This year our farm is corresponding with a junior high school in Savage, MN. The teacher, has asked all of his 120+ literature students to write letters to us. This past weekend, Mr. Meyer, his family and two students traveled to our farm to visit and hand deliver those 120+ letters. We got started reading the letters right away. Collectively the letters were very impressive and the students asked very good questions. Here are just a few that stood out. We plan to highlight more over the course of the next several months.
Do dairy farms produce food?
I guess I was kind of taken back by this question right away, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized the context. Sometimes it is really hard to visualize how all those crops and animals turn into the perfect packages we buy at the store. Yes, dairy farms produce food. On our farm our raw milk is taken by a milk truck to a bottling facility where they pasteurize it and package it into cartons of milk. Then the milk is sent to stores for people to buy. Milk on other farms is taken to other facilities where they can make it into cheese, sour cream, yogurt, ice cream, etc. If you are interested in science, there is a high demand for people with a food science degree. The dairy industry needs people who can develop new products and flavors and make our food healthier and safer.
Do you have cable TV? Do you homeschool your children?
These two questions stem from the misconception that farmers are isolated on their farms. Yes, we have satellite TV, we use cell phones with data packages, we have a Wii and enjoy music on our iPods. We update our Facebook page daily and use our cell phones to “tweet” on Twitter.
Currently, our children are only 1 and 2 years old. When they reach school age they will attend a parochial school until 9th grade and then they will attend either Lakeville South High School or New Prague High School. We live on the border of the two school districts.
Today’s technology makes it easy for anyone and anywhere to be “connected.”
How do farmers advertise their products?
This is a really good question. Most farms produce what is known as a commodity, a raw product, and send it some where to be packaged or processed into the food you buy. Companies like General Mills, Nestle, Smuckers, etc buy raw product and process it to make your potato chips, cereal, oreos and more. Those companies and brands do most of the advertising. In addition, most farmers also pay what is known as “check off” Each time farmers sell a product they pay a percentage of their sale to the check off. The National Dairy Check Off works to increase sales and demand for dairy products. “Got Milk” is one of their most known campaigns. Our milk is bottled under the Organic Valley label. Organic Valley has many advertising campaigns and methods.
On our farm we also do direct sales of meat. We advertise through word of mouth, our website and having booths at “green” expos/conferences. These advertising methods work well for us. We sell out almost every year.
Why do you guys farm?
Our farm was started by Tim’s great Grandfather John J. Zweber in 1906. During that time, nearly everyone farmed. In each generation there was someone who wanted to continue the family business. Tim decided to farm because it is something he really enjoys. Each day is challenging and each day presents new problems to solve. And at the end of the day we can say “because of what we did today, hundreds of families will enjoy a healthy glass of milk tonight at supper”
So there is just a small dent in the questions that the students asked. We are really excited be corresponding with them.