Dairy day camp brings kids to the farm
BELLECHESTER — A group of young kids clustered around the calves at Huneke Dairy Farm on Monday, squealing as they petted and fed 2-week-old calves.
"This one's sucking on my finger!" said 7-year-old Emme Miller, who added that this was her favorite part of the day, even though the piglets were cute.
About 20 kids fed calves, watched milking and played with pigs while learning about farm life as part of June Dairy Month. The four-hour event for kids ages 5 to 12 was sponsored by the Minnesota Farmer's Union, Goodhue County Farmers Union and the Wabasha Pork Producers.
Seeing how excited children get around the animals keeps Dori Klein, a Farmer's Union staff representative, doing the camps.
"As people in farming, we need to help educate people that are not in farming," Klein said.
The day camp was created five years ago to "get young kids to a farm," she said. Klein said it's important that kids learn how a farm operates and where their food comes from because so many are "removed" from farming.
"It doesn't just come from that plastic jug at Kwik Trip," Klein said.
Susan Heller, of Red Wing, brought her two grandchildren from Lakeville to learn about farming. She grew up on a farm and wanted to give them a "taste" of farm life.
"It's kind of a vanishing lifestyle," Heller said.
She also liked the educational aspect of the camp, which taught her grandchildren about food production and animals, like how pigs don't sweat so they lay in the mud to stay cool.
Melissa Gerken brought four of her 4-week-old piglets for the kids to play with. She talked about raising pigs for harvest and what types of products their meat, skin and fat supply, such as leather for footballs, gelatin for fruit snacks, and fat for lipstick.
While the groups snacked on dairy products like string cheese and ice cream, Goodhue County Dairy Princesses explained why dairy is an important part of people's diets and what type of work they did at their dairy farms, like feeding calves or cleaning.
Farm owners Paul and Deb Huneke were also on hand to answer questions. Paul led groups of kids through the milking area, where his two sons can milk up to 16 cows at once. The 250 cows must be milked three times a day, which takes about four hours each time, Deb said.
Paul let each child put his or her finger in the electronic machine to feel the suction, then showed them how quickly the milk was cooled.
The Hunekes took over the farm from Paul's father, who bought it shortly after World War II. The farm produces more than 2,500 gallons of milk each day, which is shipped to Le Sueur to be refined into cheese products.
Paul said it's important that consumers understand the workings of a farm and how the animals are treated. He explained to the groups of children that cows liked to be dry and cool, and he often quieted the children so the animals wouldn't become nervous.
"We don't want our cows to be sad," he told them.