Sunday, April 18, 2010

The tattered edge of the flyer...

...had ripped a bit in the breeze, but it fluttered there proudly on its bright pink thumbtack...and I was intriqued.

I had been thinking of ideas to entertain our Granddaughters over the summer and this seemed like a wonderful idea.

I was at the dairy farm for Morgan's pre-school field trip. The sign read "Get a jump-start to agriculture leadership. Students will learn general information about common farm animals including: horses, chickens, cows & goats. This is a great opportunity to see if your child is interested in the agriculture field of study, and get a taste of true farm life".

While we waited for the tour to begin, I sat outside in the mid-morning sunshine ... listening to the sound of chickens and children. I thought of the field trips I went on back in Ohio when my own children were small.

Oh...the fragrances...the manure, the hay, the green fields. It was the smell of the farm. It was always fun to watch the children stand open-mouthed with amazement as large black and white cows lumbered from green fields, jostling for their places in the milking parlor. The stainless steel gleamed. The wet cement and disinfectant scents mingled in the air to create an agricultural perfume that was somehow pleasing in its sweet intricacy.

My memories were interrupted when "Farmer" Jason told us the tour was starting. On our way in the door, I grabbed a flyer so I could call and sign the girls up for the farm classes. I was excited just thinking about how excited they would be.

We gathered in a large room and sat on hay bales while "Farmer" Jason gave us his farm spiel. I was a bit puzzled when he showed us some branches of cotton. He went on to explain that the cows on the farm were fed with cotton seeds. He then showed us a sawdust like substance that was the refuse from a pasta plant. He assured the children that the cows really liked both of these things and ate 50 pounds of them each and every day. We went outside and got on a hay wagon. "Farmer" Bob then proceeded to tell us about the holding pens while the tractor pulled us around. I was puzzled at first. I kept expecting to see green fields gleaming just round the corner. But there were none. There was just a sea of mud and manure...not pleasing in scent...not pleasing in sight.

I asked "Farmer" Bob, "Are these cows ever pastured?" He assured me the cows were happy.

Then "Farmer" Bob explained to the group that the calves were taken away from the "Mommy" cows at birth because they were happier all together with their "friends", I spoke up again. He talked over me and explained how the "babies" had to go away from their "Mommies" or there wouldn't be enough milk to make ice cream!

He did a little rah-rah thing and said "As soon as we get back, we'll all have some ice cream!" while he glared at me.

Oddly, no-one seemed to want to answer my questions about growth hormones or disease either.

And finally one "farmer" helper told me if I was interested in that organic milk stuff I should call a certain dairy...ironically named "Save Your Dairy".

Morgan loved patting the bunnies and feeding the horse and the goat. And I loved watching her happy face light up.

The children were all delighted to be served ice cream made with milk from the dairy's cows, but I declined. I wanted to decline for my Granddaughter as well...but I suspect that might be a battle for another day.

When we left, dusty and tired, Morgan walked with her hand carefully tucked in mine.

I put her securely into her car seat and made sure she was safe. She was happy and chattering about bunnies.

And then I saw a trash bin close by.

I tossed the crumpled up flyer into the bin. If this was "a taste of true farm life", I didn't really want our grandchildren exposed to it.

When I drove out of the crowded parking lot I was blinding for a moment by the sun.

I hesitated briefly before a pause in the traffic allowed me to pull out onto the heavily traveled road.

Though the chatter was entertaining from the back seat I could not shake the feeling that I had really, truly failed to keep this little girl safe.

And I felt saddened.

We stopped at the store to get her a snack. I walked right through the dairy section and got her an organic apple.

post signature

51 comments:

Pondside said...

The hormones and drugs in our food is alarming. At one time the anitbiotics were a boon, but we've just gone overboard.
Sad trip to the farm, by the sound of it.

mbkatc230 said...

How sad! I'm thinking that this may be the reason my cousin changed our family farm from dairy to beef production. I'm sure that if this is the way you have to run a dairy farm to make a living he would want no part of it. I wish you lived closer to Mississippi, I'm sure I could arrange a tour of a "real" farm for your granddaughters! Kathy

Viki said...

