With a name like World Ag Expo, the event is bound to attract people from all over. While there, Progressive Dairyman met up with Meerten and Anita Zeldenrust from Barrhead, Alberta. They had traveled to Tulare, California, as part of a tour group.
Each spring, Meerten and Anita like to travel to a destination outside Canada. When they saw an advertisement in Progressive Dairyman announcing a trip to California for the World Ag Expo organized by Ken Natzke Travel, they decided to give it a try.
“We were hoping it would be a little warmer [than home],” Meerten said.
This was the 10th year that Ken Natzke of Bonduel, Wisconsin, led a tour to World Ag Expo and California’s countryside.
This year he brought along 32 people from active dairy producers, like the Zeldenrusts, to a retired couple from Louisiana.
The group spent two days at the outdoor trade show, eyeing up equipment for the dairy and forage industries, as well as other types of agriculture like citrus, grapes, almonds, etc.
Meerten and Anita were quite taken with the educational aspect of the show. They came across a number of school groups utilizing the event as a lesson about agriculture.
As they toured the Heritage Complex, on the grounds they discovered the Antique Farm Equipment Museum and AgVentures! Learning Center, where kids get a hands-on introduction to agriculture.
“We were very impressed with how they promote agriculture,” Anita said.
They visited seven dairies, many of which were home to thousands of cows; Western Milling, which supplies feed to area dairies; an almond and wine grape operation; Sunkist citrus processing facility; the Tulare High School Farm; San Luis Reservoir, where water is held before being distributed to farms for much-needed irrigation; a Spanish mission; Salinas Valley, the heart of the nation’s vegetable crop; and tourist stops like Monterey Bay, Pebble Beach and the Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park.
“Everything is quite new and quite exciting at every stop we went to,” Anita said.
Meerten said he most enjoyed the tour of the Hilmar Cheese plant. This plant was founded in 1984 by 12 central California dairy families to maximize their Jersey cows’ high-solids milk.
Today, it produces more cheese annually from its site in Hilmar, California, than any other manufacturer in the world.
Between the Hilmar facility and one in Dalhart, Texas, Hilmar Cheese processes more than 7.1 million litres of milk each day received from more than 260 dairies and 160,000 cows. Not just a processing facility, Hilmar Cheese has a visitor centre on site to promote the dairy industry through education and delicious food.
Seeing the large dairies and how they are managed was a new experience for the Zeldenrusts. “It was a different way of handling things from our farm business,” Meerten said.
Anita mentioned, “Sometimes we complain about supply management, but it was interesting to see how hard it is there, yet they keep going through it all. The economists say it is hard to survive. It was an eye-opener for us.”
They also noted the difference in the price of land, with California dairymen mentioning they pay $10,000 to $20,000 per acre.
When asked if they’d take another tour again, the Zeldenrusts both agreed they would.
“An organized tour is well worth the money,” Anita said.
Now their sights are set on New Zealand, Australia or Brazil.
Natzke is planning to continue his annual trek to World Ag Expo, with tentative dates for next year’s tour set for Feb. 9-13, 2013. In addition, he has a trip organized for Ontario, Canada, in conjunction with the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair. PD