Tag Archives: farm tours

Funny Questions, Serious Impacts on Dairy Tours

Fresh off of the school bus, wide-eyed youngsters set foot on a dairy farm for the very first time. They’re taking in all of the sights, and yes, the smells.

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The farmer welcomes the students to her dairy and asks, “Do you know where milk comes from?

”Their most common answer? “The grocery store!”

This response shouldn’t come as a surprise when you consider that 98% of the U.S. population are generations removed from the farm. Tours are an excellent way to better inform and educate students about something that directly affects them and their families every day: where their food comes from.

“Most of the kids have never been on a farm. They have never seen farm animals in person,” said Melissa Collman, a dairy farmer in Boring, Oregon. “And even though our dairy isn’t very far away, we are miles apart as far as what they have experienced in life.”

As you might imagine, dairy farm tours can also be a source of humor, so we asked several Oregon dairy farmers and tour guides to tell us about some of the funny things they’ve heard or experienced while leading a tour.

JAMIE BANSEN, FOREST GLEN JERSEYS

Jamie and her dog, Olive, recently hosted a large group including students who had never set foot on a farm, let alone a dairy farm. Like a quick draw in the Old West, these middle schoolers quickly reached for their smartphones to snap photos and video along the way.

Students were amazed that manure is beneficial as a source of energy, bedding and fertilizer. “So wait, cow poop can make electricity and be sold for money?” a student asked. His serious question quickly devolved into laughter as a cow demonstrated the first step of that process.

After one of the girls expressed surprise about how quiet and happy the cows seemed, she decided, “I don’t want to go back to school. I want to pet cows all day.”

STACY FOSTER, RICKREALL DAIRY

“They love to tell me stories about their mom’s, cousin’s, friend’s cow that they saw once,” said Stacy.

Kids have told her they want to live at her dairy and become a farmer. They also want to bring calves home … until they’re reminded that they soon turn in to large cows.

“Some are amazed that we only have cows on our farm, since the only other farmer they know is Old McDonald,” she said. When the kids ask to see the other animals, like chickens, her answer makes the parent chaperones laugh. “Those animals don’t like to be milked, so they live on a different farm.”

CASEY SCHOCH, SCHOCH DAIRY AND CREAMERY

“On one of our tours, a little boy told me a cow joke,” said Casey. “What do you call a cow that has had her baby? De-calf-inated!

”Many of the kids ask to see the brown cows that make the chocolate milk, she said, but followed that it isn’t just the kids who ask funny questions.

“I actually had a mom ask me in all seriousness why we don’t milk the bulls,” said Casey, “I then tried to explain that similar to human females, only female cows have the correct parts for producing milk.”

MELISSA COLLMAN, CLOUD CAP DAIRY

Beyond the innocent and funny questions like whether boy cows make milk, Melissa expressed concern that students often echo some bizarre myths about dairy farming spread on social media and blog posts.

A student approached Melissa on a tour about rumors he heard about strange ingredients in milk. “So I milked a cow in front of this little boy, and he got to see for himself,” she said. “He was shocked.”

“It’s really important that we as farmers help educate consumers and future generations,” she said. “The funny questions and comments I hear on farm tours just reaffirm that any time we spend with the kids is time well spent.”

Catch a glimpse of some children discovering a dairy farm for the very first time in the video below.

 

USDA International Agricultural Trade Officers Tour Oregon Agriculture

On the 21st of August, individuals from all over the world, including Asia, Europe and South America stopped in Tillamook to tour a dairy and the Tillamook Creamery.

It was just one stop on a tour of Oregon’s diverse agriculture as twenty-one locally employed staff supporting the USDA’s Agricultural Trade Offices at American embassies and consulates traveled the Oregon coast.

Their first stop on this week-long tour of American export opportunities was in Washington DC for tours, trainings, and meetings with the USDA. On Saturday they flew from Washington DC to Oregon. And Sunday, they began exploring everything Oregon grown, from pears to blueberries, barley and hazelnuts, to seafood and dairy.

