June 23 Breakfast on the Farm sets new attendance record
Consumers are interested in knowing more about where their food comes from. Record number 2,658 attendees participated in the Breakfast on the Farm event hosted by Choate’s Belly Acres near Cement City in Jackson County.
Photo: Record setting number of visitors to Choate’s Belly Acres for Breakfast on the Farm
The weather was perfect for this Southeastern Michigan event and lines of cars started coming in 30 minutes before it was scheduled to begin. Visitors who ate breakfast enjoyed pancakes, sausage, eggs, applesauce, yogurt, juice, milk and coffee. Following breakfast they started their tour of this family farm and were able to learn how the farm uses technology in their dairy and cropping systems.
The milking parlor was again a favorite educational station. As a participant shared, “this has been a wonderful way to educate the public about all the steps milk goes through before it gets to the table.”
Visitors were also able to talk with the farm’s veterinarian and learned that a dairy farmer’s commitment to providing high-quality milk begins with taking good care of the cows and working closely with the veterinarian to keep the cows healthy and comfortable. Many visitors were amazed when they walked into the free stall barn where the cows are housed. The temperature from outside to inside the barn was about a 15 degree drop and it was very comfortable for the cows and the visitors. Cow comfort is a top priority as comfortable cows produce high-quality, wholesome milk and live a longer life with less stress when they receive good care.
Other learning stations highlighted nutrient management, irrigation, calves, cow nutrition, natural recycling, farm equipment and crop production. Visitors learned that cropping systems used today keep soil and nutrients in place to grow food, protect the water and improve the soil. Farmers no longer plow their fields; instead they use no-till practices whenever possible. No-till farming is planting into the previous crop’s residue.
In addition, when a farmer keeps his fields green with cover crops, soil is saved. In 2011, Michigan farmers doubled their use of cover crops to reduce wind and rain erosion. The crops station also had displays on corn and soybeans, as well as the progress of the industry. Increased productivity has allowed more food to be produced on less land. Visitors saw that in the past 60 years corn yield went from 38 to 150 bushels per acre, soybeans increased 2.6 times to over 43 bushels per acre and wheat yields are over three times higher at 70 bushels per acre.
Many of the children spent time in the Kids Activities Barn and had fun playing in a wagon full of shelled corn. Prior to ice cream sandwiches, the kids turned in their farm tour quizzes and received a prize bag of goodies and many adults completed surveys. Forty-six percent of the adults surveyed said it was their first visit to a working dairy farm in at least the past 20 years.
Comments from visitors included, “invaluable tour; thank you so much for a wonderful experience, beyond my expectations; great educational and family centered event; and great tour, very informative.” The surveys also showed that as a result of the tour, the majority of those completing surveys increased their knowledge and changed their perceptions about modern food production, including how farmers care for the environment, how they treat their animals and how they provide comfortable housing for them. They also reported that their participation increased their likelihood of purchasing Michigan products, and increased their confidence in milk as a safe food.
More than 200 volunteers from throughout southeastern Michigan helped to organize and implement this educational and fun event. There were over 65 local sponsors and ten state sponsors who helped to make this program possible. Breakfast on the Farm is a statewide Michigan State University (MSU) Extension program and in 2012 there will be eight farms throughout Michigan that have or will be hosting Breakfast on the Farm events.