Written by Jonathan Eisenthal
Foodies and farmers got together Tuesday night at a dairy farm in Dundas and found out they have a lot in common—starting with a passion for food.
Organized by CommonGround Minnesota, Field-To-Fork events like this bring together farmers and foodies for a tour of a farm and a sit-down dinner in a unique and relaxed setting. Throughout the evening, guests were joined by a dozen farm women who have taken their passion for farming one step further by volunteering with CommonGround. CommonGround is group of women in agriculture who volunteer their time to share information about food and farming. Volunteers come from a wide variety of farms, and farm backgrounds.
Led by owners Barb and Paul Liebenstain, nearly 80 guests toured Wolf Creek Dairy. They were introduced to the calves in their hutches, got an up close at the 400 Holstein cows in the main barn eating their mixed rations (corn, hay, soybean meal, vitamins and minerals), and saw the milking parlor in action.
Jackie Kanthak runs the food service department at Jackson Elementary in Saint Paul. She feeds breakfast to 350 students and lunch to 400, so her thoughts are never far from what it takes to make the food her kids need.
“It’s one thing to understand the scale necessary to put all those milk cartons out, but it’s another thing to see it in action. To see what it takes,” Kanthak said.
CommonGround volunteer Ashley Schmeling farms with her family in Blooming Prairie, and also works as a precision agronomist. It is a passion of hers to share information about the many different aspects of farming.
At one point Schmeling was asked by guests why farmers use nitrogen and phosphorus and if they use too much. In the spirit of dispelling the myths about farming, she offered a quick sketch of the science behind farmer fertilizer decisions, including how precision ag has led to maximized plant growth and minimized loss of nutrients. It’s a process of constant improvement, she told the group.
“A lot of the things farmers are doing already, like applying fertilizer at a variable rate and taking care of the land, it’s not realized as much, because farmers kind of take it for granted. We just do it.”
The sights, sounds, smell and feel of the farm gave guests additional insights on how food is grown and raised, and a new understanding of Minnesota agriculture.
“I believe very few people understand what it takes, like the amount of feed crops that have to be raised” said guest Sandy Bergeron of the Twin Cities. “And yet we can buy a gallon of milk for three dollars and change. We need more appreciation of our food process in the United States.”