Posts Tagged With: milk

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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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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Wichita Guests Discuss Farming and Food

Lori Deyoe

Volunteer Lori Deyoe shares about how her Ulysses, KS, ranch carefully uses antibiotics to treat sick cattle and return them to a healthy, productive state.

Whether curious or concerned, consumers have plenty of questions about the health and safety of modern farming practices. Guests at the CommonGround Kansas “Conversations About Farming and Food” lunch were able to get some of those questions answered on Aug. 6 at Old Town Wichita’s Caffe Moderne.

Volunteers Kim Baldwin of McPherson and Lori Deyoe of Ulysses helped answer questions and engage in discussion with members of the Wichita City Commission, Kansas Board of Education, Wichita YMCA, the Wichita Eagle and area high school teachers. From topics such as genetically modified crops, antibiotics and family farms, Kim and Lori shared real-life examples from their Kansas farms and ranches demonstrating the extent of care and consideration that goes into producing a healthy, safe and affordable food supply to feed our growing world population.

Kim Baldwin

Volunteer Kim Baldwin shares why GMO seeds help her family grow more productive crops with fewer chemicals and less water near McPherson, KS.

The conversation aimed to equip guests with first-hand and research-based information to make informed decisions about food. After the group discussion, several guests took time to have one-on-one discussions with the volunteers.

Thanks to all who attended!

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Kid’s Reading List: Hungry Planet

Each evening at our dinner table, my family sits down for a meal and conversation that inevitably involves picking playfully at one another. I rarely thought about how my family’s evening meal experience differed from Hungry Planetother families around the world.

This changed when I read the seventh book in our Kids’ Reading List series, Hungry Planet by Peter Menzel and Faith D’Aluisio.  The book profiles 600 meals of 30 families in 24 countries by detailing weekly food purchases. Each portrait includes the family surrounded by a week’s worth of groceries. Photo-essays also give readers a look at international street food, meat markets, fast food, and cookery.

This book is best suited to give older children a glimpse into the forces that impact the dinner tables of families around the world. Readers begin to understand the influence poverty, conflict and affluence have on the nutrition of the family diet.

Thanks to Holly Spangler for compiling this list, which was featured in the March 2012 issue of Farm Futures magazine.

Check out the past selections in the reading list.

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Kids’ Reading List: Pig 05049

It’s been said that a picture is worth a thousand words.

Our fifth book in our Kids’ Reading List series is Pig 05049 by Christien Meindertsma. The book uses photographs to follow a single pig through its life cycle and how every part of the animal is used to produce products from the expected meat products, like ham and bacon, to the more unexpected, like paintbrushes and marshmallows. This book is best suited to give older children an artistic and educational look at how a single animal influences many facets of our everyday lives.

Thanks to Holly Spangler for compiling this list, which was featured in the March 2012 issue of Farm Futures magazine.

Check out the past selections in the reading list.

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Kansas City Area Guests Discuss Food and Farming

Olathe Guests

From left: Valeria Edwards, Johnson County FACS agent, Anne Cort, chef at Hy-Vee, Nichole Burnett, Johnson County FACS agent, and LaVell Welp Winsor, farmer and CommonGround Kansas volunteer.

Questions about GMOs, organic and local foods were among the discussion during the CommonGround Kansas “Conversations About Farming and Food” at K-State Olathe March 5. Volunteers LaVell Winsor and Nicole Small met with 16 guests from the Kansas City area including chefs, farmers’ market managers, family and consumer science educators, parents, health and nutrition program directors, and school district and city leaders.

This special dinner was an opportunity for guests to talk directly to farmers about how their food is raised. Nicole and LaVell shared how they raise crops and livestock on their Kansas farms, addressing questions about genetically modified foods, organic and local movements, environmental concerns, food prices and animal welfare. Nicole shared stories of her family’s around-the-clock efforts to care for newborn calves on their southeast Kansas ranch during the harsh winter calving season. LaVell discussed how her family uses state-of-the-art farming practices to care for the land and produce food to help feed the growing world population. Guests also opened up about their concerns, leaving with a clearer picture of how farmers take great care to produce safe, nutritious and affordable food.

Thanks to all the guests who joined in the conversation! To learn more about CommonGround and get answers to commonly asked questions about food and farming, visit findourcommonground.com.

 

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