Posts Tagged With: dairy

Farmer Perspectives: Offline and On to the Farm

By Lesley Schmidt, CommonGround Kansas farmer volunteer

Lesley contributes to her fifth-generation family farm while working full-time at an engineering firm. On the farm, she helps produce alfalfa, oats, sorghum, soybeans and wheat. She also helps manage the cow/calf operation. In the city, she is a civil computer-aided design and drafting (CADD) technician, cartographer and permit writer. During track and field season, Lesley officiates at schools, including colleges, across Kansas.

 If you have a social media account, you have probably seen some heated discussions about food. In real life, I’ve had a lot of great conversations about food, farming and agriculture. In fact, I have the opportunity to talk about my farm nearly every day at work.

My co-workers know about my family farm, and I often get questions about agriculture. I’m happy to talk about what I do on my family farm, and I have even acted as a liaison to help people interested in learning more to go visit a real farm themselves.

Face-to-face conversations are the best way to see each other as people. Rarely do these interactions end with the vitriol I’ve seen online. Frankly, that’s not how most people I know treat others. My non-ag friends are passionate about their jobs, their families and even the food they eat. The enthusiasm is wonderful, and it’s a great start to learning more.

If you feel the same way, let’s all get offline and on the farm, together!

 

Six Degrees to a Farmer

Chances are, you are less than six phone calls away from the chance to meet a real farmer. If you’re interested, ask your friends. I have helped friends learn about apples by visiting an apple orchard. They had a great time, including a hay-rack ride and drinking fresh apple cider.

Next time you are at the Farmers Market, introduce yourself to the farmer, let them know you have purchased before and enjoyed their produce, offer a compliment and share how you prepared the dish. We love to hear how others have enjoyed our produce and we love to share our ag story.

I’ve helped connect real people to real farmers for real discussions about agriculture. I’ve even helped a state legislator visit a farm to learn more about a bill up for discussion in the Kansas House of Representatives.

 

FAQs

My friends and co-workers have asked a lot of questions — and sometimes I don’t know the answer. It’s true. Farmers aren’t experts in all of agriculture. It’s a big industry that grows thousands of different crops, processes and packages them and delivers them to customers. That’s a lot of work!

The good news is interested consumers can easily find tours and experts. In fact, I’ve participated in those tours myself to learn more. I recently went on the annual Health & Wellness Coalition of Wichita Food Tour to learn more about how food is grown, distributed, prepared and consumed in the area. I enjoy learning about food in my community and all the different ways YOU can be involved. We visited a local produce farm, a community garden, a food rescue distribution locker, and a restaurant where the owner uses local produce in his recipes, whom also shared his experience working with farmers. It’s amazing to see how locally grown produce is making an impact in my community.

When a new grocery store opened nearby my office, I went to explore with my co-workers during our lunch break. This gave me the opportunity to bust some myths about hormone-free chicken. Added steroids and hormones aren’t allowed in poultry production in the United States. Any labeling you see touting “hormone-free” chicken is more likely a marketing gimmick since all chicken produced in America is up to this standard.

I’m not a dairy farmer either, but I’ve been able to answer questions about hormones and antibiotics in milk with the help of my dairy friends. Did you know an entire tanker of milk must be dumped on the ground if antibiotics are found in just one sample?

The point is, there are a lot of different aspects of agriculture to explore, and, as farmers, we are eager to share about our unique businesses. If you have a question, don’t hesitate to ask!

If you are interested in getting offline and away from unproductive arguments, just ask your friend or coworker to help you find a farmer.


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Yoga on the Farm at Keriel Dairy Offers Relaxation and Chance to Meet Cows Up Close

Yoga in the great outdoors is always a special treat, especially when combined with the opportunity to enjoy an evening with new friends and connecting the dots between the farm the grocery store. The farmer volunteers of CommonGround Kansas hosted the group’s third Yoga on the Farm event on May 18 at Keriel Dairy outside Whitewater, KS, welcoming about 40 guests to the third-generation dairy for an evening of relaxation, fun and education.

After checking in and receiving their free yoga mats, attendees started with a tour of the dairy. There were plenty of opportunities to ask questions of the Wiebe family and interact with the cows up close, including bottle-feeding calves and testing out the equipment in the milking parlor.

