By Laura Hardie
Vermont’s Breakfast on the Farm returns with two events this summer where visitors can meet local dairy farmers and learn about where their food comes from the first will be at Nea-Tocht Farm in Ferrisburgh on Saturday, June 25. The second will be hosted by the Rowell Family of Green Mountain Dairy Farm in Sheldon on Saturday, August 27.
Vermont Breakfast on the Farm began in 2015 as a way to give the public a first-hand look at modern food production. Last year, over 550 visitors ate breakfast at Nea-Tocht farm then set off on an educational walking tour of the farm facilities to see where the cows and calves are housed, how the cows are milked, and how their feed is produced. Volunteers and educational stations promoted Vermont’s largest agricultural sector—the dairy industry—and its role as an economic driver for the state as is detailed in the state leadership goal of the Farm to Plate Strategic Plan.
Visitors completed a survey at the end of the tour which showed how much their perceptions of agricultural practices changed during the event. The survey responses indicated that visitors to the farm came away with better impressions about modern dairy farming practices. First-time visitors gained the greatest knowledge about “how technology is being used” and “how cows are being housed.” The percentage of first-time visitors “agreeing” or “strongly agreeing” that farmers treat animals humanely increased from 61% to 91% after touring the farm. Approximately 30% of visitors indicated they would purchase more Vermont dairy products after touring the farm.
The event reached a significant number of people who are not familiar with modern dairy farms. Those visiting a working dairy farm for the first time in the past 20 years made up 26% of Breakfast on the Farm participants, while 24% indicated having one to two prior visits to a working dairy farm.
Educational farm tours, such as Breakfast on the Farm, provide the public an opportunity to learn firsthand, ask questions of farmers and other professionals, and give feedback. In addition to what they learned, visitors come away with better impressions about modern dairy farming practices.
Feeling good about where one’s food comes from has been linked with increased consumption. Breakfast on the Farm helps Vermont reach its Farm to Plate goal to increase the consumption of locally produced foods while also celebrating the food system and its role in the economy.
Learn more at www.vermontbreakfastonthefarm.com.
-Laura Hardie is a seventh-generation Vermonter from Waterbury and works as a public relations and communications specialist for New England Dairy Promotion Board.