A sad commentary on the way some big farms are now.

Tina said...

I feel for you. I once dated the son of a dairy farmer and was quite appalled at the little houses the calves were chained to. Did get to feed them their bottles...but it seemed cruel and strange when there mommies were just in the next building.

Terri and Bob said...

Wow, what a lesson.

I am always so pleased when I see a post about your grands.

Alison said...

This is sadly the "norm" now. I live on the eastern plains of Colorado and have searched for an organic farm without much luck. To purchase organic raw milk I have to buy a share of a cow. I have wanted to teach the kids about where things come from but buying a share of a cow for 1 or 2 gallons of raw milk is not do-able for me

Julia Christie said...

I grew up on a mini farm right next to a dairy farm, so I know how nostalgic this can be...we currently live across the way from a fieldfull of cows and my boys love going to visit them and watching them eat good old fashioned grass and hay. Babies are left to suckle mom as long as they want...
So sad for you and your grandaughter that you had such a disappointing experience.

Have a Great Sunday tho'!

Smiles

Julia Christie said...

I grew up on a mini farm right next to a dairy farm, so I know how nostalgic this can be...we currently live across the way from a fieldfull of cows and my boys love going to visit them and watching them eat good old fashioned grass and hay. Babies are left to suckle mom as long as they want...
So sad for you and your grandaughter that you had such a disappointing experience.

Have a Great Sunday tho'!

Smiles

Julia Christie said...

I grew up on a mini farm right next to a dairy farm, so I know how nostalgic this can be...we currently live across the way from a fieldfull of cows and my boys love going to visit them and watching them eat good old fashioned grass and hay. Babies are left to suckle mom as long as they want...
So sad for you and your grandaughter that you had such a disappointing experience.

Have a Great Sunday tho'!

Smiles

Deb said...

times have changed...sometimes change is good...sometimes change is not so good....

Terra said...

Life is hard to swallow some times - I was moved by the fact that you were able to see that while it may not have "ideal" for those of us who know, the girls really had a great time and that dear Grandma is as precious as gold and I love that you know that! Now, find yourself a nice little farm or dairy to show them the "other side" the way it should be, could be, if Americans still took the time to care as much as they think they do.

GFDINER - Kathy said...

So sorry you were disappointed. I would have been too. I was lucky to find a great CSA farm last summer. It's grant farms and they deliver organic veggies, fruit and I get my happy eggs. I worked one day there last summer and the kids came and got to collect their own eggs to take home. The chickens are happy and get to roam as all other animals. Research a local CSA and order from them. worth the money, time and nothing better than fresh from a happy farm.

GFDINER - Kathy said...

If you want to find a local CSA and get fresh farm goodies go to

http://www.localharvest.org/

I saved so much money with my veggie, fruit and egg share last summer and ate the best food ever.

Bossy Betty said...

I am always completely amazed by what cows are fed. I have read too much about this issue to be comfortable with the meat/dairy industry at all.

Linda said...

There have got to be old time farms somewhere. I hoping anyway. Stuff in our food does scare me but more for my children and future grands. Sigh....at least she liked the bunnies!

Bumpkin on a Swing said...

I love you Jenny Matlock, you are an amazing person, have such a solid strong mind, and you look fab in green! Come and see me at the swing! Mwah!

Bits-n-Pieces said...

Times, they are a changing, and sadly, not always for the better.
I hate that the memories we have of things like dairy farm field trips (and I do have memories of those as well) are not the same memories my children will have. Maybe that's why I try so hard to expose my children to many things and take them on trips all over. We may not can afford Disney World every year, but we go and see what we can!

Bits-n-Pieces said...

Times, they are a changing, and sadly, not always for the better.
I hate that the memories we have of things like dairy farm field trips (and I do have memories of those as well) are not the same memories my children will have. Maybe that's why I try so hard to expose my children to many things and take them on trips all over. We may not can afford Disney World every year, but we go and see what we can!

Bits-n-Pieces said...

Times, they are a changing, and sadly, not always for the better.
I hate that the memories we have of things like dairy farm field trips (and I do have memories of those as well) are not the same memories my children will have. Maybe that's why I try so hard to expose my children to many things and take them on trips all over. We may not can afford Disney World every year, but we go and see what we can!

