Taking a closer look at where milk comes from

flood-farm

Maine Dairy and Nutrition Council registered dietitian Catherine Hoffmann, dietetic intern Zakkary Castonguay, and Jenni Tilton-Flood of the Flood Bros. Farm.

We only had UMaine dietetic student Zakkary Castonguay with us as intern at the Maine Dairy & Nutrition Council for a brief time this fall, but we wanted to be sure to introduce him to as many dairy farmers and dairy farms during that time as possible. The following is his take on what he saw, learned and experienced. 

Dairy is not only one of the five components of the MyPlate guidelines but as I quickly learned, a way of life. During the completion of the combined Master’s and Dietetic Internship program on my way to becoming a Registered Dietitian, I was allotted the opportunity to spend time with the Maine Dairy Promotion Board / Maine Dairy & Nutrition Council. Stepping away from the incandescent lit hallways of a hospital, I found myself in several cow pastures across the beautiful state of Maine taken aback by the breathtaking views.

Andy Smith in his pasture at the Milkhouse in Monmouth.

Dairy farmer Andy Smith in his pasture at the Milkhouse in Monmouth.

 

Touring the land at Tide Mill Farm, which was settled by the first Bell in 1765.

Touring the land at Tide Mill Farm, which was settled by the first Bell in 1765.

 

Interacting with the families who have, in some cases, dedicated generations to providing the state of Maine and those across our country with straightforward and nutritious milk, helped to produce one of the greatest life experiences for which I could ask. Each farm visit was unique, but exhibited the same basic principles: a genuine care for the animals, belief in the products being produced, and an overwhelming dedication to our state and it’s people. Far too often in the world of academia more specifically that of nutrition, there is the disconnect between everything that is learned and the foundation for which it stands – food. Touring farms and seeing firsthand the dedication and work involved in the production of food allows for a more wholesome understanding of agriculture and, in turn, the products we discuss with our clients.  Having been raised in a society where producers and consumers have little interaction, there is both a need and a newfound push to bring the two together. Fortunately, the forward progression of consumers’ desires to eat local and understand the origin of their foods directly coincides with the work these farmers have been doing for countless generations.

 

Watching milking at Flood Brothers Farm with their 100-cow rotary.

Watching milking at Flood Brothers Farm with their 100-cow rotary.

 

Evening milking at the Milkhouse.

Evening milking at the Milkhouse.

 

The dairy farmers and their families not only graciously take time from their tireless workdays to provide invaluable information on the inner workings of a functioning farm, but also provide insight on the regulations and proposed future direction of their agricultural sectors. Lives as dairy farmers do not begin and end each day with the punch of a time clock; their work is intertwined within their daily lives. The intermingling of work and everyday life is evident as these wonderful historians share their stories and visuals they so graciously shared during each visit.

 

The heifer barn at Flood Farm in Clinton, the states largest dairy farm, and learning what the animals do for the first two years of their lives before they have their first calf and become a milk cow.

Touring the heifer barn with guide Jenni Tilton-Flood at Flood Farm in Clinton, the state’s largest dairy farm, and learning what the animals do for the first two years of their lives before they have their first calf and become a milk cow.

 

Aaron Bell of Tide Mill Farm takes time to visit his local school with a young calf.

Aaron Bell of Tide Mill Farm takes time to visit his local school with a young calf.

 

The trips across what, in my biased opinion, is the best state in this nation were long in distance, but full of experienced.  Visualizing the anthocyanin-rich blueberry barrens while traveling down the historic Airline connecting Hancock and Washington counties helped to solidify my bias. Fiery red fields led to ocean front pastures and a prime example of the families that help supply the nation with nine key nutrients. As the last weeks of my internship come to a close, I will always remember the people behind the products being produced; their wit, dedication, and ingenuity all are qualities I hope to emulate as I begin my career as Registered Dietitian.

 

A Brown Swiss at Tide Mill.

A Brown Swiss at Tide Mill.