Fun on the Farm
Last month I visited Kansas City, along with a group of fabulous Registered Dietitians, at the invite of the Midwest Dairy Council. We had the opportunity to tour Heins Family Farms in Higginsville, MO and learn more about milk from farm to table.
I’ve been a milk-drinker all my life, but this was my first visit to a dairy farm and it was incredible to learn that it is so much more than just a “cow & milk” operation. I never knew how much agriculture was involved in dairy farming and that they grow a large majority of the crops that feed the cows right on the property. In fact, when we arrived, they were quickly trying to harvest rye before a crazy weather front moved in that changed the weather from sunny and 80 degrees to snowing the next day! We got to see the tractors packing down the rye to be used as part of the food mixture in the coming year.
One thing that really caught my interest was the careful attention to resource utilization and recycling on the farm. We learned that tons and tons of sand are used to provide bedding for the cows. The stalls are flushed with water many times a day and both the sand and water are reclaimed (along with the inevitable manure that comes with it!) for further use on the farm. The waste from the cows is used to fertilize the agricultural crops, the water is recycled to clean the stalls and they are able to reclaim 85-90% of the sand to be used again. There was also some brilliant engineering involved in the process – the thoughtful layout of the farm and planning around the sloping of the land helped this entire process happen with essentially gravity alone.
I got a kick out of how Farmer Chris talked about the “girls”, the cows, that is! As we walked along he pointed out specific “girls” and talked about their personality and quirks – those sassy ladies! Toward the end of the tour I asked Chris why he had numbers scrawled on his hands with Sharpie marker and he said they were his notes from his morning rounds. If he saw something of concern or out of the ordinary with any of the girls, he made a note to circle back and check her out. What really stuck with me was when he said, “If we take care of the cows, they’ll take care of us.”
I’ve always been a milk-lover, but I have a whole new appreciation for the farm to table process after having toured the farm myself. I want to be sure that Hailey has an appreciation for her food from farm to table from an early age and I actually bought a Groupon yesterday to tour Fair Oaks Farms sometime this summer! We pass by there often on our way to visit family, so when I saw the Groupon I couldn’t pass it up! If you live in the Indiana/Illinois area, you should check it out – the Groupon is available for another day or so!
I can’t close without a special shout out to new RD-friend Amber Pankonin who graciously shared her amazing photos of our dairy farm adventure, some of which are used in the post. (she’s the one with the cute striped scarf in the group shot above!) She writes the blog Healthy Under Pressure and her latest post about photo “selfies” is hil.a.ri.ous.
Disclosure: I happily attended this farm tour as a guest of the Midwest Dairy Council. I was not compensated to write this post and all milk-loving views are my own.