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Family FarmFest a hit

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By Matt Schepeler

   Judging from the way children were smiling and the questions adults were asking at Choate’s Belly Acres last Saturday, Family Farmfest 2018 was a big success.

   The goal of Family Farmfest is to “educate society on modern-day farming practices through tours, displays, and interactive activities.”

   It is a fun, family-oriented experience that features live displays held on functioning farms so people can not only get a taste of the country but learn about the benefits and difficulties of modern farming.iented event with a serious purpose: helping people understand where their food comes from, how it is handled to ensure quality and safety, and the importance of agriculture to Jackson County.

   In Liberty Township, Hank Choate and his family opened up their fifth-generation dairy operation for people to walk through and ask questions, and thousands of people made their way through the barns and milk parlor to see, smell, and learn a little about what farming is all about.

Juan Gonzalez operates the milk machine at Choate’s Belly Acres milking parlor, giving people a glimpse of modern-day dairy farming.

   Choate, his family and about a dozen employees milk around 450 head, and there is little room for error. Nate Trudell of Jackson, who grew up on a dairy farm and now is part of the Ag Council, explained that cows must produce in order to make a profit, and everything is done to help them do so, from providing them safe, warm, clean shelter to giving them optimal food to making their lives as routine as possible. But, if a cow isn’t producing, “like any employee, there comes a time they have to be let go,” said Trudell.

   He said that everything is measured, from the amount of milk each cow produces to the feed blends to the cost of employees and machinery. “It is data-driven. If a farmer wants to succeed, they have to get with the times,” said Trudell.

   He noted that most farmers have a love, and even a passion, for farming and that the hard work is often rewarded by thin profit margins. “But, they do it because they love it.”

   Bridging the disconnect between farms and the general public gives people, and especially children, a glimpse into the reality of where their food comes from, the sacrifices made to bring it to them, both by people and animals, and the importance of keeping local farms up and running.

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