Category Archives: Farmer Profile

A City Girl Visits a Dairy Farm

Smith Valley Dairy just started milking cows in Nevada, and Jamie, a born and raised city girl, joined Libby Lovig to take a tour and experience something new. Here’s Jamie’s account of her first-ever dairy farm experience:

Selfie with Cows

A quick selfie with the ladies

Every Tuesday around 9:30am, I head to the grocery store to buy groceries for the week. The one item I always buy is milk, but I never knew how much hard work goes into making that gallon of milk until two weeks ago when I was given the opportunity to visit a brand new dairy in Smith Valley, NV (aptly named the Smith Valley Dairy).  And boy was it an amazing experience!

Whenever I go to an unknown place, I’m always thinking about what it’s going to look like – trying to picture it so I have a visual. Having not been to a dairy before, I didn’t know what to expect, and I couldn’t visualize what I was about to see. As we turned down the long entrance to the dairy, I stop worrying about what it was going to be like, looked out the window, and took in the beauty of my surroundings. The view was breath taking – large green mountain tops, a light breeze rustling the trees…I pictured myself in a rocking chair with a glass of milk…sigh!  Smith Valley is definitely cowboy country.

Smith Valley Dairy View

The cow’s eye view

Upon entering the dairy, we were greeted warmly by one of the dairy’s employees. We stepped out of the car to say hello and snap a few photos, and I must admit that I was bracing for a not-so-good-smell. But, I was pleasantly surprised, it didn’t smell badly, rather it smelled like freshly-cut grass.

I was so excited to see all of the cows, and I was impressed by how much shade they had, and the ground they had to rest on seemed quite clean and fluffy. They looked really comfortable. The next thing that caught my eye were large blue plastic tubs, which I learned were basically large, self-filling water buckets for the cows. I was taking notes – a self-filling water dish for my animals would be pretty awesome!

water buckets for cows

A cow getting a drink

We walked casually through the corrals to the milk parlor where we met Mr. & Mrs. Vlot and their son DJ, owners of this remarkable dairy. We shook hands and talked for a few minutes before they invited us in to tour the barn.

As we opened the door and entered the facility, the first thing I noticed was two large metal cylinders (bigger then my Jeep) that had ladders on them and temperature gauges. I learned that these are the holding tanks where the milk is stored before it is picked up by the milk truck and transported to the processing plant.

milk tanks

To the left of these tanks is a long hallway that leads to the milking parlor, where they milk the cows. I could not believe that they can milk 100 cows at a time. Each side hold 50 cows. To me, quite surprisingly, the building smelled like honey dew melon.

After taking a tour of the building we headed over to where they keep all the feed at for the cows. I’m going to call it the “Feed Bungalow” where the loader was filling up the feed truck.

Smith family dairy feed wagon

Mr. Vlot explained to us why they had made their feed storage area larger than normal, Since Smith Valley Dairy is so far out of town it is better to have more then to run out.” said Mr. Vlot.

I will never forget the conversations I had with the Vlot Family and the passion they have for their family & farm. The way they talked about their dairy and showed us around the farm really demonstrated their family values and the relationship they share with one another. It is truly amazing. They are the soil that keeps this country alive. They are the hard working Americans that power and breathe life into our healthy food. Thank you Vlot Family for welcoming me into your dairy farm and for showing me what it takes to produce that gallon of milk I pick up at the store every Tuesday morning.

Farmers at work

Farmers at work

This was my favorite picture I took that day. I’m not sure what they are talking about, but it just felt like the farm.

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Fresh Utah Peach Pie

Utah has wonderful peaches, and peak peach season is just about a month away. In anticipation, we caught up with Shanna Gibbons – dairy farmer, master gardener, master canner, wonderful cook, artist, and mom-extradionaire who shared one of her favorite summer recipes with us. The pie crust is a family tradition – the fool-proof recipe is from her mother-in-law, and the pie can be adjusted to suit a variety of fresh summer fruit. We have included classic peach as well as a strawberry variation. Enjoy!

