Ottawa County Breakfast on the Farm feeds 2,600 visitors, teaches them about modern farming

More than 2,600 attendees from 76 towns across Michigan plus eight states were welcomed to the Walt Dairy Farm near Coopersville.

Breakfast on the Farm (BOTF), a program of Michigan State University Extension, gives consumers and farm neighbors a firsthand look at modern food production and the farm families who work hard to produce a safe, wholesome food supply for Michigan communities and the world. Following a hearty, home cooked farm breakfast of pancakes, sausage, eggs, apple slices, yogurt, milk and juice, most of which were grown, produced and processed in West Michigan, visitors had the opportunity to meet farm owners Arlyn and Kathy Walt and their family. Attendees then walked through the barns, watched cows being milked, learned about milk quality, saw newborn calves, looked at large farm equipment, ate ice cream and learned about the many facets of animal care and food production. 

Arlyn and Kathy are the third generation to farm on the family homestead. The progressive Walt family operation dates back to 1932 at the present location, and has grown over the years. In 1992 they built a “double 12” milking parlor which allows 24 cows to be milked at the same time and in 2008, a new freestall barn was added.  The farm was recently MAEAP (Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program) verified in cropping systems. The family has also incorporated several conservation practices into their dairy and crop operations. Healthy, comfortable cows are very important to them and visitors saw this as they toured the farm and learned where their milk comes from. The Walt family is passionate about what they do and were wonderful hosts as they opened their farm to consumers to learn about modern agriculture.

BOTF visitors saw that there are two large milk bulk tanks on the farm that together store 6,700 gallons or 107,200 glasses of milk. The milk is picked up every day and is currently taken to Country Fresh Dairy in Grand Rapids or to Leprino Foods cheese factory in Allendale. Many of the attendees were surprised to learn that every load of milk from every dairy farm is tested for antibiotics and then discarded if antibiotics are found in the milk. Attendees are given the opportunity to complete a survey at the end of the farm tour, and of those who responded, 86 percent reported that their trust in milk as a safe food was already very high or had increased as a result of the farm visit. Ninety percent reported that their confidence in Michigan dairy products was already high or had increased as a result of the farm visit. Eighty-four percent of those completing surveys shared that they already purchased a significant amount of Michigan dairy products or are more likely to purchase more Michigan products. Many comments were also received regarding how educational the tour was and that the program was a wonderful experience for adults and children. 

Breakfast on the Farm is a large community event and takes the efforts of hundreds of volunteers and local sponsors. More than 240 volunteers, farmers and other agriculture professionals were on hand early in the morning to make sure that everything was ready for the visitors. Attendees were greeted by knowledgeable volunteers throughout the tour. Bringing farmers and the general public together on the farm is the key to the Breakfast on the Farm program’s success. 

The 2013 Breakfast on the Farm programs have been completed, with information and photos posted on the BOTF website. Information on hosting a Breakfast on the Farm in 2014 is also available on the website. 

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