Adults learn at CCF’s ‘Bite at the Barn’
By KAREN SCHWALLER
SPENCER-It was a first-ever event that took place Tuesday, Sept. 10 at the Clay County Fair in Spencer, with about a dozen adult learners as the main focus.
“Bite at the Barn,” sponsored by Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, was a two-hour, hands-on learning experience as part of the popular Ag-Citing program. It taught adults about food production and gave them a chance to taste some of the foods that were on the lesson plan for the day.
Following on the heels of last year’s similar event that taught adults about grains and the machinery that produces them, this year’s event focused on the beef and dairy industries, as well as combines-their costs and associated costs, along with field rollers and why grain producers use them. Students also got a chance to see how combines operate with a virtual reality viewer.
“I came today to learn about livestock in general,” said Michael Clark of Spencer, who said the short course appealed to him as a CPA who deals with grain and livestock farmers as his clients. “I wanted to pick up some terminology from those who have a lot of experience and pick up some things that become valuable in my field of practice.”
Clark said he found the milk tasting part of the seminar the most interesting, saying he didn’t remember tasting buttermilk before.
“I (also) liked learning about where the different meats come from on the cow ISU Extension put on a really cool event today,” he said.
Beth Doran, ISU beef specialist, started out the day in the cattle barn teaching about the locations of the various meat cuts on the beef cow, showing them on the grand champion beef cow which stood behind her.
She touched on other things, including why beef producers use implants (showing students what they look like and where they are placed on the beef cow), the use of drugs in cattle production when necessary, grain-fed beef versus grass-fed beef, and did a brief summary on the beef cattle industry overall in Iowa.
Before students left that area they were treated to roast beef sliders, and they received some information on the beef industry as well as a few recipes form the Iowa Beef Council.
They moved to the dairy barn area next, where they learned about milk production, milk fats and the dairy market.
Fred Hall, ISU dairy specialist, told them consumers are not purchasing as much milk today as more families dine out than ever before, and milk is not asked for as often as water or other available beverages. Hall said protein shakes have helped the dairy market as much as anything has as of lately, with their popularity rising.
Hall said milk’s most important marketing values lie in its butterfat and protein. He said cows might produce 100 pounds of milk per day at their peak, being milked three times per day, with milking machines on them for 7-8 minutes per milking, on average.
He spoke of special sanitation practices done on dairy farms to ensure that clean milk goes into the bulk tank.
Students then got to taste four different kinds of milk-whole milk, milk that was diluted with water, milk that had some salt added to it (saying that during the last 60-70 days of a cow’s production, the salt content increases); and the last milk they tasted was milk that had buttermilk added to it.
“Milk goes through a lot of testing before it leaves the dairy barn and before it reaches consumers,” he said. ” and milk has many different flavors.”
Students there were treated to the various milks, along with some mozzarella cheese samples.
ISU field specialist Paul Kassel brought the group over to a combine on the fairgrounds to teach them the short lesson on how they work, the various basic parts of a combine, what those implements might cost, as well as associated costs with them, and about the technology that grain producers use to help them farm more efficiently.
“Combines can’t get any bigger (because of road restrictions on width), so they have to get faster,” he said.
Kassel showed them a bean head with a draper feature, and showed them a cab monitor that gives producers immediate information on yield, combine efficiency, field maps, acres covered, and more.
He also showed them a field roller and why they are used, and talked about why producers often use grain carts as they harvest.
“They are used so farmers can unload on the go so they don’t have to stop,” Kassel said. “It can increase the capacity of the combine by 30 percent because by using those carts, the combine never has to stop.”
Kassel told them the biggest changes in grain production agriculture is the size of the machinery, the technology and the comfort of the machines.
“The fatigue factor today is greatly reduced compared to what it was years ago,” said Kassel.
Following that tutorial, the students moved into another building on the fairgrounds and got a chance to see how a combine works with a virtual reality viewer. They could look around in all directions and see the very same things people see when they look around in a field that is being harvested. The videos were taken with a 360-degree camera, giving them a full 360-degree view of the field, the combine cab, and the workings of the combine as it went down the rows.
Students there received a sampling of chips and salsa, and received a short lesson on the difference between white corn (used to make the tortilla chips) and yellow corn used in other food processing and livestock feed.
Neala Rinke of Spirit Lake was among the students who attended the class. She said she didn’t grow up on the farm and enjoyed learning how agriculture comes together.
“I enjoyed learning about the different cuts of beef and about the ways beef is fed,” she said. “I enjoyed getting to taste different kinds of milk and learned there is really a difference, and I liked finding out with these big machines how farmers can get so much done in such a short amount of time. I would recommend this to anyone else thinking about going.”
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