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By Staff | Jul 8, 2011

Rod Vander Veen, with Deluxe Feeds, explains the basics of dairy cow nutrition to visitors who stopped by VanEss Dairy's open house, near Sanborn, on June 29.

By Darcy

Dougherty Maulsby

Farm News staff writer

SANBORN – From the endless stream of cars pulling into the driveway to the lines of people waiting to ride on the tractor carts, the VanEss Dairy became as popular as an amusement park on June 29 when the Western Iowa Dairy Alliance hosted its annual farm tour, which attracted approximately 1,400 guests.

“We want people to know where their milk comes from, and we’re glad to have the opportunity to show them how we care for our animals,” said Chad VanEss, 23, whose family operates the 3,500-cow dairy northeast of Sanborn.

Carolyn Bootsma, a field representative for AMPI in Sanborn, told guests at the VanEss Dairy that AMPI is one of the major suppliers of sliced cheese for East Coast McDonald’s restaurants.

This year marks WIDA’s fourth annual June Dairy Month open house, which has been hosted a different farm each year, said LeAnne Philips, WIDA’s executive director, who noted that more than 1,200 people visited Plymouth Dairy Farms near LeMars last year.

“This is a great opportunity for people of all ages to see where wholesome, nutritious dairy products get their start and meet the farmers who produce their food.”

At the VanEss Dairy, guides explained that the cows are housed in a cross-ventilated barn with sand bedding, which provides them with a clean, comfortable environment. Visitors also had the opportunity to tour the barn, see newborn calves and view the double-50 parallel milking parlor, where more than 3,000 cows are milked three times a day.

Matt and Stephanie Essick were glad they brought their son, Conner, 4, to the event, which concluded with a free meal of cheeseburgers, brat burgers and ice cream

“We thought it would be fun to see a dairy farm,” said Stephanie Essick, who farms near Dickens with her father, Rich Harves, “and Conner was excited about it all day.”

“This is a great opportunity for people of all ages to see where wholesome, nutritious dairy products get their start and meet the farmers who produce their food.” —LeAnne Philips Executive director, WIDA

Building an Iowa operation

The VanEss Dairy is a family operation that includes Harvey and Lisa VanEss, and their sons Joshua; Jeremy and his wife, Patricia, and sons Cameron and Dillon; Chad and his wife, Kymlee, sons Taalen and Carter; Tyler; Todd and his fiancee, Stefanie.

While the VanEss Dairy began producing milk in 2008, that’s only the latest chapter in their family’s dairy story. Harvey VanEss’ parents emigrated to America in 1948 and began a dairy farm in Washington state.

Harvey and Lisa became involved in the dairy in 1986 and began to grow the herd. In 1994, the family moved to Idaho and bought an existing dairy, expanding it and eventually purchasing a second farm.

After searching across the country for a location that would allow all five sons and their families to be involved in the dairy and crop farming operation, the VanEss family built a new dairy near Sanborn and began milking cows there in February 2008.

Joshua Hoffman, 4, of Laurens, donned a paper cow hat during his tour of the VanEss Dairy near Sanborn.

Today, the dairy employs 25 people. The cows are milked once every eight hours and each cow produces about 93 pounds of milk per day. To ensure freshness, the milk is cooled in a matter of minutes and is pumped directly into semi-tankers.

Four tankers, each holding 6,000 gallons, are filled daily and shipped to AMPI in Sanborn for cheese and whey production.

“AMPI is one of the major suppliers of sliced cheese for East Coast McDonald’s restaurants,” said Carolyn Bootsma, a field representative for AMPI, who visited with guests during the VanEss open house and encouraged them to thank America’s farmers for helping to feed the world.

Obesity campaign

America’s dairy farmers are also helping to fight childhood obesity through the Fuel Up to Play 60 campaign, an in-school nutrition and physical activity program launched by the National Dairy Council and the National Football League.

To help spread the word, Viktor the Viking, the official mascot of the Minnesota Vikings, visited with guests who stopped by the VanEss Dairy.

“Due to the epidemic of childhood obesity, we are looking at the first generation of children who may not outlive their parents,” said Donna Moenning, senior vice president of integrated communications for the Midwest Dairy Association, who attended the VanEss Dairy’s open house.

“Having Viktor at an event like this helps draw attention to this important issue.”

The Fuel Up to Play 60 campaign includes a playbook with more than 60 healthy eating and physical activity strategies, funding opportunities of up to $3,000 per school, and a chance to win rewards, including t-shirts, backpacks and footballs.

To learn more, log onto www.FuelUptoPlay60.com.

Thanks to dairy checkoff dollars, producers can access a variety of ag education resources through the MDA, including coloring books and more.

“While not everyone can offer a farm tour, anyone can be an advocate for agriculture,” said Moenning.

He said dairy producers to call (877) 360-3276 or e-mail producerservicecenter@midwestdairy.com, or log onto www.midwestdairy.com for more information.

You can contact Darcy Dougherty Maulsby by e-mail at yettergirl@yahoo.com.

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