Consumers learn by attending Breakfast on the Farm
With most of today’s population being several generations removed from the farm, producers are opening up their farms to share their stories and provide public agriculture education.
The van den Goor family, owners of Goma Dairy, hosted over 2,300 visitors as they participated in the Michigan State University Extension program, Breakfast on the Farm. The farm, located near Marlette in Sanilac County, has been in operation since 1999. Today Goma Dairy milks 2,700 cows that produce 29,000 gallons of milk each day. Their milk fills two milk trucks daily, with one truck going to the Yoplait plant in Reed City and the other going to Kroger.
The family owns 600 acres and rents it out simply because they buy their animal feed from local crop farmers. To feed their cattle for a year, it takes approximately 1,300 acres of corn silage, 840 acres of haylage, 400 acres of straw, 50 acres of hay and many tons of other ingredients. The farm has access to 3,000 acres of land for spreading the manure their cows produce. The farm is verified in the Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program for livestock systems and has 32 employees. The economic impact the farm has on the community is huge. Every dollar spent locally by a dairy farm creates a multiplier effect of more than two and a half times the original dollar spent. Money from a dairy farm is turned over seven or eight times before it leaves the local economy.
Visitors learned that Goma Dairy is a Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO), the legal description for a large farm. These farms maintain the same high-quality care for their animals that has been a hallmark of Michigan’s dairy farms for generations. Whether it’s a farm of 300 or 3,000 cows, dairy farmers depend on healthy cows to produce nutritious milk. Dairy farmers care for their animals by providing a nutritious diet, good medical care and healthy living conditions. Participants also learned that dairy farms of all sizes are required to abide by federal, state and local clean water laws. These laws regulate how manure is applied on cropland, so nutrients go into crops, not ground or surface water.
Over 85 percent of the participants surveyed at the Sanilac County Breakfast on the Farm agreed that their visit increased their confidence in Michigan dairy products; they would be more likely to purchase Michigan dairy products; and their trust in milk as a safe food increased. Forty-five percent of the visitors had not been on a modern dairy farm in the past twenty years. Visitors came from 25 different counties in Michigan and from several states and Australia and all left with a better understanding of modern dairy production and how milk is safe, wholesome and nutritious.