(Scroll down for a slide show of scenes from the event.)
NEW WATERFORD, Ohio — They came in a steady stream, from farms nearby and across state lines, and from local towns and villages. They came with children in tow, or with friends or classmates, until 1,300 visitors walked down the lane at Baker’s Golden Dairy for the Columbiana County Farm Bureau’s first Breakfast on the Farm.
The breakfast, held June 25 from 8 a.m. until noon, was patterned after similar events held in other Ohio counties, an opportunity to welcome nonfarm and farm friends alike to share a meal and see a modern farm in action.
Baker’s Golden Dairy, home of the Kevin Baker family, is one of just a few dairy farms in Ohio with an on-farm bottling plant. Their retail bottling enterprise now produces 500 gallons of pasteurized, non-homogenized milk each week, with products sold in a store on the farm as well as in stores throughout the region.
“I never heard so many comments like, ‘man, what an awesome time!’” said owner Kevin Baker. “They’re totally amazed at how we do all this stuff.”
And that was the goal of the breakfast, said Nick Kennedy, organization director for the Columbiana County Farm Bureau who masterminded the event.
“We just wanted people to learn more about a little slice of agriculture,” he said, “to have more than a 30-second conversation so they could gain a little knowledge and respect about farmers.”
And for the farmers in the crowd, Kennedy hoped they appreciated the effort to showcase what a working farm looks like, and “how important it is to talk to people about agriculture.”
Kennedy said the board decided to do “one big shot” instead of its annual spring breakfast and fall farm tour, after seeing counties like Franklin and Fulton pull off similar events. He galvanized 100 volunteers from the county Farm Bureau members, local 4-H clubs, the Southern FFA chapter and even the local Crestview High School football team, and the day’s events were well organized and ran without a hitch.
Even Kennedy, who before the event said he was ready for 2,000 people, was overwhelmed by the attendance and response. “This is insane,” he said, watching another cluster of visitors climb down from their short wagon ride from the parking area, and the counter reached 1,200 by 10:40 a.m.
Visitors were shuttled to the farm, where they could enjoy a pancake and sausage (from the Bakers’ hogs and processed locally at Chamberlain Farms) for a donation, and then visit seven stations around the farm, including the processing plant and the milking parlor. Other stops focused on manure management and water quality, seed genetics, feed, a petting zoo, and veterinary care/herd health.
There were also displays of antique tractors and a restored steam engine, as well as modern tractors and combine.
“This is just absolutely a fantastic event. I don’t even know what to say,” said Farm Bureau volunteer Gloria Mathews, who admitted she was a little skeptical when the idea was first presented. “The Baker family is just awesome, just great people.”
“I hope the nonfarm visitors can learn where their food comes from, and what it takes to put that bottle of milk on the table,” she said.
But Mathews also said she hoped the farm visitors left the breakfast with a little more pride about their role in society.
“You do this every day, and there’s all the minutiae, and you’re so busy running like crazy, that you don’t have a real appreciation for what you do,” she explained. “I hope they can take a deep breath and see, ‘oh my God, this really is a great life.’”