Bits-n-Pieces said...

Times, they are a changing, and sadly, not always for the better.
I hate that the memories we have of things like dairy farm field trips (and I do have memories of those as well) are not the same memories my children will have. Maybe that's why I try so hard to expose my children to many things and take them on trips all over. We may not can afford Disney World every year, but we go and see what we can!

Amy said...

I want to find a place like that to take my little one too. I loved the stories and pictures.. I have a fun tag on my blog I think you would enjoy it also. Let me know if you join in..

Mary Lou said...

I grew up on a real farm in KY. Cows were either in the barn eating hay or in the field eating grass and babies following them everywhere.
BUT, my father was a tobacco farmer. Not all things good.

Kristen and Sean said...

Sadly, this is often the case even here in Ohio. Sarah and I had to hunt for a "normal" farm to take our kids for a field trip - but take heart Jenny, they are still out there!! Good for you for the organic apple.....and I'll bet she liked that just as much as that terrible ice cream.

Sweet Bee Cottage said...

One of the other commenters said it perfectly - it's an industry. Somehow I feel we need to connect with what we eat to appreciate it and value it. It seems like things are changing for the better, but it's very slow. We need to stand up as consumers and demand better from our food providers. Okay, I keep trying not to get on a soapbox with every sentence I've tried to write here, but that soapbox keeps getting in my way! :) Whew!

I hope you are able to find a good farming experience for your family.

"Alone again.... naturally!" said...

I lived in the middle of "cow" country most of my life and that smell is intricately embedded in my brain! My son, whenever we travelled through a particarly smelly section, when we would be holding our noses, he would sigh, and exclaim, "ahhhh, fresh!" I know exactly how you feel about the whole question of antibiotics and such, we need better choices. And the thought of all those calves in those little plastic houses, makes me cringe and even more so that the farmer thinks they are happy! Have a happy day. Cathy.

Drama Queen said...

What a thought-provoking post...you never cease to amaze me, Jenny Matlock...

I hadn't really thought about these - I am not near any farms, sadly - but I would have felt the same way you did.

P.S. Love the photo of you and the granddaughter!

Have a blessed day....

Busy Bee Suz said...

I hear you Jenny. This is sad as can be. 'Factory farming' is not real farming. This affects ALL of us. The only thing that we as consumers can do it find out who is farming properly and buy from them...that is the only choice we have.

Theresa said...

Well, there was a purpose in that visit, sometimes we need to see behind the scenes:) Buying the apple was the best part, holding her little hand and keeping her safe. I can tell you are a wonderful Gwamma! Hugs, my friend!

Dee said...

Happy cows? I say boo to that! The best part is your day with a sweet little grand.

Sandy said...

Oh Jennie....I agree our little ones are not in a for an easy time with their health.....I hope that she can learn EARLY what unhealthy things are out there....they have already started the destruction in me....I am going to have to head to those organic apples a lot more often! And I have started buying the healthier chickens! It is a sad statement on our "farms" in the US, no doubt.....again greed rears it's ugly head!

Jo said...

how sad .... I have tried shopping ethically ... its real hard, but i don't want to support an industry that pumps hormones and chemicals into our food supply ...

mub said...

We went on a field trip last week with my nursing home people to the eco farm here in Eindhoven. It was full of muck and manure but the cows don't have enough grass to graze this early in the season. They make cheese with the milk, but I think they should make ice cream too hehe.

angelonwheels said...

Jenny,

I find more often now that some of ideals of Childhood rarely mimic adulthood, however there is most often good gems to be found in my situations. Thank you for comments! Btw CP is short for Cerebal Palsy.

beedeebabee♥ said...

So sad Jenny. Farms are not really like we picture them in our heads with happy cows and pigs roaming around in the grass...About 10 years ago I was near a meat market and I saw big black and white cows hanging headless...Those are the cows I decorate my house with! I don't know where I thought steak came from, but I haven't eaten a piece of meat since! Sometimes reality is just too much!
xo Paulette

Ms. Anthropy said...

