticed a real shift in people's attitude toward farmers.
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"When I was little, people would tease me at school and say 'You smell like cows,'" she recalled. Now her children's classmates come to the farm "and everyone thinks it's really nice."
Media-savvy farmers are now turning to social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat to change the perception of their profession and to encourage people to reflect on where their food comes from.
"Snapchat allows me to bring the farm to the city," explained 28-year-old dairy farmer Anna Pettersson. She posts farm-life photos on social media and answers questions from users, including about animal welfare, food production and the length of her working hours.
Pettersson told The Associated Press that she hoped social media will encourage people to better understand what they consume and the need to pay for quality produce.
A mere 30 minutes after their release, the cows were settling into their new environment while groups of people elsewhere on the farm were searching for the best picnic spot.
"It's something special to have a farm and to be able to do this," Rydstrom said. "To show the importance of quality food and being out in nature."
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