Fresh Peach Pie

Ingredients – Peach Pie:

  • 1 baked pie crust
  • 4 oz cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 pkg unflavored Knox gelatin
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup peaches, finely cut
  • 4-5 cups fresh peaches, sliced

Ingredients – Pie Crust:

Note: Makes 6-7 crusts. Can be halved.

  • 6 cups flour, not too rounded
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 lb lard
  • 1 egg
  • ~3/4 cup milk
traditional pie crust

Fresh, flaky crust

Method:

  1. For the Crust: Sift the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar together.  Add lard. Beat egg in measuring cup and add just enough milk to bring the measurement to 1 cup. Mix to form a dough. Spread into pie plate, poke with holes, cover with parchment and fill with pie weights or beans. Bake ~15 minutes, remove weights and parchment and continue cooking until slightly golden ~10 minutes more.
  2. For the Filling: Mix cream cheese and powdered sugar until smooth. Place in microwave for about 30 seconds – this willl help with spreading. Spread over bottom of cooled pie shell. Mix water, sugar, lemon juice, gelatin, cornstarch and 1/2 cup peaches. Cook on stove until clear and thick. Cool for a few minutes, then add 4-5 cups fresh peaches. Stir and pour into prepared pie shell. Top with fresh whipped cream.

Variation: This recipe is easily adjusted to make fresh strawberry pie.

For Fresh Strawberry Pie: Mix and cook 1 box of Danish dessert according to recipe on box. Cool. Add fresh strawberries and poor into pie shell. Enjoy with fresh whipped cream.

The Gibbons Family
Shanna Gibbons and her husband, Mark, are third generation dairy farmers in northern Utah. Raising their 3 sons on the farm and now sharing their farm and livlihood with their daughters-in-law and 11 beautiful grandchildren has been a true blessing. Active members of the industry and their community, Mark is currently the Utah State Director of the Farm Service Agency and USDA and Shanna is on the State Dairy Women’s Board. Shanna and her family believe that good nutrition comes from the farm.

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Soft Sour Cream Sugar Cookies

Soft sour cream sugar cookies

Ready to take on inspiration

Looking for a fun, yummy treat this holiday weekend? Dairy Farmer, Taunya Otten loves to bake, and she shared this recipe for “make your own sugar cookie pizzas” with us.

Ingredients:

Cookies:

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1-1/2 cups sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • ½ tsp orange extract
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) sour cream
  • 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

Frosting:

  • 1/2cup butter, softened
  • 8 oz cream cheese (regular or Neufchatel)
  • About 1 ½ lbs confectioners’ sugar
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • ½ tsp orange extract
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons milk, if needed

Toppings:

  • Various fruits like mandarin oranges, banana slices, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, peaches, pineapple, coconut, etc. Use your imagination!

Method:

STEP 1: Mix

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs. Add sour cream and extracts; mix well. In another bowl, whisk flour, baking powder and baking soda; gradually beat into creamed mixture. Divide dough in half. Shape each into a disk; wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate 2 hours or until firm enough to roll.

IMG_0291

STEP 2 – Bake

  • Preheat oven to 350°. On a well-floured surface, roll each portion of dough to 1/4-in. thickness. (Note: If the dough is sticky, add more flour until it is soft and workable.) Cut with a round floured 3-in. cookie cutter. Place 2 in. apart on greased baking sheets.
  • Bake 10-12 minutes or until tops spring back when lightly touched. Remove from pans to wire racks to cool completely.
Rolling the dough

Rolling the dough

Cooling soft sour cream sugar cookies

Cooling cookies

STEP 3: Frosting

  • For frosting, in a bowl, beat butter, cream cheese and extracts. Add enough confectioners’ sugar, to make the consistency of frosting you like. If it is too stiff, add enough milk to reach desired consistency. Spread over cookies.

Yield: about 3-1/2 dozen.

STEP 4: Be creative!

To make pizzas, put out bowls of the fruits and let everyone use a frosted cookie to make their own “combination fruit pizza” using whatever fruits they like!

Decorating sugar cookies with fruit

Have fun with fruit combos and designs

Taunya Otten and her husband, Russell, were both raised on small dairy farms in Sanpete County, Utah, and now they are raising their 6 children on a large, modern dairy farm in Clarion, Utah. Taunya’s hobbies include cows, traveling, baking bread and cookies, and driving her kids into town and back to the farm. Even though dairy farming has changed over her lifetime, Taunya still believes it is ALL ABOUT THE COWS!