Where do you suppose Farmer Bob got his... "the calves are happier?" I dare say it wasn't firsthand.

Prairiemaid said...

This is the reason we live in the country, where we can raise or produce much of what we eat.

However, I did have a similar experience in a different way. I remembered going on field trips to the fire station, post office, etc. as a kid. Even going along to help on such trips when our kids were small. So now, with two still at home and helping with grandkids, I thought how nice it would be to take the kids to tour the post office. Only I was informed they no longer give tours due to the possibility of terrorists.

I agree, my kids/grands can be terrors at time, but terrorists....not quite. LOL

Lourie said...

Nice how the "farmers" avoided your questions. And how do they know if the cows are happy? Did they ask them? Are they fluent in cow speak? *sigh*

Jeanie said...

Such an eye opener about things we don't really like to think about. It makes me wonder about what kind of farms the things we buy at the "farmer's market" come from. Your granddaughter is lucky to have you for a grandmom.

Jojo said...

Did you see Food Inc.? My husband and I saw it last summer and honestly, we didn't eat much for a week or so. It really is disturbing BUT, this is the perfect time to plant a garden and grow a few things organically. You and your grandchildren can have a great experience with real "farming" minus the animals.

My dad used to say that the good thing is that science has extended our lives but the bad thing is that science is killing us. 'Tis true.

Diana said...

Don't be so hard on yourself Jenny. You had no way of knowing what that farm would be like. I suspect that you are an excellent gram!
Love Di ♥

mrs. c said...

Sad news, Bad news....what happeded to a real farm with real cows that wander and eat grass. We still have those kind of farms in Tennessee and I am so thankful. I can pick fruit and veggies and buy fresh eggs and honey and I am so thankful.

Tortuga said...

What an awesome field trip! I love trips that get kids outdoors, teach them something, and let them experience things hands on. Farms are awesome for that, especially since less and less kids get exposed to rural living these days!

Tgoette said...

Wow, what a sad testament to how dairy farms are run these days. I am so with you on this! When we stop thinking of cows as living creatures and instead as merely a source of profit on a ledger sheet we have crossed the line where humanity ends and cold, soulless greed begins. Great post!

Nellie's Cozy place said...

Morning Jenny,
Just hearing that take baby calves from their moms makes me so sad!!
I don't know how people do what they do to other living creatures. How sad that must be for the Momma cows too!! Hopefully, the babies don't know the difference. $$$$ so much is all about the almight $!!
Very sad. When my daughter was lil
we went on a field trip to a small farm, and it was truly a delight,
none of that info.
I am wondering why they even felt they needed to share that info with children in the first place.
I don't blame you for throwing the flyer away!!
Glad she enjoyed the bunnies so much and
Hopefully your grandaughter didn't
realize what is really going on,
so much goes over their heads thankfully!!
Have a good week hon,
Blessings, Nellie

My name is PJ. said...

That's enough to give me nightmares, Matlock!

I know it takes a farming 'industry' to feed the masses, but I long for a simpler, safer time.

Oy.

Aunt Amelia's Attic said...

EXCELLENT!!! I don't have a *Big Farm* to visit, but everyone can read books on how our food is *made.* :-(

Btw, I'm gonna' show a floor plan of downstairs [our house] tomorrow. Feel free to do the same.<--Very lightly veiled hint, hu? -giggles-

^_^
.

Patti said...

you have to get Mr Jenny to start deer hunting. at least they don't have hormones and all that awful stuff in them...low fat too.

Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti said...

The movie Food, INC was such an eye opener. I wish I could grow all my own food and keep a cow and chickens and know what I was eating. We do try to buy organice but that is so expensive.

In another few decades I bet even farming and daries will be outsourced to another country...sigh.

Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti said...

The movie Food, INC was such an eye opener. I wish I could grow all my own food and keep a cow and chickens and know what I was eating. We do try to buy organice but that is so expensive.

In another few decades I bet even farming and daries will be outsourced to another country...sigh.

Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti said...

Sorry for the double comment! I came back to wish you a HAPPY BIRTHDAY! I saw PJ's announcement ..lol Hope you had a wonderful day!
xxoo Pat