“Dairy is such an important part of Oregon agriculture, and it’s such a longstanding tradition for this state,” said David Lane, Agricultural Development and Marketing Manager for ODA. “It’s important that we connect the world to Oregon’s dairy industry. So to get this group onto a dairy and into a creamery helps create that connection.”

At Oldenkamp Farms, tour guests were able to see robotic milking and automated feeding in action. The Lely feeding system is one of only four of its kind currently in the U.S., affectionately named by the Oldenkamp Family after Dr. Seuss’ “Thing 1 and Thing 2”.

After a visit with the cows and farm family that produce some of the milk for Tillamook cheese, the group of internationals continued on to the Tillamook Creamery Visitor’s Center for a self-guided tour and lunch. “This is the best cheese I have ever tasted,” said Annie Qiao, Marketing Specialist for the Agricultural Trade Office in Shanghai. Annie explained that current trends in Shanghai for exports are focused on American foods for ingredients in Chinese meals.

“For those companies that are interested and ready [to export], the world is open for American products. And the world is really open for Oregon products” said Lane.

Stacy Foster from the Oregon Dairy and Nutrition Council helped to organize the dairy portion of their tour. “It was a privilege to meet so many people from around the world that were not just passionate about American products, but specifically the products we offer here in Oregon. I hope we made a lasting impression.”

Stacy Foster Selected to Manage Oregon Dairy Industry Relations

With more than a decade of experience leading farm tours for thousands of students, teachers and parents at a nationally recognized Oregon dairy, Stacy Foster knows a thing or two about dairy farming. That background will serve her well as the new Industry Relations and Communications Manager for the Oregon Dairy and Nutrition Council.

In this position, Foster will serve as the primary liaison with Oregon’s dairy industry and affiliated agricultural organizations. Working with Oregon’s dairy farm families, industry leaders and others, she will promote the growth and advancement of the dairy industry in the state and surrounding region. Foster succeeds Melinda Petersen, who joined Dairy West in Meridian, Idaho, as Producer and Community Relations Manager.

Foster was selected through a competitive recruitment process. In addition to possessing a strong dairy background, she has a degree in communications from Corban University and is an experienced homeschool instructor. She created the tour program for Rickreall Dairy from the ground up and recently began offering fall tours in addition to her spring visits.

“After leading farm tours for the past 10 years, I have discovered a passion for Oregon’s dairy industry and the families that make this community thrive,” said Foster. “I look forward to working together to continue building on positive messages about dairy farming and its products.”

Foster was recently honored by the Oregon Department of Agriculture as a recipient of the Farm to School Award. The award recognizes individuals and organizations that go ‘above and beyond to strengthen the relationship between kids, schools and food that’s being locally produced.’ Amy Gilroy, Farm to School Manager, presented the award to Foster on the steps of the Oregon State Capitol at a public event called Oregon’s Bounty in October. Earlier this year, Rickreall Dairy also won the U.S. Dairy Sustainability Award.

“We are very excited to have Stacy working for dairy in Oregon,” said Pete Kent, Executive Director for the Oregon Dairy and Nutrition Council. “She brings a strong skill set to the table and possesses a vision and commitment to serve Oregon’s dairy farm families.”

Adopt a Farmer Program Includes Oregon Dairies

Each year, Oregon dairy farmers participate in a program called Adopt a Farmer through Oregon Aglink to help promote agriculture through educating middle school students. Five Oregon dairy farm families are currently participating in this year’s program giving students the opportunity to experience a dairy farm firsthand.

The five dairies include:

  • Harrold’s Dairy in Creswell
  • Cloud Cap Farms in Boring
  • Mayfield Dairy in Aurora
  • Veeman’s Dairy in St. Paul
  • Willamette Valley Cheese in Salem

In addition to offering tours of their farms, these dairy farmers visit their adoptive classroom two to three times throughout the school year to engage students in the science behind farming. They participate in activities related to soil, water, conservation, irrigation, genetics, the farm-to-table continuum and economics.