After the tour, guests enjoyed a refreshing break for snacks, lemonade and wine before settling into their yoga mats for a relaxing practice led by Jessica Mounts, who teaches at Hot Asana Yoga Studio in Wichita. The warm late-spring sun had slipped behind the clouds, just in time to provide cooler temperatures for the practice, which included gentle poses for all ages and abilities.

Afterward, the group gathered in the dairy barn’s hayloft under twinkling lights for post-yoga wine, a casual pulled pork dinner, door prizes and conversation with farmers and other guests.

Ticket sales benefited Kansas Food Bank in Wichita. Guests also donated non-perishable foods to the organization, helping community members who don’t enjoy the same freedom of choice in their food and struggle to provide the most basic needs.

Special thanks to the Wiebe family, who operates Keriel Dairy, for hosting us on their farm.

Events like Yoga on the Farm bring farmers and consumers together to discuss farming and food and build relationships to help folks feel more confident in their food choices. Have a question? CommonGround farmer volunteers are here to help! Send us a message or visit findourcommonground.com to learn more.

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Farmer Perspectives: We Hear You

By Melissa Hildebrand Reed, CommonGround Kansas farmer volunteer

Melissa Hildebrand Reed farms with several generations on her family’s dairy farm near Junction City, KS.

Melissa is one of seven family members working on the family dairy farm near Junction City. Hildebrand Farms Dairy raises 150 cows and supplies milk to more than 120 stores across Kansas. Melissa and her husband, Brett, have two sons.

 On a typical farm, producers harvest their commodity and sell it to a company or cooperative, which turns it into something you might see a grocery store. That’s the way our farm operated from about 1930 until 2007 when our family decided to build a processing plant.

Now, we are in the unique position of selling directly to the public. Having our own dairy processing facility allows us to own the milk from the cow all the way to the grocery store. We even sell bottles directly at our farm store. We also have the opportunity to get to know you, our customer, better.

There are a few questions that stand out during the hundreds of conversations I’ve had with customers. Maybe they’re even questions you’ve been wondering about.

 

Can I see a dairy cow up close?

Yes! We give tours of our farm. We’re close to Fort Riley and Manhattan, Kansas, both of which bring people from all over the world to Kansas. Many people have never had an encounter with any sort of agriculture before. If this sounds like you, we’d love to show you around.

We’re immensely proud of our cows and our farm. There is no question to big or too small to ask. Our cows graze beautiful pasture in the Flint Hills and receive clean sand bedding in our free-stall barn. In fact, we’ve found the best milk comes from cows that receive the best care.

 

Is your milk GMO-free?

Our milk is not genetically modified and neither are any ingredients we use — like pure cane sugar in a flavored milk, for example. However, we don’t seek a “GMO-free” label for a few reasons. First, our cows would not be able to eat feed containing GMO ingredients. Based on our research, it would be an unnecessary cost that doesn’t positively contribute to the safety or quality of our products.

We grow most of the food our girls are fed. For us, GMOs help us reduce the use of herbicides while increasing yields of our crops — meaning we can feed more cows with the same amount of land.

 

Is your milk organic?

Our first priority is treating our cows with care. Using antibiotics are critical to good animal care at our dairy. If one of my girls is sick, we’re going to help get her healthy again. The idea of not treating a sick cow to retain an “organic” label on our milk wouldn’t be true to our farm’s values.

We use antibiotics carefully and sparingly. Antibiotics don’t stay in an animal’s system forever. The cow rejoins the milking herd after it is eliminated from her body. We vigilantly track each dose and animal that requires a treatment, which is prescribed by our veterinarian. Milk from cows being treated with antibiotics doesn’t even enter our processing facility. That’s true of our farm, but it’s also true of any other dairy in the United States.

Our family believes our milk stands out in the grocery store for its quality. To show you we care, the best label we can put on our product is our family name.

 

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“Cows, Cooks and Conversation” Tour and Cooking Class Offers Behind-the-Scenes Perspective

Melissa Hildebrand Reed, CommonGround volunteer and granddaughter of the founders of Hildebrand Farms Dairy, shows attendees the milking parlor.

