Tyler and Austin Beck smile together while in front of Beck Farms

Tyler (left) and Austin on the farm. (Melissa Newcomb / Cornell University)

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On Roku’s ‘Dairy Diaries,’ the CALS alums teach comedian Vanessa Bayer how to milk, drive a tractor, grow feed, and much more

By Melissa Newcomb

Brothers Tyler Beck ’14 and Austin Beck ’18 grew up playing with toy tractors on their living room floor. Now, the two CALS animal science alums run their family’s Upstate New York dairy farm—and it’s being featured in a new TV series.

Streaming for free on the Roku Channel, “Dairy Diaries” follows former “Saturday Night Live” star Vanessa Bayer around the brothers’ operation as she spends a week learning what it takes to produce milk, from cow to glass.

Vanessa Bayer at Beck Farms with a cow behind her.
Bayer—suited up in farm-friendly togs—chats with Tyler. (Provided)

“I enjoy dairy so much, but I don’t really know how it gets from the farm to me, so I’m excited to get my hands dirty this week,” Bayer tells the brothers on arrival.

“And by ‘get my hands dirty,’ I mean not do any kind of heavy lifting, or touch too much gross stuff—but I would love to just get in there. And by ‘get in there,’ I mean just walk around and wear a big coat … but also learn about the process and such.”

Replies Austin: “We’re more hands-on learners, so we’ll show you the manure. It will be good for you.”

Sponsored by the dairy industry and shot over the course of a week in November 2023, the show comprises five episodes that are roughly 10 minutes each. In choosing a location for filming, the producers considered more than 80 hopefuls.

Dozens of cows in their barn at Beck Farms
A small portion of the Becks' herd, at feeding time.

“When we applied, we thought, 'There are so many farms, there’s no way they would choose us,’” Tyler recalls. “But eventually, we had a 50-person production team from Hollywood on our farm—and some of them had never even seen a cow.” 

The show chronicles the Becks’ efforts to teach Bayer—who’s known for her cheery, wide-eyed, somewhat goofy persona—how to milk, drive a tractor, grow feed such as hay and corn, and more.

“There are so many steps that go into dairy farming,” Bayer observes at one point, “and let me tell you this: they don’t smell good.”

We had a 50-person production team from Hollywood on our farm—and some of them had never even seen a cow.

Tyler Beck ’14

In one episode, Bayer even heads to the Hill to learn about sustainability from CALS’ Joe McFadden ’03, an associate professor of dairy cattle biology—who, among other lessons, teaches Bayer that 95% of cows’ methane gas emissions comes via belching (as opposed to, er, the other end).

“So, two major challenges,” McFadden says on the show. “We have to make sure that we supply an adequate amount of dairy … as the world grows in population. But at the same time, we have to be very aware of the impacts it may have on our environment.”

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Beck Farms is located in Freeville, about 10 miles northeast of Ithaca. It has some 3,500 cows—including 2,000 in its active milking operation—on 3,800 acres. 

The Becks’ primary business is producing raw milk that’s powdered for eventual use in a variety of consumer products, with clients including Chobani and Nestlé. 

The farm has a rich history, one that’s perfect for TV: it has been owned and operated by four generations of the same family. 

The Beck family stands in front of a sign on the farm
The brothers with their grandparents. (Provided)

And in fact, there are Cornellians in each of those generations. 

In addition to Tyler and Austin, their father (Russell Beck ’85), grandfather (Ronald Beck ’61), and great-grandfather (Martin Beck 1920) are CALS alums—and their diplomas are displayed together on one wall.

In the final episode of “Dairy Diaries,” Bayer and the brothers gather at their grandparents’ house to talk about how the farm has evolved throughout the decades.

Among the innovations that the show spotlights: a system that monitors each cow’s health through a small device, affixed to one ear, that tracks their food consumption, digestion, and movement.

A young cow sits in hay
Calves live in a nursery until they're big enough to move to the cow barns.

Bayer even takes one of the devices—nicknamed “cow Fitbits” after the human activity trackers—for a test drive, running around while wearing it.

(She also, at a different point, sings to the bovines.)

“We did the show because it’s important for us to do our part to bridge the gap between consumers and farmers,” Austin says, noting that he hopes “Dairy Diaries” will counter some of the negative PR generated by activists who oppose the milk-production industry.

“Other generations didn’t always prioritize telling their story—but we wanted to have the opportunity to educate and give people a different perspective.”

It's important to us to do our part to bridge the gap between consumers and farmers.

Austin Beck ’18

And while Bayer and her crew got an education about dairy farming, the Becks also learned a bit about how TV shows are made.

“We ‘authentically’ met Vanessa during the first scene,” Tyler says, throwing up air quotes. “Then we immediately shot that introduction scene another six times. You have to work 10 hours a day to make a few minutes of video.” 

Top: Tyler (left) and Austin on the farm. (All photos by Melissa Newcomb / Cornell University, unless indicated.)

Published June 5, 2024


  1. Cory Gotham, Class of 1998

    A week does not give you a full picture of what a farmer does throughout the year to produce the milk that you enjoy. You will miss some of the blood sweat and tears that go into it and all the knowledge that is required to produce Milk. Unfortunately most people don’t even have any idea what it take’s Today and hopefully this show will show a little bit of that to them.

  2. Carol Wiley Bossard, Class of 1964

    This is good PR for farmers of all kinds, and I hope they do more of this for all kinds of farms.

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