When South Dakota’s farmers wanted to connect with consumers they brought the consumers to the farm. Now, events like Mom’s Day Out on the Farm dot calendars throughout the state and consumers are meeting the people who help put food on the table.
or scroll down to see upcoming "Mom's Day Out" events.
Mom’s Day Out is a day of farm tours and information gathering. Women who have disconnected from the farm — either because they live in the city or are several generations removed from agriculture get on a tour bus and travel to a variety of farms near their homes.
Along the way “farm moms” join them to answer questions about farming, food and the work that goes into producing food. The event is organized by South Dakota’s Ag United , a consortium of seven ag commodity groups in the state and is geared toward educating consumers about the food supply.
“They seem most interested in dairies,” said Kelly Nelson, Outreach Director for Ag United. “There are big barns and you can’t always see inside them. Whether we take them to a 250-cow dairy or 3,000-cow dairy, the standards are still the same. They have to take care of their cows in order to produce milk.”
Two years ago, Ag United hosted one Mom’s Day Out tour. This summer: four.
Nelson said the women are usually pretty quiet until after the first stop and then they start asking questions.
By the time they have lunch the questions are getting more detailed, Nelson said.
The “city moms” meet up with “farm moms”, who are often volunteers with the group Common Ground , a women’s organization designed to bring people who produce food together with the people who eat it.
Dairy producer Ginger Post of Sipka Holsteins near Volga, South Dakota, is on this year’s tour line up. She has also served as a “farm mom” on one of the tour buses for Mom’s Day Out.
She rode the bus with consumers and tried to answer any questions the other women might have.
“In most cases they are two, if not five, generations removed from the farm,” Post said. “Until they actually step foot on the farm, until they see it action, it doesn’t sink in.”
In order to get a seat on the bus, participants must fill out a short online survey. Nelson said preference is given to people who haven’t been on a farm in a while… or ever. She said the goal is to reach consumers with no connection to farms. Occasionally they turn people away and rarely encounter someone on the tour with a negative agenda.
Crystal Hatlewick lives in Madison, South Dakota, and took part in a Mom’s Day Out tour last summer. She visited dairy, beef and hog operations. She said the dairy was her favorite.
Her husband was raised on the dairy, but his family is no longer in the business so she hadn’t seen a dairy in action.
“I learned that farming is very hard and that the farmers really carry about the animals. It is their livelihood. I did not realize all the hours that farmers put in. I also didn't realize the science to it in that you have to have just the right amount of each kind of feed for the animals. It definitely gave me a better appreciation for farmers and also their families,” Hatlewick said.
She said taking the bus tour altered her perspective in many ways. She’s changed her shopping habits and looks for ways to buy from the farm when possible. In fact, she’s now dreaming of being a farmer herself.
“If I can remember after the tour, I came home and told my husband we could be farmers if he wanted to. He told me I was crazy. So as of now, we are saving up to eventually and hopefully have us a hobby farm someday,” Hatlewick said. “I think it would be so neat to be as sustainable as possible and not have to rely on the grocery stores so much.”
Nelson said the Mom’s Day Out event is just one of several similar events Ag United sponsors during the summer. There are different tours geared for kids. And instead of "business after-hours" like many Chambers of Commerce offer, Ag United hosts "Farms After Five" aimed at business owners.
Mom’s Day gets going July 17 for the Aberdeen area and July 21 for the Sioux Falls region. Post said it’s been a worthwhile experience for her and her family dairy.
“As producers, we don’t need to be afraid to take part in stuff like that. Most people just want to see and they want to understand. They’re not here to persecute us – they want that connection back,” Post said. “It’s amazing the relationships you bring about if you’re willing to open your farm and let people take a tour.” PD
PHOTO 1: One of the dairy farms featured on a tour last year is owned by Randy, Jeanette and Laura Nielson of Crooks, South Dakota. Click here to visit Laura's popular YouTube page, "The Real Farm Girl."
PHOTO 2: A mom getting a picture inside the milking parlor at Boadwine dairy near Baltic, South Dakota.
PHOTO 3: This mom lets a baby calf suck on her fingers at the Lynn Boadwine dairy farm near Baltic, South Dakota.
PHOTO 4: Herdswomen Heidi Selken at Boadwine Dairy near Crooks, South Dakota, talks about milk safety in the bulktank room. Photos courtesy of Ag United.
Karma Metzler Fitzgerald
Progressive Dairyman magazine
Upcoming Ag United tours:
Know Your Milk Tour: June 19 at 2 p.m.
Aberdeen Moms Day Out on the Farm: July 11
Farms After Five Tour: July 18th
Sioux Falls Moms Day Out on the Farm: July 21