Since we’ve started asking questions to dairy consumers and printing their responses in the magazine, I’ve noticed an interesting trend develop around one of our standard questions. Consumers who are distanced from agriculture, and I mean those whose relatives aren’t involved in farming or livestock, respond to this one question nearly the same way every time:

Cooley walt polo
Editor and Podcast Host / Progressive Dairy

“When was the last time you visited a farm?” Their common answer: In the fall, to a pumpkin patch.

For some reason cooler fall weather – and the beginning of school – paired with a commercial holiday – Halloween – give people the time and an excuse to visit a farm. Other fun fall activities, such as a corn mazes or hay rides, are a ripe opportunity for dairy farms near suburban, and even urban, population centers to invite consumers to see where their food comes from.

In this issue, we asked a few dairies that do pumpkin patches to talk about why they do them and share tips for other producers who want to get involved in this form of low-hanging agritourism. Click here to read more about this article in the May 1, 2012 issue of the magazine.

Most interesting to me was that the pumpkins these producers plant are often not intended to be ultra-productive but rather decorations for the event. Most producers buy extra commercial pumpkins for visitors to take home, as they could not grow enough to satisfy demand themselves.


We couldn’t feature every dairy that runs a pumpkin patch, and we may not have even found the best ones. If you operate one each year, please let us know about it. I’m personally interested in learning more about the mystique that draws consumers to these events and the farm owners who make the most of them.

Also in this issue you will find our interview with Western Growers. Click here to read 3 Open Minutes in the May 1, 2012 issue of the magazine. Much like dairy producers, this association’s members are interested in finding a solution that will allow the employees they currently have to become a legal, documented workforce.

Their new results show support for a guest worker program for agriculture. Voters were presented with a number of different ideas that could be incorporated into such a program. The hypotheticals presented included deducting Medicare taxes from guest workers and withholding Social Security wages until the “guest” returned home.

Seventy-eight percent of those polled favored this idea. But the two provisions of a guest worker program with the most support included farmers making a good faith effort to hire U.S. citizens first (86 percent support) and designated border crossings for laborers applying for guest worker permits (85 percent support).

However, the survey also revealed a specific public opinion challenge for the dairy industry. When presented with the following program description, voters said they were opposed to a guest worker program:

“Foreign farm workers, who did not come here legally but have been employed as farm workers, would be allowed to stay, but only to continue doing farm work and without a pathway to citizenship.”

Fifty-six percent of respondents opposed. The bright spot is that when this provision was paired with other guest worker measures, 70 percent of voters said they would still support creating a guest worker program for agriculture.

It’s an election year, so I’m sure we’ll be talking more about immigration reform in the fall, the more traditional time we identify with big campaign ideas and round, orange gourds. PD

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