Many of my fondest childhood memories revolve around visiting my grandma’s house in Tennessee. She raised animals and had a huge garden and my sisters and I loved helping out by picking our dinner from the vine and keeping the animals entertained. I have my own children now and I try to keep them in touch with nature and their food supply through gardening, backyard chickens, and visiting orchards. Unfortunately, many children today have no idea where their food comes from. If you asked your children what french fries are made of would they know? What about bacon? Whether the answer is yes or no, I highly recommend taking your child to visit a working farm.
We have visited many farms and dairies in the past year or so, from big to small, corporate to family-owned. We have learned that our food gets to our table in a variety of ways and after much work and care. My favorite farm outing occurred this month when I got to visit the Bill Kerr Dairy in Buckeye Arizona at the invitation of the Dairy Council of Arizona. It was a fun and educational experience and my first time on a working farm owned by a family who lived there and worked on the farm. Let me share some of what I learned from Wes Kerr, 4th generation dairy farmer.
I live in Arizona and we are lucky to have low milk prices and many local dairies. Maybe one reason for that is, according to Wes Kerr, Arizona is one of the easiest places to grow alfalfa, a staple in the diet of a cow. It takes just 48 hours for the milk to get from cow to the store. Think about that. The cow is milked, the milk is picked up and transported to the processing facility, processed, and delivered to the store, in just 48 hours. I can not even get my laundry folded in 48 hours sometimes.
I always pictured cows being forced into stalls and reluctantly giving milk so I was pleasantly surprised to see the cows independently walk into the stall to give milk. Each teat is cleaned and dried before the milking begins. It was actually quite peaceful in here, for both cows and humans. The milk goes into storage, awaiting pickup, and is always kept nice and cold. I just love silos. They remind me of traditional America.
One of the most thought-provoking parts of the tour was Wes Kerr’s question and answer session which covered many aspects of dairy farming, from food safety to conventional farming versus oraganic farming. Wes is a big advocate for GMOs and for merging science with traditional farming methods in order to produce more food at a lower price to make your food more affordable and available. For example, he is growing Round-Up resistant alfalfa so that he can feed his cows more affordably and not have to worry about weeds choking out his harvest.
I am all about balance and I have really started to shirk this whole idea that there is only one right way to see things when discussing food safety. There are some items I have chosen to buy organic, and others I do not. I do not have the grocery budget to spend $7 on a pint of organic strawberries. I think the organic movement has helped some, especially those with food allergies, but I think it has also laid a bit of a guilt trip on moms who cannot afford to go organic. I dislike pesticides and herbicides, but I use them when I need them. If I did not, my plants might die off. People who abhor chemical intervention in farming often site the reason for the development of pesticides as greed, but maybe that is because they have never lived through a famine caused by locust infestation or failed crops. Regardless of how you feel about this debate, hopefully we can all just agree to let people make their own choices.
The cows at Bill Kerr Dairy are happy and friendly. While Wes spoke, a group of them ran over to say hello. They lined up and listened attentively.
Whether you visit a dairy farm, orchard, or some other part of the food supply cycle, I encourage you to get out there and get your kiddos involved and knowledgeable about where their food comes from. There are so many reasons why you should take your kiddos to a working farm. It is not just educational, it is fun!
Disclaimer: I was provided the opportunity to visit this farm through a campaign with Blended Extended. I was not compensated and all opinions are my own. #AZmilk #BlendedConf