First-graders spend day on Goodwin-area dairy facility

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Farm Forum

Before a tour of Fieber’s Dairy near Goodwin on May 3, few Lincoln Elementary first-graders had any concept about how milk gets to the grocery store or how cheese is actually made.

But the 48 students were all smiles when it came time to “say cheese” for a group photo documenting their Adopt the First Grade trip.

“It’s good for them to get out and see where these things really come from,” said Tom Fieber of Fieber’s Dairy. “So many of them think you just go to the store.”

Nearly 400 Watertown first graders boarded school buses to visit eight area farms in the Adopt the First Grade program that has been sponsored for the past three decades by the Watertown Area Chamber of Commerce Agriculture Committee.

“In many families, each generation gets a little further removed from farm life,” said Caitlin Voecks, director of programming for the Chamber. “The morning of Adopt the First Grade is often the first time many of these students have been on a farm.”

First-grade teacher Erica Hurkes said that while she and her students talked about farm life and cattle ahead of the field trip, nothing compares with actually experiencing the sights and smells on the farm.

Lincoln’s first-graders learned round-the-clock milking was the first step in making the cheese they enjoy eating almost every day.

“The kids were shocked at the amount of milk that each cow, and a dairy the size of Fieber’s, produces each day,” said Hurkes.

“Just seeing the large truck that will be filled with milk was a shockingly large amount of milk in their minds,” she said. “I think the lasting impression made on them is how much time, effort, and energy goes into each glass or carton of milk they drink,” she said.

Students from Hurkes’ class eagerly questioned their tour guides, prompting the following facts:

• The heaviest cow on the farm weighs more than 2,000 pounds.

• Fieber Dairy’s 750 cows are milked around the clock, seven days a week.

• The average cow gives 30 pounds of milk per day; some give up to 50 pounds per day.

• One gallon of milk weighs eight pounds.

• Because there are so many animals, each receives a numbered tag in each ear rather than a name.

• The numbers on the tags are assigned at birth.

• No, bulls can’t give milk.

• And, cows usually have four teats (the number that matches the automatic milking device), unless something happens to one of them.