Learn more about one of Oregon’s dairy farmers, Melissa Collman of Cloud Cap Farms and her participation in the program.

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RELATED LINKS:

Adopt a Farmer

Dairy Meets Classroom: Melissa Collman of Cloud Cap Farms

Cloud Cap Dairy, Boring, OR

Cloud Cap Dairy on Facebook

Cloud Cap Dairy on Twitter

Cloud Cap Dairy on Instagram

What I Learned on My First Visit to a Dairy Farm

by Lindsay LeBrun, Graduate Student in Clinical Nutrition, Oregon Health & Science University

Lindsay LeBrunAs a nutrition intern for the Oregon Dairy and Nutrition Council, I recently had the opportunity to visit a dairy farm outside of Salem, Oregon, during my second week on the job. Since I didn’t grow up on a farm or have a background in dairy, this tour was an opportunity for me to learn about dairy production practices. I was also eager to learn what kinds of questions kids and parents had about milk and dairy.

After the hour-long car ride down I-5 from Portland, I made my final turn into a gravel parking lot and instantly knew I had found the right place. The excited yelps of fourth graders posing for a class picture made me turn my head as I stepped from my car. With cheesy grins they assembled in front of the wooden sign proudly proclaiming our location: “Rickreall Dairy.”

Cows eatingThis class is one of many that get a firsthand look at where their favorite dairy foods come from. At Rickreall Dairy, tour leader Stacy Foster conducts more than a dozen tours of the farm during the spring. The success of the program has allowed her to now expand to offering tours in the fall, and I was joining for the last tour of the season.

Foster, whose father owns the farm, began by acknowledging that she wouldn’t have hurt feelings if the kids (or parents) plug their noses. She admits it’s stinky, but that is to be expected when over 3,500 cows call this place home. Foster then asks the group if they know what milk is good for. Almost every hand goes up, and the chosen student announces, “bones.” “That’s right,” says Foster. “Milk has calcium and vitamin D for strong bones.”

Foster then leads us straight to the where the action happens: the milking parlor. This room operates 24 hours a day to ensure each cow gets two or three daily milking sessions. Foster tells us that each cow produces roughly 10 gallons every day, and overall the dairy produces 16,500 gallons daily! “Can you guys drink all of that milk?” she asks. A few cheeky responders reply with a “yes.” Foster laughs and says, “Well, you could probably eat all of that ice cream!”

We move on to the maternity barn where the sounds of the milking machines can no longer be heard. The children are excited to see two newborn calves beginning to take their first wobbly steps. This gives Foster the chance to explain the life cycle of a cow on the farm. The kids are surprised to hear that cows don’t just grow up and give milk – like humans, they have to have a baby first. As the kids peer over the enclosures to get a closer look, parents begin raising questions for Foster. “Is organic better than conventional milk?” “Can you taste a difference between different brands?” Foster points out that all milk sold in stores is held to the same standards for safety and quality. In fact, there are 27 regulatory agencies that Rickreall Dairy works with to be in compliance.

Calf milk bottlesWe end our tour by moving into the barn that houses the calves. “Who wants to bottle feed a calf?” asks Foster. She is met with an overwhelmingly enthusiastic response from kids and parents alike. The children each grab a bottle and file down the row of calves, who eagerly stick their head out in anticipation of the meal. The children giggle as the calves gobble all of it down, and the bottles are drained within minutes.

For most of these kids, and for me, this is the first time they have seen a dairy farm firsthand. The tours at Rickreall Dairy are a unique opportunity to help kids connect the farm to table concept. Their faces light up when presented with the idea that the cows they met today could be the same ones that made the milk in their fridge. For parents, they enjoy having questions resolved to help them make good choices in what they feed their children. As for myself, I loved gaining insight into food system production and hearing about what the consumers wanted to know. A huge thank you to Rickreall Dairy and the Oregon Dairy and Nutrition Council for making this experience possible!