by Steve Wagner
There are perfect days for certain events, the kind of days people pray for to ward off rain and make it not too hot, when children and adults can have a good time and get an education as well. Oregon Dairy, located not far from the outskirts of Lancaster, PA, is one of those farms that always seem to be at the vanguard of agricultural issues, hosting seminars, earning awards, and being a good neighbor as well as a good steward of the land.
At Oregon Dairy’s Family Farm Days, the farm resembles an amusement park with heavy ag overtones. A lot of young people exercised their curiosity and their appetites. If a youth was genuinely interested in the farming process, having had no other exposure to it other than videos or reading material, a visit to Oregon is a wonderful primer. Farming is a challenge today, not only because of its inherent problems but now there are political adversities as well. However, it takes that kind of spirit to approach farming, particularly dairy farming, with realistic expectations.
“A Day in the Life of a Dairy Cow,” says Curvin Hurst, “basically tells how much a cow eats and drinks.” Hurst is Oregon’s manager and could be described as the proverbial one-armed paper-hanger with the hives. He was everywhere at the same time, soft-selling people to take wagon rides, helping them into the wagons, opening and closing doors and pounding the sides when the vehicle was full, a signal for the driver to go ahead. Guides with microphones and speakers aboard the wagons reeled off farm facts and figures. One of them was Alan Zepp of the Center for Dairy Excellence.
Hurst gave a history of Family Farm Days in a video press release. “Twenty-five years ago, my dad decided it would be really great to bring people out to the farm, and let them learn something about milking cows,” Hurst recounted. “He always had this philosophy that some people actually believe chocolate milk comes from brown cows. We want to do our part in educating them and teaching them about things they probably don’t know about agriculture. We made a conscious effort every year in June to open our farm to the community.” Hurst says that Family Farm Days can be construed to be a primer on how to milk cows, how to care for chickens, and that the willing eye can discern how other things are handled on a farm.
One of the beauties of this annual event, Hurst says, is that it has become generational. Folks who came when FFD first took place are now coming with their children and grandchildren. The event is worth taking a day off for a visit. It’s also interesting to note how farming techniques have changed since the first generation and the present one. Kids can come out, Hurst says, “and touch little peeps, hold the little chicks. They can ride a tractor. Buy a hotdog and eat free popcorn.”
Several youngsters were fascinated and a bit stand-offish when approaching a calf kennel. They were encouraged to enter and pet the calf.
“What is that, Mommy?”
“That’s a calf, honey.”
“Does he bite?”
“No, honey.” That particular child played it safe and petted the calf’s hindquarters. Immediately above the calf petting zone other moms with other kids could watch a milking carousel. There was a beef exhibit and endless visuals to simply look at.
As Hurst was finishing his video history speech, an older gentleman approached him. Hurst broke away from the script to ask if he might be of assistance. The man wondered if a piece of farm equipment was for sale. It was a combine situated directly in front of the camera. Spontaneously, Hurst assured the man that if he happened to have a couple hundred thousand dollars with him, he could drive it home.
by Steve Wagner