Mother Nature clearly didn’t get the memo that it’s technically spring. But the cold winds and snow on Saturday, Apr. 14, didn’t keep 25 cooks from getting a behind-the-scenes look at how our favorite dairy products get from the cow to the cooler at our favorite grocers.

CommonGround Kansas hosted “Cows, Cooks and Conversation” at Hildebrand Farms Dairy outside Junction City, KS, where the family raises cows and bottles their own milk to sell across the state. The event featured a tour of the dairy followed by an electric pressure cooking demonstration from Chef Alli.

The dairy’s founders’ granddaughter Melissa Hildebrand Reed is a farmer volunteer for CommonGround. She works on the farm full time handling marketing and distribution of the farm’s products across Kansas. Melissa led the tour, showing guests the bottling plant, calf barn, and milking parlor. CommonGround farmer volunteers LaVell Winsor and Krystale Neitzel also shared about their farms, both located in eastern Kansas.

“Growing up around the dairy, we forget that our way of life is different than most,” Reed said. “Sharing our farm gives us a chance to show what we do while also getting a better understanding of what the general population thinks of when they think of dairy. Our event Saturday was the perfect opportunity to show every step of how our milk is produced.”

Having Chef Alli provide a cooking demonstration really brought the food chain full circle, Reed added.

Chef Alli shreds pork cooked in the electric pressure cooker during her cooking demonstration.

After the tour, guests enjoyed warming up in the farm store with hot chocolate and vanilla ice cream, both made with the dairy’s milk. Then Chef Alli started cooking two dishes — Korean Pork Bowl and Creamy Beef Penne Pasta — in electric pressure cookers, walking guests through the process and answering questions along the way. The event concluded with samples of the two dishes and a Q&A session with CommonGround farmer volunteers. Hope Wright was the lucky winner of the door prize, a 6-quart Cuisinart electric pressure cooker, similar to the one Chef Alli cooks with.

Thanks to everyone who attended and brought non-perishable items to donate for community members who don’t enjoy the same freedom of food choices that we do. Ticket proceeds supported the Flint Hills Breadbasket.

 

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Kansas Farms Highlighted at Hy-Vee Simple Fix Mini

img_5387Did you know much of the food you buy in the grocery store has a Kansas connection?

CommonGround Kansas hosted a Simple Fix Mini featuring Kansas-grown foods Tuesday, Feb. 21, at Topeka Hy-Vee. Guests enjoyed appetizers and wine, visited with Kansas farmers and prepared a three-course meal to take home and bake for their families.

The menu featured Southwest Avocado Ranch Salad, Layered Beef Enchiladas and Tres Leches Cake. Each recipe showcased connections to ingredients that are grown in Kansas, such as the wheat that goes into flour tortillas, corn that is fed to beef cattle and soybeans that are made into oil for salad dressing. The salad even featured grain sorghum as a topping.

Each work station was equipped with easy-to-follow recipes and all the prepared ingredients needed to create each dish.

Volunteers Melissa Hildebrand Reed, a dairy farmer near Junction City, and Laura Handke, a rancher near Atchison, visited with guests and answered questions about their farms. Guests also sampled flavors of milk from Hildebrand Family Dairy.

Hy-Vee dietitians Kylene Frost and Alyssa Gehle answered nutrition questions and served samples of the prepared meal.

The meal and event was sponsored by the farmers and ranchers of CommonGround Kansas. Ticket proceeds benefited Harvesters Community Food Network. Guests also brought canned and dry goods to donate.

Thank you to all who attended for the great discussions and for helping feed the hungry in our community!

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Farmers, chefs, nutrition professionals unite for downtown restaurant crawl

Craig and Amy Good explain how they raise pigs to meet a unique niche market.

Craig and Amy Good explain how they raise pigs to meet a unique niche market.

CommonGround Kansas joined nutrition professionals, chefs and fellow farmers for a restaurant crawl in downtown Manhattan, Kan., on Wednesday, March 30.

