A Tale of Two Farms

I’ve recently had the chance to visit two very different dairy farms in my area. And thinking about the two farms has made me consider my views on agriculture and dairy cows.

The first farm that I visited was Little Qualicum Cheeseworks. It’s a small farm that produces cheese on-site, using the milk from its own herd of cows. The cows spend most of their time outdoors, grazing in the pasture. Their diet is supplemented in the winter with hay and silage, during the time they can’t be outdoors. The farm has an SPCA certification that means its animals are well cared for. They also actively work to preserve their farm’s habitat and reduce their carbon footprint.

The farm at Little Qualicum Cheeseworks looks very much like I expect a dairy farm to look. Cows outside and a traditional milking parlor inside, where milking happens twice a day.

The cows at Little Qualicum Cheeseworks

Milking parlour

The other farm that I visited is Bakerview EcoDairy. It is a demonstration farm, which means that its aim is to educate the public about dairy farming, and where their milk comes from. It is brand-spanking new, and has a lot of innovative approaches. For example, their cows are milked by a robotic milker, which is available around the clock. When the cows want to, they approach the milker and they are milked. They also have access to an automatic brush, which I saw several cows using. Their barn has rubber flooring and cushioned ‘cow mattresses’ for laying on, and temperature and humidity are controlled.

The EcoDairy is installing an anaerobic digester, which will convert the cows’ waste into fuel for energy and high-quality fertilizer. There is low-energy lighting, flooring made from recycled tires and rainwater collection off the roof. But the cows are inside all of the time, and their diet is specifically controlled. This ensures that they produce milk at a consistent quantity and quality. The ‘indoor pasture’ didn’t look much like what I expected a dairy farm to look like.

The cows at Bakerview EcoDairy

One of the cows checks out the automatic brush

I consume dairy products. In fact, I consume a lot of dairy products. I love cheese and ice cream and yogurt. My kids drink milk, and I have it on my cereal. Seeing the cows that produce that milk was really informative. While neither dairy was organic, both took a lot of care with their animals, and tried to tread lightly on the earth. Both farms also welcome the public 7 days a week, and so I expect that their standards are quite high.

I really appreciated that the cows at the EcoDairy had the freedom to set their own milking schedule, and had access to so many comforts. I didn’t like that they were always inside, except for the couple of months when they don’t produce milk. I really appreciated that the cows at Little Qualicum had access to pasture as much as possible, but as a nursing mom myself I can imagine that the farm’s milking schedule might not always work for every cow.

Regardless of where you stand on these farms in particular, or dairy farms in general, one thing is clear to me. It’s important that we know where our food comes from. It’s important that we know how it’s produced, and what sort of impact it has. So I am really glad that I toured these farms, and I hope to tour more in the future. I’m learning a lot, even if I don’t have all the answers.

Have you ever toured a farm? What were your impressions? And what do you think makes for a ‘good’ farm?

:: :: ::

You can catch up with Amber’s regular adventure, on a farm or at home in the suburbs, on Strocel.com.

2 Responses to A Tale of Two Farms
  1. […] A Tale of Two Farms (goinggreen.5minutesformom.com) […]

  2. Back in Farm Country | Passing Thru
    October 2, 2010 | 1:13 pm

    […] A Tale of Two Farms (goinggreen.5minutesformom.com) […]