Hi Friends! Happy Monday. Posts were few and far between last week, but for good reason! On Thursday I was up in Columbus for the day to participate in the Ohio Academy Of Nutrition and Dietetics (OAND) annual pre-conference event. I have always wanted to attend the actual conference however, I had plans to travel to Missouri with family Friday and Saturday. So, when I saw this pre-conference meeting was an option, I jumped right on it.
The day was planned and organized by the American Dairy Association Mideast, with help from the Ohio Pork Council, Ohio Poultry Association, and Ohio Cattleman’s Association in partnership with the Ohio State University Extension Center. The goal for the meeting was for participants to get a firsthand look at how our foods are produced. We got to chat with farmers and speak with food production experts to learn exactly how different foods end up on our plate. Awesome!
First tour? OSU’s dairy farm. Before heading over to the actual farm, we had to put on some super attractive foot covers (pictured above) to prevent bringing contaminants on site. Clearly they take great care of their cows. I think for starters, it was incredibly surprising to find that right in the dead center of an urban campus, there is a fully functioning 167 acre dairy farm featuring over 100 Jersey cows. While the main focus of this dairy farm is obviously to benefit the university (research, education, student employment), they do sell their milk to Smith’s Dairy and these profits help support the mission of the farm.
Now, let’s talk milk! What I found most interesting about the dairy industry was that there is typically a turnaround of no more than 48 hours from milking the cow, to the milk appearing on supermarket shelves. Crazy to think that milk from the grocery store is literally as fresh as it could be. What I found to be slightly more shocking though, was how little farmers earn off each gallon of milk sold at the grocery: only 65 cents to a dollar. This amounts to around a $40,000 / year salary for a farmer with 100 cows. I would have guessed they earn more considering how hard the farmers work. It’s a 24/7 job!
Next stop was OSU’s Garden of Hope. This garden is a unique set up designed specifically for local cancer patients. The farm is used as a means for educating patients, survivors and family members on healthy dietary patters, specifically with cancer in mind. These individuals also have the unique opportunity to come harvest their own produce from this ENORMOUS garden. A lot of thought and consideration went into developing this project, including pesticide use. They do not use pesticides or herbicides because most of the people picking the produce are immunosuppressed cancer patients. In addition, this farm cannot be considered organic due to use of synthetic fertilizer. Again, due minimizing risk for the cancer patients, the decision was made to prevent exposing them to the organic fertilizer, which typically is made with manure.
During lunch, we skyped a pork farmer, and he introduced us to his pigs, and explained the process of raising pigs. Unfortunately, the skype connection was not the best and it was very difficult to hear what the farmer had to say. However, I was very impressed with how clean the facility was and how well managed it appeared.
After lunch, we were off to the OSU Beef Facility. Here we got to speak with the farmers and student interns who manage and maintain the cattle. Fun fact: did you know there is a beef farm in every Ohio county? What was also interesting to learn was that all the cattle are artificially inseminated in order to synchronize the breeding. This allows for all cows to be on a similar schedule, making animal management much less cumbersome. While this farm functions just like any other beef facility might, the primary purpose here is for research and education. Any beef left over is sold at a university meat market at a discount price (aka perfect for struggling college students!).
After the long day of farm tours, it was time to head home to Cincinnati. Such an interesting way to spend a day–while I don’t do any farming for my work, I deal with individuals who are constantly asking questions about food and where it comes from. This meeting provided me with new facts and perspective on what it takes to get food from farm to plate.