I don’t know what the fascination is that I have with farms but it’s grown even stronger as we wind our way through the Midwest.
Being that we were in the heart of America’s Dairy Land of Wisconsin I figured it would be a great opportunity for us city folk to get a real appreciation for the farmers that feed our country. Did you know that 3% of the population (farmers) feed 100% of our population. Fun fact!
Despite the fact that us New Yorkers were poorly dressed in flip flops, once I let go of the fact that our feet would become filth, we were ready to roll. Dark clouds hung over the farm and it looked ominous but this was our chance.
First Tina Hinchley, one of the owners of Hinchley Farms in Cambridge, Wisconsin gave us a brief overview of how the family farm grew over the decades from generation to generation, which was really interesting. The stench was STRONG, and I asked if she even smells it anymore or if she is totally used to it. She informed me that it was even cow and manure I was smelling but the Silo filled with grain and feed for the cows.
She took us on a brief tour to see the corn fields. That’s when I had my first lesson on GMOs. I mean I’ve heard the word but other than the word I couldn’t tell you a darn thing. A GMO is a genetically modified organism: an organism or microorganism whose genetic material has been altered by means of genetic engineering. Genetic modification is the process of forcing genes from one species into another entirely unrelated species. “The available evidence indicates that GMO food is not harmful to human health. However, the health effects of spraying GMO crops with the herbicide glyphosate is still a matter of debate. Nonetheless, there is no good evidence that genetic modification itself causes foods to become unhealthy or toxic….Using genetic modification, scientists are able to produce new varieties of plants with certain qualities, such as being more resistant to viruses or pesticides.”
Tina told us that despite how foods are labeled in supermarkets there are only about 10 crops that are true GMOS.
As we bumped along the trail she gave us a quick primer of what life as a daisy farmer is like. Her alarm goes off at 3:45am, because guess what? The Cows don’t care if you’re tired they want to be milked. If you are late they will start to moo and bellow. Breastfeeding moms you know that feeling of being engorged lol 🤣 It takes about 1.5-2 hours to prep, milk and clean up. Then the baby calves need to have their bottle and since they are being hand bottle fed it takes about 5 minutes a baby. 🍼🍼Then there are plenty of chores to be done, stacking the hale bales, cleaning the stalls, gathering the fresh eggs, feeding the other animals, tending the crops, tours etc…then the cows need to be milked again around and she tries to be asleep by 9. Oh ya she tried to squeeze in a few meals depending on how busy she is. Rinse and repeat EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. Talk about respect. I had no clue what it went into being a dairy farmer and I have such a new found respect for farmers around the world. I asked her if she loves her job…she dedicates 16+ of her day to the animals, seems like a lot of blood sweat and tears. Indeed she does.
We learned how the babies are born and some Other cool facts about cows! 🆒🆒🆒
Every other day the truck comes and empties the bulk tank and continues the milk production process. From “teat to table” it’s about 48 hours!!!! How’s that for FRESH! They sell their milk to places like local schools, and to Dean Foods, which is the milk for Walmart. Interesting fact: Dean foods sells a gallon of their milk at Walmart for around $3.35 but Walmart sells their same milk under the Walmart label for around $1.72 so that lower income families can afford to buy milk. Pretty wonderful! 🥛🥛🥛
She showed us that if you look at the chickens ear color that tells you the color of the egg!! Our chicken had white ears so 🥚. Fun fact! Here’s another fun fact that I went 38 years without knowing. On the wall she had a poster showing the stages of the egg. So I asked her if the egg we picked was stage 1, where the chicken is basically like an embryo. She told me that not all eggs have chickens!🐥✖️ Wait what? I never knew this!!! She said that hens (female chickens) can ovulate 5 times a month! Soooo unless she’s put in the same house as a rooster (male chicken) who is fertilizing her eggs she’s basically shooting blanks lol. The eggs we eat are blanks! How did I never know this??? 🤷🏽♀️🤷🏽♀️ Then we each got a chance to hold a funny looking furry rooster!
At this point the tour was basically ending. It was a really unique experience, and I didn’t want it to be over. But since it was approaching milking time, she had to run. I asked if we could watch the milking process and she said YES! YEEHAW! Not very often is New Yorkers get to watch dairy cows get milked.
We ended the day with the BEST EXPERIENCE! We got to feed the newborn baby calves their bottle.
One was less than a day old and the other one was just born that morning. The one born in the early morning drank from the mother, which they don’t prefer. They like to make sure the teats are clean first with no bacteria on them. But since it was born while they were sleeping they couldn’t control it.
The experience was really magical and Special. If you ever get a chance to see a working dairy farm I highly Recommend it. 👏🏽If you are ever visiting Madison, Wisconsin then you HAVE to check out Hinchleys Farm in nearby Cambridge, Wi. You will gain a greater appreciation for how we get our milk and cheese and other dairy products, and have more empathy for the farmers across our country. I will treasure this experience forever and so will my kids ♥️🐮♥️🐮🥚🐓🥛🧀