advertisement

Dairy tours the Hinchley way

Kelsey Holter Published on 11 November 2010

1710pd_holter_1

Cows moo in the barn, and a cat meows a sound of surprise. Schoolchildren chatter while sitting on the grass eating a picnic lunch. And Tina Hinchley is in the midst of it all.

“Can you hear the noise in the background here?” Tina asks with a laugh. “Those are my tour kids, trying to corral the cat in the yard.”

Probably not the everyday sounds to come from a dairy farm, but it is just a typical day for Tina and her husband, Duane Hinchley, on their dairy in Cambridge, Wisconsin.

The Hinchley Dairy farm has been giving tours for 13 years to students and families during the spring and summer months. With the farm surrounded by three major cities, city-dwellers are interested to come learn about agriculture.

“Right now consumers are nervous because of the misinformation out there,” Tina says. “They want to be able to see and ask questions about where their food comes from, and they want me to prove my answers.”

For the Hinchleys, communicating the truth is their number one goal, especially to the younger children who show up. More than 10,000 visitors head to the dairy every tour season, and most of them are elementary students coming on field trips with their schools.

Tina communicates the truth kid-style. She compares feed rations to Lucky Charms cereal, teats are compared to marshmallows and all objects on the ground have “poop germs” – and no kid wants those.

Most children come to the farm never having seen a real cow before, so the sight of one of the Hinchleys’ Holsteins can be a little overwhelming. But the children can’t seem to pass up the opportunity to milk one of the cows by hand. For this demonstration, Tina uses “Sugar,” the “sweetest cow on the farm.”

1710pd_holter_2

In addition to learning about the dairy cow, visitors get the truth about milk. Explaining that all milk, not just organic milk, is safe to drink creates a stir among adult couples sometimes.

“The wife is usually in charge of food in the household, so when I tell them that all milk is safe, the husband usually says something like, ‘I told you we didn’t have to buy the $8 milk when we could buy the $3 kind.’ It makes me laugh every time,” Tina says.

But the adults aren’t the only ones Tina is having thorough discussions with. When children don’t understand something, they are never afraid to ask, so Tina has to be ready for any questions that might pop up during the tour. Frequently asked questions include: “How many pounds of milk does a cow give in a year?” “How many people touch an ear of corn before it becomes a corn flake?”

So Tina just goes from what she knows, and if she doesn’t know something, she will figure it out. Although the Hinchleys have never had any serious problems with animal activists, there will be the occasional vegetarian friend that makes the tour interesting. Keeping her composure, Tina just tells them how it is and shows them the truth behind animal agriculture the best she knows how. Of course, with a little fun involved.

“I once had a college student who booked a tour by himself,” Tina says. “He told me that instead of corn, American farmers should be planting carrots. I told him I didn’t know of very many cows who would want to eat a carrot.”

Just like any dairy farm, anything can happen at Hinchley Dairy. Down cows that need lifted, sick cows that need treated – and dead cows that need taken care of – you name it and the Hinchleys have had to deal with it within moments of tours arriving.

“Those are the bad days, when farming isn’t much fun,” Tina says. “But you explain it to the groups that come, they sense your frustrations, and they understand that it is life.”

Along with the farm’s 260 Holstein cows, 11 goats, 200 show-quality chickens, and numerous show-quality rabbits, sheep, pigs and 25 turkeys also call Hinchley Dairy home.

“It is more than enough animals to feed every morning and night,” Tina says with a laugh. “We just live it and love it.”

The Hinchleys don’t plan to stop serving tours anytime soon, even with Tina’s plate becoming more full with every passing day. In addition to farm tours, Tina takes part in other dairy promotions for the community.

She represented her farm for the annual Cows on the Concourse at the Capitol, by painting faces like a Holstein cow. Her marketing slogan was that these visitors were ‘spotted at the Capitol.’ She also takes animals to elementary school-age children when the schools aren’t able to make it to the farm.

Earlier this year, Tina was elected as a member of the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board. Her mission while serving on the board is to get more children who think they don’t like milk to like it. She sees children in schools drinking pop, not even touching milk, and she wants something to be done about it.

“Even here on the farm, we will have kids not drink their milk because they don’t like the taste,” Tina says. “I want them to be hooked on chocolate milk.”

When it comes to others giving farm tours, Tina encourages them to try it. She says it isn’t only rewarding for the visitors who come, but it is also rewarding for the farmer. The Hinchleys make sure their insurance plan covers farm tours, they take the keys out of every piece of equipment that is sitting in the driveway, and they child-proofed the farm, not only for the tour children, but for their own children as well.

“When it is all said and done, the best part of the day for me is when the children give me a big hug at the end of the tour and tell me that they want to be a farmer when they grow up too,” Tina says. “That is a good day.” PD

Kelsey Holter
Holters’ Holstein Farm

PHOTOS : The Hinchleys don’t plan to stop serving tours anytime soon, even with Tina’s plate becoming more full with every passing day. In addition to farm tours, Tina takes part in other dairy promotions for the community. Photos by Karen Lee.

Before commenting on our articles, please note our Terms for Commenting.

LATEST BLOG

LATEST NEWS