Running to the store for a gallon of milk is routine in most people’s lives. But the process of how that milk reaches the grocer’s shelf can be eye-opening.
Guests from Fulton County and beyond will learn the process at “Breakfast On The Farm,” scheduled Saturday, June 15, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., at Henricks and Krieger Dairy Farm, 14692 County Road 16-3, Chesterfield Township. At least 3,000 visitors from as far as Arizona are expected to attend the rain-or-shine open house for a free, hearty farm breakfast lasting until noon, and a first-hand look at a modern dairy farm.
Twenty information stations will be set up around the farm, hosted by farmers, veterinarians, and other agricultural experts to provide facts and answer questions. Areas of interest will include the milking operation, where 150 Holstein cows produce 1,200 gallons daily; an outdoor “nursery,” where calves are cared for; and a half-acre indoor cow barn with such amenities as fans and sprinklers to cool the animals in warm weather.
Guests will learn about the herd’s feeding and waste management, the forage crops grown on the farm, and the 16,800 pounds of nutritious mixture the cows feed on each day. They will also make a short trip to the homestead property, where grain is processed.
Co-owner Richard Henricks, 72, who started the dairy farm with his dad, Clifford, said the event is an ideal way for people to discover the origins of milk products they purchase.
“The gap between the consumer and the farmer has widened over the years, and the consumer needs to know that we produce a safe food, we care for our animals, and we care for the land and the water,” he said. “We see this so often in the dairy barn – people are so amazed at how we care for the animals and where their food comes from.”
Visitors will get a close-up look at the farm’s daily operations and the animals, Henricks said, adding, “We are going to stress a lot of education here.”
Modern features that may surprise guests with little knowledge of farms include waterbeds for the cows and mechanical scrapers that automatically clear manure from the barn floor twice each day. Additionally, the animals can wear a Fitbit-type device that monitors their movement and digestion for signs of problems or estrus and reports the data to a base station every 15 minutes.
According to Krieger, the dairy farm is self-sustaining, with regular births through artificial insemination and crops grown to feed the cows.
Henricks said he and partners Phillip and Tara Henricks and Shawn and Kim Krieger will emphasize the care they take with the animals. They will also stress their efforts to maintain a water source free from farm contamination.
“Farmers very much care about the environment, and so we are very in tune to all of that,” Kim Krieger said.
She said visitors are encouraged to ask questions about the farm’s operation. “We want to be able to share lots of information,” she said.
Farm Bureau spokesperson Ty Higgins said in the past farmers quietly went about their business, and would have expressed surprise at guests inquiring about their operations. He said the more recent crop of farmers is open to transparency regarding their business.
“Their generation is asking questions, and they’re now more inclined to answer them than the generation before. That’s a great example of how the industry has changed in the last 20 or 30 years,” Higgins said.
He said a tour of the dairy farm offers the Henrickses and Kriegers a platform to dispel the common notion that all farms practice questionable methods.
To the contrary, Krieger said, the event is a perfect chance for people who have never visited a farm to see the operation first-hand.
“This is a great time to come and learn what life on a modern dairy farm is really all about,” she said.
“Breakfast On The Farm” is the result of months of preparation and the help of hundreds of volunteers led by the county’s Ohio State University Extension chapter, the local four-county Farm Bureau, and the Fulton Soil and Water Conservation District.
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.