The event preceded the Kansas Nutrition Council’s annual meeting, which gathers up to 150 Kansas professionals actively involved in nutrition education and health promotion. Their work takes place in colleges and universities, government agencies, cooperative extension, communications and public relations firms, the food industry, voluntary and service organizations and with other reliable places of nutrition and health education information.

About 65 participants visited three restaurants to sample a pairing of spirits and cuisine representing the Kansas farmers and ranchers who help produce it. Each group was escorted by Kansas farmers, including Michael and Christy Springer, who raise pork and row crops near Sycamore, Bob and Mary Mertz, who raise beef and row crops near Zeandale, and Jeff Grossenbacher, who raises row crops near Bern.

At Harry’s Restaurant, guests sampled wine and a prime strip loin with baguettes. They heard from executive chef Cadell Bynum, managing partner Evan Grier and farmers Glenn and Jennifer Brunkow, who raise crops and livestock near Westmoreland.

Tallgrass Taphouse featured pretzel breadsticks with a cheesy beer dipping sauce with a sample of a fruit-infused wheat beer. Brewmaster Brandon Gunn discussed the brewery’s history and rapid rise to success and wheat farmer Ken Wood shared how he raises wheat near Chapman.

At 4 Olives, guests enjoyed red wine with a savory Duroc pork belly over grits and heard from farmers Craig and Amy Good, who raised the meat near Olsburg. Chef Benjamin Scott discussed his restaurant’s relationship with the Goods and the inspiration behind the dish.

The groups reunited at the Tallgrass Taphouse Firkin Room for door prizes, beer flights and conversation to conclude the evening.

Funding Partners included the Kansas Pork Association, Kansas Farm Bureau and Kansas Wheat. Planning Partners included Midwest Dairy, Kansas Beef Council, Kansas Soybean Commission and CommonGround Kansas.

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Volunteers answer food questions at KC women’s expo

Just for Her Expo

Volunteers LaVell Winsor and Laura Handke chat with attendees at the Just for Her women’s expo.

One booth stood out amid a sea of exhibitors offering beauty, fashion, home goods and health products at the Just for Her expo in Overland Park, Kan., May 30-June 1. With welcoming smiles and a variety of conversation-starting materials, the farm women of CommonGround Kansas offered a unique opportunity for attendees to ask questions about farming and food.

The annual Just for Her expo is a regional event attracting a diverse population of women. Volunteers LaVell, Laura, Kim, Katie, Lana and Sarah were on hand throughout the weekend to chat with attendees. They answered a variety of questions and conversed with consumers on hot topics such as organic foods, GMO crops, antibiotic use in meat production and family farms.

Do you have questions about how your food is raised? CommonGround volunteers farm in 16 states across the nation, raising fruits, vegetables, grains and livestock. They love sharing how they take care every day to produce safe food for consumers around the globe.

 

 

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Go Blog Social starts great conversations about food and farming

Go Blog Social

Katie Dosen of To Live for Style chats with Kansas volunteers Laura Handke and LaVell Winsor and CommonGround Missouri coordinator Luella Fischer.

What a weekend! The ladies of CommonGround Kansas and Missouri spent a beautiful, sunny Saturday filled with great conversation with truly lovely people in downtown Kansas City during Go Blog Social. We were so happy that we could help answer attendees’ questions about how we raise crops and livestock on our farms. We were especially excited about the genuine interest that so many of you expressed. The fact that you feel a personal investment in learning how your food is grown is really encouraging! We love to share our stories and convey what it means to be a farmer!

We wanted to give a little blog love to just a few of the fine folks who took time to chat with us! We know missed some! If you stopped by to chat with us and we didn’t get a chance to swap contact info, please shoot us an email at commongroundkansas@gmail.com and we’ll be happy to add your link here.

A special thank you to CommonGround Missouri, who partnered with our CommonGround Kansas ladies for this special event!

 

 

 

 

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We’re ready to get social!

We're excited to be a sponsor for Go Blog Social in Kansas City!

We’re excited to be a sponsor for Go Blog Social in Kansas City!

Go Blog Social may already be underway in KC today, but we’re getting really excited to meet bloggers and social media mavens at this special event in downtown Kansas City tomorrow, Apr. 5. We’re even more excited that we get to share our sponsorship with our next-door neighbors, CommonGround Missouri, to help answer questions about food and farming.

