What Do a Dairy Farm, Cattle Ranch and Vegetable Farm Have in Common?
I recently had an opportunity to visit Denver, where I explored a dairy farm, a cattle ranch and a vegetable farm; the source of three important food groups; and was struck by the similarities among them.
The farmers I met in Colorado all demonstrated their passion and personal investment in farming. The three farms were all multigenerational family operations and managed diverse and complex systems to provide locally sourced food.
Generational: All three of the farms we visited are family-owned. The Eldred family has been part of the New York dairy community since 1974. Two years ago, Peter Eldred moved his family to Colorado to start Lost Creek Dairy and found it had a great climate for keeping cows comfortable. Huwa Cattle, LLC, home of Huwa Reserve All Natural Beef, was founded in 2001 by Brent and Tonya Huwa, fifth-generation ranchers. The entire family, including all five children, are involved in daily aspects of the ranch. Petrocco Farms is family-owned and -operated and has grown fresh vegetables since 1916. The farm was passed down to David Petrocco Sr. in 1985 from his grandparents, who came to the U.S. in the early 1900s from Italy.
Complex: It takes education and specialized skills to be a farmer today. Farmers face multiple challenges as they seek to manage water, soil, weather conditions, animal care, equipment maintenance and more ― while meeting the highest standards of safety and sustainability. For example, Lost Creek Dairy uses energy-efficient lighting and recycled water and bedding materials, and they use the manure from their cows to fertilize crops. The Huwas carefully manage their cattle’s diets and overall health as they grow. The beef is hand-cut then dry-aged for 21 days for maximum tenderness and flavor. Petrocco Farms uses state-of-the art water purification systems to cool the lettuce and other vegetables, and they apply rigorous safety methods to their warehouses and fields.
Local: Close to 70 percent of people are looking for foods that are locally grown or produced. This strong desire to buy foods locally is one reason Petrocco Farms has a flourishing business. They supply their vegetables when they’re in-season to local grocery stores, restaurants and distribution warehouses in Colorado and neighboring states.
As health and wellness professionals, we have an obligation to educate the public about where our food comes from, so they can better understand which foods are grown and raised with good practices to provide us with good, nourishing foods. Helping people learn about modern-day farming and the dedication of farmers, in addition to the nutrition and health benefits of foods, may help decrease misconceptions and ultimately may lead to less food waste.
During June Dairy Month and throughout the summer, many farmers open their doors to let the public see and experience where their food comes from. Take advantage of the beautiful weather and visit a farm yourself. You’ll be glad you did!