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Serving: MO

Dairy farm experience comes to St. Louis

At the new Grant’s Farm dairy exhibit, visitors can see live dairy calves up close.

Young dairy calves graze in a pen near downtown St. Louis as Donna Telle stands nearby visiting with onlookers. “No one really heard of a Holstein,” the Missouri dairy farmer says. “They didn’t know it was black and white. Most didn’t know what a dairy cow even looked like.”

Telle, who operates a 50-cow dairy about 90 miles south of St. Louis, was on hand at Grant’s Farm, which this year opened a new dairy exhibit sponsored by Midwest Dairy.

“We wish that everyone could visit a working dairy farm and have a one-on-one conversation with a farmer,” says Telle, who serves as secretary on the Midwest Dairy board. “And that’s why it was important to us that families could have this opportunity to visit a dairy exhibit to gain a true understanding of where their milk comes from and get a chance to see dairy calves up close.”

Grant’s Farm has 12 dairy calves representing each dairy cow breed. The new exhibit, located adjacent to the Bauernhof Courtyard, is a covered barn with views and access to the dairy calves. Inside the exhibit, visitors can visit interactive learning stations — including a large, fiberglass cow for children to "milk" and a touch-screen kiosk ready to play short, informational dairy videos.

Daily dose of dairy

Grant’s Farm is a 281-acre farm now home to more than 900 animals. It’s been open to the public since 1954. “We’re excited that Midwest Dairy was willing to bring a little bit of the farm back to Grant’s Farm,” says Scott Smith, general manager of Grant’s Farm. “We’re proud of our farming heritage here at Grant’s Farm and are working to spotlight that meaningful history as we expand.”

Midwest Dairy has more than 5,800 dairy farmers in its cooperative. The organization also works with community partners to educate and create experiences that work to build trust surrounding dairy, especially with young families.

“Our goal with the dairy exhibit is to reach the next generation of dairy consumers, many of whom may be seeing cows up close for the first time,” says Molly Pelzer, Midwest Dairy CEO. “The exhibit highlights how dairy farmers care for their cows and are committed to on-farm sustainability practices. We’re thrilled that this new dairy exhibit will offer a glimpse into the process of bringing dairy from the farm to our tables.”

Consumers up close with farmers

Telle was part of the Friday Nights at the Farm event, where Grant’s Farm hosts local dairy farmers to visit with families. The final evening is June 25.

“We hear a lot that consumers are really concerned where their food comes from; they're concerned how we take care of our animals,” Telle says. “So, it's really good that we're there and can answer the questions.”

For instance, she was able to explain the difference in the physical appearance of a dairy cow compared to a beef cow. “When we have tours on the farm or have people over, many think the dairy cow is malnourished because they are not fat and sassy,” she explains. “You can see their ribs and both their tailbones. I have to reassure them they are well-fed, and it is just their different genetic makeup, but that she’s a good dairy cow doing a great job.”

To prove her point, she asked Grant’s Farm visitors how much water she gives to her cows — a cup, a bucket or a bathtub? “They were amazed that our cows drink a whole bathtub of water each day,” Telle says. These conversations and explanations are easier face-to-face, she adds.

All ages were engaging in the exhibit, she says. There was a wheel visitors could spin and answer questions. “The one that surprised me was when we ask them to name three minerals or nutrients milk has,” Telle says. “There were a lot of good guesses, but not many could name three.” This is where she says nights such as these, interacting with consumers, pay off.

Telle was able to share about not only calcium and vitamin D, but also protein, potassium and vitamin A. “We do a lot of dairy programs in the schools, but I think broadening it to all consumers is beneficial for our industry,” she adds. “They need to hear about the benefits of dairy from dairy farmers. Events like this help.”

However, Telle realizes dairy farmers are busy, so exhibits like the one at Grant’s Farms put the dairy industry in front of consumers more regularly. “With the live calves running,” she says, “it just brings dairy farms closer to consumers. It is just a unique exhibit.”

Visit the Grant's Farm website at Grantsfarm.com.

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