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HERd Management: Farm tour benefits: Get things done and connect with consumers

Janet Bremer for Progressive Dairyman Published on 24 November 2017

“We are going to get some projects done.” That was my mom’s declaration each time company was coming. It didn’t matter whether it was a graduation, holiday or anniversary. It was a deadline to get a big goal accomplished. “How silly,” I thought. “No one is going to notice.”

Do you ever have those moments when you find yourself quoting your mom, and cringing a bit because you swore you would never become your mother? I have had those frightening moments a lot lately – and you know what? She was right; deadlines do get the goals accomplished.

So why am I telling you this? Our farm gets frequent requests to host farm tours. My husband and I have typically declined the requests. It can be a lot of preparation. It takes time away from doing our daily chores that still need to get done.

Our farm isn’t new. We don’t have the latest equipment or state-of-the-art facilities. Our farm isn’t big. Yes, we came up with a long lists of reasons to say no.

When I was younger, all my grandparents and all six of my uncle’s families were dairy farmers. Notice I said “were.” Today, only about 2 percent of the U.S. population lives on a farm. Most folks are two to three generations removed from farming.

So who is going to answer consumers’ questions? Who is going to refute misinformation? Who is going to defend farmers – our farming methods, our animal care and our treatment of the land? Are we going to sit back and let this bashing and misinformation continue, or are we going to step up and tell our side of the story? And that’s how it happened. That’s what made my family open to hosting farm tours.

I’d like to share a bit about a couple of recent farm tours we hosted. The first was a youth orchestra from Germany. Eighty youth and their chaperones descended on our dairy farm.

Since they were from an agricultural area in Germany, their host organization felt they would appreciate seeing the difference between our farming practices versus that of their homeland. Upon arrival, we discovered they were from wine country and knew very little about dairy farming.

Since there were 90 people in this tour, we broke into three groups and rotated between three stations. One station was the calf barn hosted by Grandma (our champion calf-raiser) who spoke about newborn calf care. Our son, Michael, handled the milking station that explained cow care and the milking process.

My husband, John, then showed and described the feeding as well as the crops. The students were so eager to ask questions and learn as much as possible. And they didn’t refuse the ice cream treats at the end of the tour either.

Another tour involved a television appearance. A Minneapolis TV show wanted to feature women in agriculture. I wasn’t about to turn down this opportunity, even though those thoughts of “Is our farm good enough?” came flooding back.

Shannon, the female interviewer, wanted my daughter, Sara, and me to teach her what we do each day on the farm. Sara gave her a lesson in cow milking, and I did a tutorial on calf feeding. Shannon had never been on a farm, and I was amazed at how interested she was and what she wanted to know. I recently got the opportunity to meet up with Shannon at the Minnesota State Fair, and she said the segment filmed at our farm is one of the most-talked-about stories.

Guess what? We have never hosted a tour where someone commented that our farm wasn’t new or didn’t have the latest equipment or wasn’t big enough. Sometimes I think we as farmers don’t realize most people don’t know what we do.

We are so often surrounded by fellow farmers, and we take for granted that everyone understands our responsibilities on the farm. There is a huge desire for consumers to know where their food comes from, and touring a farm is a great way to satisfy that curiosity.

So is it work to host farm tours? You bet. Is there preparation that needs to be done? Of course. Does it disrupt the flow of chores? Sometimes. Is it worth it? Absolutely. I know not everyone is comfortable hosting farm tours, but I encourage you to at least consider giving it a try.

If farm tours aren’t for you, perhaps there is another way you can share your dairy story through speaking opportunities, social media and even one-on-one conversations.

And Mom was right; deadlines do help to accomplish goals and get projects done. My family has always prided ourselves on having a well-organized and neat, clean farm, but when you are preparing for a tour, there is always a little extra spiffing up, even if no one notices.  end mark

Janet Bremer blogs at My Barnyard View and can be found on Facebook (My Barnyard View).

Janet Bremer
  • Janet Bremer

  • Dairy Producer
  • Hastings, Minnesota
  • Email Janet Bremer

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