Down on the farm: Dairy farm connects with consumers

By John Butters, The JOURNAL


WAYLAND ? A Dairy Day project in rural Washington County brought city kids to the farm for a mini-seminar on milk production.

Doug and Donna Roth of Hilltop Dairy Farms hosted the event Saturday afternoon at their home south of Wayland. The Roths sell their milk to Prairie Farms.Their daughter Madison, who graduated from Iowa State University this spring with a degree in Dairy Science, developed the idea as a way to connect the producer with the consumer. She said most people have lost a connection to their food source and by bringing them to a working dairy farm, they can learn about milk production and meet the people who produce it.

?The farm-to-table movement has become very popular. People want to know where their food comes from. They are not connected to their food the way they were 25 years ago,? she said.

By bringing people to the farm, consumers can learn about the production of milk and they can meet the people who produce it, she said.

Madison, who is on the Midwest Dairy Board, said it is important for agricultural associations to educate the public about food production and explain the process of putting food on their table. ?We want people to hear the farmer?s story firsthand,? she said.

To accomplish that purpose on a local level, she convinced her parents to let the public tour their dairy and provide some entertainment for the children. The tour included a visit to the milking parlor where gleaming rows of stainless steel milking machines waited for the 160 cows to be milked twice each day. Each stanchion has a computer hooked up to the milking machine so that production can be both measured and dated. Each cow has a unique number that is entered into the database for tracking.

Outside the barn, children had the opportunity to get up close to the calves and give them a pat.

?It?s fun to see the kids? reactions. They try to give the calves kisses,? she said.

In addition to the calves, Madison set up displays that provided information on the operation and the dairy industry in general. Also on display were historical artifacts of Hilltop Dairy. Marylou and Larry D. Roth, Madison?s grandparents, stood behind a table of photographs and antique dairy items that told the farm?s history.

Larry D. is the second generation of the family to work the farm. His father, Elmer, was the first after moving to the U.S. from Alsace-Lorraine.

Madison will be the fourth generation to work the farm. She said she doesn?t mind the twice-a-day-at-3:30 milkings.

?It?s always been my goal to stay in farming and operate a dairy. It?s rewarding to work with livestock,? she said. ?I enjoy this type of work.?