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Serving: IN

Hoosier Family Cultivates Ag Tourism

Don't discount invited guests as source of income.

You do the same routine every day until it may seem mundane, if not drudgery. But particularly if you raise and care for livestock, what you consider mundane might be fascinating to someone else, particularly your 'neighbors' who live in the city. At least one Hoosier family is finding that people will pay to visit the farm and learn about farming at the same time. Not only is it extra income, but it's a great opportunity to tell the agriculture story to a captive audience - an audience that chose to be there in the first place.

Kelsay and Sons Dairy is located near Whiteland, Ind. Johnson County has a population above 100,000. And the farm is only a long stone's throw from downtown Indianapolis. Actually, you could be to the statehouse in downtown Indy in 30 minutes, and probably parked by then. So they have access to a huge audience base that has at least a curious interest in where their food comes, but which is seldom invited to get a firsthand look at what happens on the farm.

The tourism angle is the brainchild of Amy Kelsay, Joe's wife. Joe, brother Russ and their father Merrill, and grandmother Ruth spearhead the dairy side of the operation. Amy markets the farm. Now in their third season of promoting tourism, they do primarily school tour sin the spring, summer camps for younger children in the summer, and cap it off with intensive festival-type weekends in October, featuring a corn maze, homemade ice cream, straw bale mazes and much more, in addition to the popular farm tours.

At a recent tour with high school kids, Amy went into more depth, debunking some of the myths people have about milk and dairy products. "Housewives find margarine and butter in the same aisle, often in what's called the diary case, so they assume that they're both dairy products," she explains. "That's not true. Margerine is made of soybean oil, and has no milk products in it. We like to point that out to people so they know what they're getting."

The same thing happens with whipped toppings, she says. The popular brand 'Cool Whip' is made from other ingredients besides dairy products. If you check the label, you will find that you're getting dairy products when you buy that particular item. There are whipped toppings made from dairy products in the case- just not that brand, which, again, is typically displayed in the dairy case alongside the other products.

"Even I got fooled the other day," Amy explains. "I wanted to buy shredded cheese and I was in a hurry. When I got home, I realized it was imitation shredded cheese. There were some milk products in there, but it certainly wasn't 100% cheese that I thought I was buying. You need to check labels very carefully."

The butterfat concept is another area that often trips up consumers, she notes. "People see 2%, 1%, skim milk, whole milk and they sometimes think that whole milk must mean it's all fat. Of course, that's not true. Even whole milk only has about 3.7% fat.

"They also get confused on how the skim and 1 or 3% products are made. All milk is homogenized. That simply means the fat is distributed through the milk. Otherwise, it would separate in the carton and we would have to shake it up before drinking. With the 1 and 2% products, some fat is filtered out, down to the desired amount.

"People often think those products are simply watered down to dilute them. That's just not true. No water is added. It's just that some fat is removed."

By helping people understand the truth aobut dairy products, Kelsay feels she helps them make more informed choices aobut wht they really want to bring home for the family.

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