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Dairy Farmer

 

carissa webTell us about your operation


At our family dairy, we grow crops to feed our own herd of 200 cows. We process their milk, plus the milk from three neighboring farms, into a full line of dairy products. Our products are sold in our on-farm dairy store as well as through delivery to homes, stores, schools, and businesses within about an hour-radius of our farm. In addition, we host a variety of events throughout the year where we welcome more than 5,000 visitors annually in order to help folks connect with a local farm. I'm
part of the sixth generation on our original family farm.


Are you finding that with the growing popularity of the local-food movement,
that more people want to see door-to-door milk delivery?


We have offered home delivery of milk and dairy products since 1933. I'm the milkman's grand-daughter (and have heard all the accompanying jokes), so this has always been part of our family dairy tradition. We have provided generations of service to many local communities, and that is a very special connection for us to have directly with our customers. There is no doubt that the milkman is cool again! Younger families are realizing the benefit of receiving farm-fresh products delivered straight to their door. Local communities are also realizing the importance of supporting small local businesses— which in turn support local communities.


Last year you hosted a local food event at your farm. Why did you want to hold
such an event?


My family challenged me to add another farm event to our calendar, so my cousin Jennifer and I worked with a local chef to create an event to help connect our friends and neighbors to the local farms that produce their food. Our "Farm to Fork Dinner" was a tremendous success. We featured food just from farms in Cambria County, and participating farmers had the opportunity to serve their prepared goods directly to attendants. We served local salad and veggies, potatoes (of course!), beef and chicken, sweet corn, ice cream, berries, milk, and even local wine. We grew, prepared, and served dinner to 200 very satisfied customers. Jennifer has a tremendous talent for decorating with recycled items- our cocktail tables were empty 55-gallon barrels covered with burlap and tablecloths and topped with mason jars filled with wild flowers. With a very small budget, we were able to create a professional, memorable evening with the larger goal of creating a dialogue about the abundance of fresh, local, food.


Prior to coming back to the family farm, you worked for a national farm
organization. How does that experience help you on the farm, and with
Farm Bureau?


While at the National Milk Producers Federation early in my career, I developed an understanding of how difficult it can be to develop consensus on issues impacting agriculture. From the color of tractors in the shed to where you ship your milk, there are small differences that threaten to divide fellow farmers. The farm community can focus on common ground in order to help shape the big picture future of agriculture. As part of my experience, I coordinated the National Young Cooperator program, which is similar to Farm Bureau's YF&R program. I met incredible young farmers from throughout the country who I'm proud to still consider to be my friends. It was my job to encourage these producers to become politically active industry leaders, so when I returned to the farm, I reached out to local, state, and national officials to help be that voice in the field to provide feedback on farm practices and policies.


Why is it important for young farmers to get involved in Farm Bureau?


Young farmers all have unique stories to tell. We raise different commodities and different crops and have different family/business organizations. I really believe that the one sure way to make sure that farm policies fit YOUR operation is to be active in their development. It's always easier to criticize the end-product than to be involved in the compromises involved in developing a consensus policy position. Farm Bureau is truly a grassroots organization that allows for your ideas to become policy if enough other members share your position.


Are you optimistic about the future of agriculture?


Absolutely! There are opportunities for farms of all sizes to determine who their customers are and then meet their demands as efficiently as possible, in balance with the health of our animals and the environment.


Lastly, why are you a Farm Bureau member?


I think it's important for farmers to work together and to speak with a unified voice through organizations like Farm Bureau. In my case, I worked with colleagues on American Farm Bureau staff in D.C. before returning to my home farm and becoming active with my county Farm Bureau, which is sort of a backwards experience. In our county, farmers are an important part of many local discussions and we work closely with our County Commissioners and other local officials in a variety of ways. Participating in our local Farm Bureau has increased my awareness of how our county services and programs are developed and implemented, and also how national policies play out at the local levels.