By SHELLY STRAUTZ-SPRINGBORN
ENTRICAN, Mich. — Connecting consumers with agriculture’s roots is the focus of the fourth annual series of Breakfast on the Farm events planned this year in Michigan.
Michigan State University extension, in partnership with county Farm Bureaus and local farmers, will host five events from June-October. Extension educators Nancy Thelen and Phil Durst explained the principles of Breakfast on the Farm during a planning meeting last week at Douglass Township Hall, for a Sept. 7 event that will be hosted by the Jeppesen family of Black Locust Farms LLC in Stanton.
“The purpose of Breakfast on the Farm is to acquaint consumers with modern agriculture and what goes on on farms,” Thelen said.
“We want to show how we produce in a way that’s caring of the land and animals, to show our stewardship of those things as we produce a great product. There’s a growing popularity in people who want to know where their food comes from.”
Durst said the focus of the first planning meeting was to determine subcommittees, establish leadership chairs for each and develop an overall outline for the planning process.
Breakfast on the Farm is a family-oriented program aimed at bringing people together to enjoy a complimentary breakfast and self-guided tour of a family-owned farm. It is not intended to showcase a single farm; instead, it is aimed at highlighting the overall Michigan agriculture industry. Each event typically draws 2,000-3,000 visitors.
Since its inception in 2009, more than 40,000 people have participated in Breakfast on the Farm events. Last year, eight Michigan communities each hosted a gathering, drawing more than 18,293 visitors.
Of those, 43 percent surveyed said they had not been on a working dairy farm in the past 20 years, 29 percent had been on a farm from 1-5 times, 51 percent said they grew up in an urban area and 45 percent reported they currently live in an urban area.
While all Breakfast on the Farm events have their own unique features, participants can visit a variety of educational stations set up throughout the operation to learn about animal husbandry, nutrition, general farming practices and more.
Visitors also can view modern farm equipment, pet and feed calves, enjoy a tractor and wagon ride and see the feed cows eat. In addition, they can talk with and ask questions of local farmers. “We’re still reaching very much the folks that know very little about agriculture,” Thelen said.
Michigan ranks second in the nation for agricultural diversity, and that is shown in the five farms chosen to host Breakfast this year.
Events in 2013 will include: St. Clair County Breakfast on the Farm hosted by Reid Dairy Farm LLC in Jeddo; Gratiot County Breakfast hosted by Humm Farm LLC in Breckenridge; Montcalm County Breakfast hosted by Black Locust Farms LLC in Stanton; Ottawa County Breakfast hosted by Walt Dairy Farm in Coopersville; and Hillsdale County Breakfast hosted by Ferry Farms LLC in Litchfield.
A local planning committee for each event is charged with planning the breakfast and farm tour, with assistance from MSU extension educators and a variety of volunteers.
“Each event will be recruiting between 175 and 200 agriculture-related volunteers to assist with the breakfast and tour,” Thelen said. Visit www.breakfast onthefarm.com for more information about 2013 events.