As farmers and moms, we understand how important it is to have confidence in where your food comes from. That’s why we’re excited to have conversations with some wonderful folks tomorrow about their most pressing questions about their food.

We love sharing the story of our farms and ranches. Most importantly, we are honored to be a part of the fact-finding mission that every consumer should embark upon to learn about how their food is raised. It’s like our teachers told us growing up, doing your homework (and doing your own homework) is important. We couldn’t agree more!

When we find out the real stories behind our food, we can make more informed decisions about what we feed our families.

Attending Go Blog Social? Stop by our booth and say hello! More importantly, bring your questions. Our farm moms will gladly answer them!

 

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Why Food Day “Facts” Aren’t So Factual

Oct. 24 is Food Day, which celebrates healthy, affordable and sustainably produced food. It sounds like a pretty great cause to get behind, right?

As farmers and moms, we support the movement to get Americans to eat healthier and move more. But what really concerns us is pushing out loads of misinformation behind what seems to be fairly noble cause.

Do we agree we should spend less time in the drive-through and more time as a family at the dinner table? Absolutely!

Do we agree that we should strive to eat more balanced diets with fruits and vegetables instead of cartons of greasy fried foods, gooey pastas and sugary desserts? You bet!

But here’s where we simply need to set the record straight:

Food Day urges folks to cut back on “fatty, factory-farmed meats.”

What exactly is a factory farm, anyway? Take a good look around at the 2.2 million U.S. farms. We are hard-working families, not factories. We devote our lives to giving our animals the best care possible, often putting their needs above our own. In any weather and at any time of day, we’re there to ensure our farm animals have the food, water, shelter, space and medical care they need.

We also want our critics to know that cattle spend the majority of their lives in pastures eating grass. When mature, cattle are sold or moved to feedlots where they typically spend 4-6 months. Feedlots allow ranchers to raise beef more efficiently with fewer natural resources like land, feed and water. Feedlot cattle live in fenced areas that give them plenty of food, fresh water and room to move around. Veterinarians, nutritionists and cattlemen work together to look after each animal every day.

And labeling all meats as fatty? Well, that’s just not accurate. In fact, there are 29 cuts of lean beef and six cuts of lean pork that meet the USDA’s guidelines for lean, heart-healthy meats with less than 10 grams of fat, 4.5 grams of saturated fat and 95 milligrams of cholesterol per serving. The trend of avoiding meat because it’s generally “unhealthy” is simply unfounded. Why can’t we all just adopt the attitude of “everything in moderation,” park a little farther from the store and talk a walk more often?

Food Day advocates say “a meat-heavy diet takes a terrible toll on the environment.”

Farmers are the original environmentalists. For generations, we have cared for the land so we can pass it on to our children and grandchildren. We care about what goes into the soil and the air, and we work tirelessly to do more with less inputs and land every day.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, livestock production accounts for 3.12% of total emissions, far from the claim that cows are worse than cars. In addition, modern farming continues to implement sustainable practices that significantly reduce the amount of fuel and chemicals required for food production. There’s an old saying that “You can’t make any more land.” That’s why we work hard to protect what we have.

Food Day activists “are united by a vision of food that is healthy, affordable, and produced with care for the environment, farm animals, and the people who grow, harvest, and serve it.”

Hey, wait! That sounds a lot like our vision as farmers and ranchers. Like any successful professionals, we want to do our jobs better. We are constantly finding new ways to grow safe, affordable food on less land and with fewer resources. If we didn’t care for our animals and our land, we couldn’t stay in business. And if we can’t stay in the business of growing food and fiber for a booming world population, it won’t be long before we’ll have some very serious issues on a global scale.

We are farmers. We are moms. We commit our lives to producing safe, healthy food — the same food we feed our families. To infer that hard-working American farmers and ranchers aren’t producing food with care? Well, we invite you to look again. That’s what we do, day in and day out.

Have a question about your food? Ask us! We’re always happy to share openly about how we grow crops and raise livestock on our Kansas farms. We’ll never tell you what to eat, we’ll just answer your questions so you can make the most informed choices for your family.

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