Published by The Daily News at: https://www.thedailynewsonline.com/bdn01/kinderfarmin-gives-kids-the-full-view-of-a-dairy-farm-20180607&
CORFU — As kindergartners from Byron-Bergen stepped forward for a third or fourth brush of the surprisingly soft sand in a free-stall barn at the Reyncrest dairy farm, volunteer Tasha Sutherland knew how to pull their attention back.
“Let’s talk about poo,” Sutherland said, continuing a Kinderfarmin’ conversation that showed more than 600 students every aspect of a cow’s life.
Students were excited to hear about the foods cows are fed, how they relax, grow from calves and are milked. And yes, even how they relieve themselves.
Sutherland explained to students how farmers use the three daily milking sessions to come through and clean the barns of any future-fertilizer. But the free-stall setup gives the cows a great deal of independence.
“They can pick wherever they want to sleep, wherever they want to eat,” Sutherland told her group. “There’s two water troughs and they can go wherever they want to go in their group ... the only things the people tell them what to do is the three times per day they are milked.”
Put on each June by the Genesee County Farm Bureau, Kinderfarmin’ returned Wednesday to an all-in-one farm where the Reynolds family manages 2,200 acres and 1,300 milking cows. The youngest animals were greeted by waves of students for an up-close view that fit with activities where kids whipped up and tasted butter, tried their hand at a simulated milking station and climbed up onto tractors.
Looking out at the arriving school buses and a field already full of kids, County Farm Bureau President Christian Yunker thought of the maybe 150 chaperones on hand. Not that the kids needed direction — the parents and teachers represented another group to educate.
“Every year, every generation, is further removed from the farm, and for young people and adults to learn about what it takes to be in production agriculture is very important,” Yunker said. “For them to know why we do what we do, and the benefits of the products we grow, the nutritional value ... it’s all about education, we need to do more of that, to tell our story.”
“Every opportunity we get to tell our story, we have to take advantage of it.” Yunker said the Reynolds family was an ideal host — its members are progressive farmers and dairymen with a nicely laid-out and well-maintained operation, and an eagerness to share. Tyler Reynolds — on a live interview available on The Daily News Facebook page — noted his father, John, is even a “model” seen on gallon jugs of Upstate Niagara milk.
“We’re excited to have so many schools represented and that they are seeing modern-day agriculture and everything that goes into it,” said Reynolds, who works full-time with his parents and siblings. “We rely on our family all the time. It’s a team effort, and we have our individual responsibilities, but it’s big enough to not be stepping on each other’s toes and to accomplish more as a team than we could by ourselves.”
His parents moved to the farm’s current location in 1997 and grew the operation from 150 cows to 400, and continually to the current size. Doing it all as a family has made their success all the better.
The operation was altered but not stalled Wednesday — the milking parlor runs all day, and the feeding and cleaning in the barns is constant. Most of the stations were close enough to see it all without getting in the way of the day’s work.
Cargill’s Mark Spoor, a nutritionist for the Reyncrest and farms around the state, manned a table with heaping piles of wet corn silage and haylage and the total mixed ration that cows ate in a long row behind him. During a break between groups, he and John Reynolds talked with Genesee County Manager Jay Gsell about the recipe that produced the grain mix of “vitamins, minerals and proteins” that completed the TMR.
“Cows on a dairy farm eat a better balanced diet than we do — how many of us have a nutritionist changing their diet and giving them a new recipe twice a week?” Spoor said. “That’s what we provide the farms, and there’s a lot of science ... the different cows get different mixes, the fresh cows have different nutrient requirements.”
When the kids arrived, they wanted to know more about the ear tags on each of the cows. He could point them to the depth of computerized information a search for each number would provide. That, and the relative calmness of the midday cud-chewing.
The day didn’t need, nor want, to show an amped-up version of a dairy farm. Farm Bureau member Danielle Cummins said exposing children and adults to the “real life” of a dairy farm is the goal of the day.
“We’re educating them on where the milk comes from, the process from farm to dinner table. For kids, it’s knowing that food just doesn’t come from grocery store, and introducing them to the family and the farm the milk comes from,” Cummins said.
Assistance came from groups like the Upstate Niagara Cooperative, Farm Credit East and Cornell Cooperative Extension. Ann Mowry of Mowacres Farm manned the registration table and said volunteer educator and organizer Barb Sturm’s work behind the scenes to arrange the schedule was invaluable.