Visit the farm on Instagram: @Barexdairyfamily

Note about the recipe: Sugar Cookie recipe originally published as Sour Cream Cutout Cookies in Taste of Home June/July 1994 but I have modified this recipe to fit my family’s tastes!

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Farmer for a Day

What’s it take to be farmer for a day? Jennifer and Bruce Clark are raising their 6 children on their dairy farm in Morgan, Utah, and through 4-H and the local school district, they are committed to sharing their farm and what farm life is all about with local kids. “Farmer For A Day,” gives kids the chance to learn about dairy farming from the ground up. What’s it take to grow crops, raise animals, milk cows? And how does milk turn into the dairy foods we enjoy everyday?

Here’s a little photo essay showcasing this year’s 5th annual Clark Family Dairy, “Farmer for a Day,” as well as a schedule of activities & chores their “farm hands” got to experience.

Farmer for a day 1
2015 Farmer for a Day “Hands”

8:00am

The day begins with staff helpers arriving (4-H Teen Council Members)

8:45am

Kids Arrive: Ice breakers – games, rules of the dairy, divide into groups

9:00am

Dairy barn tour – milk cows | Feed calves on bottles & in buckets

farmer for a day 3

Feeding bottle calves

Farmer for a day 4

Milking Cows

10:00am

Ride horses | Team Scavenger hunt

Hay Ride & Change Sprinkler Pipe

farmer for a day 5

Riding horses

farmer for a day 2

changing sprinkler pipe

12:00pm

Lunch followed by homemade ice cream workshop & tasting

Farmer for a day 7

Homemade ice cream in a bag

1:00pm

Bed calves | bug hunt

2:00pm

“My manger” talk about cows’ diets & compare to MyPlate

farmer for a day 6

3:00pm

All done!

Jennifer and Bruce Clark have been offering farm experiences for their community for the past 15+ years. Through the school district, 4H, and Agriculture in the Classroom they are helping bring a bit of rural life into the city.

We love having the opportunity to share our farm with the community!  We have hundreds of kids visit our farm every year – but our Farmer for a Day camp is, by far, our favorite event.  Spending six hours at a farm really gives kids a feel for what it is like to be a farmer and the work it takes to produce the foods they buy from the grocery store.

-Jennifer Clark 

Want to experience more farm life?

On June 27th, the Dairy Farmers of Utah have joined with the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food to offer a FREE Dairy Days at Thanksgiving Point. We are offering 2 dairy farm tours as part of this event. Even if you can’t be “farmer for a day,” with the Clarks, maybe you can visit a dairy and see what farmers do. Spots are filling up – sign up now.

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Late Season Snow Hits Utah

Late Season Snow - Hay Barn

Late Season Snow on the Farm – the Hay Barn at Munk Farms – Amalga, UT

Utah had weather confusion this year. After one of the hottest-driest winters on record, A late season snow storm hit Utah this week that in some areas dropped over a foot of snow, downed trees and caused traffic accidents. Depending on what you had to do on Wednesday, it was either a welcomed treat (skiers rejoiced to 3 feet of fresh powder in the mountains!) or a bit of an annoyance.

How did our farmers feel about it?

Kyle Anderson farms with his son in Newton, Utah. He said that for them the storm was “great,” dropping some desperately needed water to help his crops. “What really worries us with a late season storm,” says Kyle, “is the potential for frost, but the overnight low wasn’t too bad, so our crops are just fine.”

This storm also brought with it a significant amount of wind. “Wind can be really tough on range animals, but dairy farmers in our area have covered corrals for their cattle,” says Kyle. “It can be a problem if the roof blows off, but we were fortunate and didn’t sustain any damage.”

Tammy Munk farms with her family just a few miles south of the Andersons. She says, “the snow wasn’t much of a problem for our crops. It may have slowed down our hay growth just a little, but overall it was wonderful. Everything was so dry, it was a blessing to get that much moisture.” She is also a photographer and just before it melted, captured these shots of her farm (and cows) in the snow.

cows in the snow

The Munk’s cows don’t seem to mind a bit of the white stuff

Now the snow is almost gone and we are looking ahead to a weekend in the high 60’s. The adage, “If you don’t like the weather, stick around a minute,” absolutely holds true this spring in the mountains.

