It was a chilly morning as I headed out to meet up with the other Field Moms for our road trip to visit two Illinois Farms. We met at a designated location and rode together to the farms. We were all a little unsure about what the day would bring. What would the farms look like? Would the farmers be welcoming? Would the farms be clean? Many things went thru our heads as we talked amongst ourselves on our early morning drive.
We arrived Larson farms and were greeted with open arms by the Martz family and grandma even had pot of coffee ready for us. Larson Farms was huge to say the least, 6,350 acres plus 3,500 head of cattle. This farm operates with 4 generations of family, even little Jaxson was present for our tour. We were given the opportunity to learn more about the farm, tour the farm and have all of our questions answered.
We walked thru the cattle and were surprised at how they (weighing on average 900-1,000 lbs) were afraid of us moms. We learned that those that come to the farm together, always stay together. The Martz family has spent a lot of time and money investing in the items to make their farm work efficiently while making sure that their cattle are well taken care of. They demonstrated an ultrasound machine which could show how much marbling a cow had and how much they needed to eat in the future to reach their potential weight. One of the most interesting things to me on this farm was the lack of flies, I saw maybe 2 flies the whole time we were there. Mrs. Martz told us that they have wasps delivered weekly which eat the fly larvae, thus controlling the flies without the use of pesticides. They had a lot of pride in their farm and assured us that they are eating what they produce and would not harm their family. We rode in the combine that was equipped with GPS, TV, WiFi and a multitude of gadgets that helped the plant and harvest the farm. I learned so much from this family and know that they are truly doing what they love.
After a quick lunch stop at a 100 year old restaurant we headed on to our 2nd farm for the day. We arrived at Lindale Holsteins just as it was time for the cows to be milked and boy were they ready. We made a quick stop to look at the calves. They were absolutely adorable and you could tell that these were Linda’s babies, she had little stories about each of them. They were quite curious and wanted constant contact with us, I think most of us kept getting licked by them as we walked by. We made our way to watch the cows be milked. (150 cows, milked twice a day). We asked tons of questions, about the quality of milk, where it goes once it leaves the farm and about hormones. Our questions were answered openly and honestly even their veterinarian stopped by to chime in on the concern with hormones. They went on to say that they drink their own milk and that we all have to make our own choice as to whether we feel we need to drink milk that was not treated with hormones.
I needed clarification from Linda Drendel on the hormones and below is a little more info she provided:
*1. Cows naturally produce BST, a growth hormone that stimulates milk production. Therefore, any glass of milk has BST. A scientist nor a consumer can tell the difference between a glass of milk with BST and one without rBST. There are NO definitive studies that show harmful effects from rBST milk.
*2. NOT every cow in our herd (or any herd) is given rBST. She must be in good physical condition and be in good health. She first receives rBST 90 -100 days into her lactation; the dose is mere mls compared to her weight of 1500 pounds plus it is given once every two weeks and it continues to the end of her lactation.
*3. About it being a choice to make: We agree; however, it is NOT a choice between a healthy, safe glass of milk without rBST and one with rBST incorrectly assuming it is not as safe, healthy. It is a choice between paying a higher price (usually if not always) for organic. Also it can be said that virtually all milk (organic or not) is labeled as rBST free.
The milk is picked by a truck which then goes on to pick up milk from a few more farms. This milk is then taken to the coop and sold. When we asked which milk is “better” from namebrand Vit D to store brand Vit D, we were told that the milk is probably exactly the same, just marketed differently. We ended our visit Lindale Farms with chocolate milk, cookies and ice cream, a delicious treat after a long day.
Visiting the farms was an amazing experience. I feel like I am armed with more knowledge about farming and the process from farm to table and can now answer questions for family and friends. The farmers are passionate about what they do and it shows in how they operate their farms.
Each day, I remember something that I learned on the farm and happily share it with my kids. They love the fact that farming doesn’t feel so foreign anymore.