The Munk Farm in snow

The Munk Farm in snow

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Our 12 Cows of Christmas

Over the last 12 days we have been featuring cows from all around Utah on Instagram. In case you missed our 12 Cows of Christmas, we wanted to share these cow cuties again.

Day 1: Mini Oreo. A new member of the Otten Family Farm

Dutch belted

Day 2: Baby Cow Kisses!

Circle B-496

Day 3: The Font Seat Calf

front seat calf

 Day 4: 6 year old Tilly is Branden Anderson’s favorite show cow.

Attachment-1

Day 5: Baby Show Calf

DSC_0540

Day 6: Trent Brown’s attention seeking best friend.

2012-02-01 07.54.01

Day 7: Rosie, the matriarch of the Dutch Belted herd at Barex.

Rosie

Day 8: Snug as a bug calf from Katharine Nye

20141129_085613

Day 9: The Cuddle Cow from Lacey Papageorge

20141126_111318

Day 10: Megan’s love at first sight

Megan and Baby Cow

Day 11: Matt Leak’s Christmas Cow
IMG_8694

Day 12: Two little dolls give two gifts of milk to two little babies at the Munk Farm

DSC02728a

Merry Christmas!

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Cheesy Adventure: Rockhill Creamery

Rockhill CreameryThe next stop on my cheesy adventure was to Rockhill Creamery in Richmond, Utah. It had been a long time since The Cow Locale featured Rockhill Creamery, and I had never been. What a treat! This micro dairy is located on a rustic, beautiful historic farm. Owners Pete Schropp and Jennifer Hines, warmly welcomed me, as did their cows coming to the fence to say hello.

Rockhill Creamery Cheese Cave

Rockhill’s Cheese Cave

Rockhill cheese is made from milk produced by their six Brown Swiss cows: Clara, Ingrid, Chloe, Iggy, Eve, and Elsie. Jennifer and Pete, along with their apprentice, care for the cows, milk the cows twice per day, and make the cheese.

Their cheese is a raw milk cheese, which means that the milk from their cows in not pasteurized prior to cheese making and the cheese must be aged at least 60 days before it can be sold. Because it is raw, they take extra care to ensure sanitation and safety.

Their cheese is aged in an underground “cave” from months to years (depending on the variety) to provide rich, complex flavors. When ready to cut and package, instead of wrapping each piece in plastic, Jennifer uses a special paper, which allows for development of a flavorful rind and enhances the flavor.

Rockhill-CheeseAfter learning about the process, Jennifer took me to the old granary, they converted to a shop. We tasted their different European cheeses including:

  • Dark Canyon/Snow Canyon Edam
  • Wasatch Mountain Gruyere
  • Farmhouse Gouda
  • Zwitser Gouda
  • Peppercorn Gouda
  • Boo Boo Baby Swiss
  • Desert Red Feta

She had me try 3-month-old cheese compared to 12-month-old cheese, and the difference was astounding. The additional aging with the natural rind produced an incredibly rich, sharp flavor. We enjoyed many types of cheeses and then said our goodbyes. Even the cows stopped eating apples from the tree to come lick me goodbye. IMG_0099

What started out as a kitchen hobby for Jennifer has turned into their way of life. Their delicious artisan cheese is available at the Richmond Harvest Market on Saturdays from 10-1 (June-October), the Cache Valley Gardeners Market in Logan (May to October), and the Downtown Market in Salt Lake City (August – October). Or… you can buy at the Gossner Cheese store in Logan Utah or online at their website. They also open up their historic farm for fun events and tours, and their unique spot is definitely worth a visit if you are in the area.

Read more about Rockhill – recently featured in a special edition of John Deere’s The Furrow and follow them on Facebook.

Megan Ostler is a registered dietitian, lover of all food, and communications manager for the Dairy Council of Utah/Nevada.

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Filed under Farmer Profile, Nutrition and Health