Wednesday, July 16, 2014

We Are Indiana Agriculture: Producing Nature's Most Perfect Food

By Sarah Mahan of This Farm Family's Life

Wagler Farms was founded in 1950 when Henry and Frances Wagler moved from their Daviess County home in Southern Indiana to help start the Bean Blossom Mennonite Church.  “The original farmstead took on the image of many local farms in that era--167 acres, 18 head of cattle, 4 sows and a mess of piglets,” says Sarah Wagler. “ Sixty-two years, 8 children, 21 grandchildren and 23 great-grandchildren later, Wagler Farms is still focusing on producing nature’s most perfect food, wholesome nutritious milk.”  Wagler Farms is currently operated by Henry and Frances’s sons, Ken and Lloyd, their wives, Lesa and Crystal, grandson Justin, and his wife Sarah.  The Wagler family is dedicated to the care of their milk cows and is also passionate about adding to the picturesque rural landscape of Brown County.

Work on the 700 Holstein cow dairy farm is definitely a family affair according to Sarah. “Every single day our farm is a bustle!  Justin, Kenny and Lloyd are directly involved in the daily operations dealing with crops and animals.  You can find them doing anything from helping trim hooves to planting crops or making silage.  The jobs are endless on a dairy!  Lesa and Crystal maintain the operation’s financial records, while I work with tours and promotion.”

“On average, our cows provide us with 75 pounds of milk per cow, per day.  Our cows, employees, and ourselves work hard every day to provide families with over 6100 gallons of wholesome, nutritious, delicious milk.”  Since the cows work hard to provide milk 365 days a year, the Waglers work hard every day to ensure their cows are comfortable as Sarah explains. “In Indiana, we can go from one extreme to the next in the blink of an eye!  The ideal temperature for a cow is around 50 to 60 degrees, with that said, how often is Indiana a comfortable 50 to 60 degrees?  So, to help keep our cows cool and comfortable in the summer, we provide shade, clean and comfortable bedding, fans, and even water misters.  It is truly better than a day at the beach!  With those efforts in place, we can make a hot, humid August day into a breezy comfortable 75 degrees.  In the winter, we are also worried about the extreme cold for our cows like we are for ourselves.  Our milking cows are provided shelter that eliminates drafts, but still provides fresh air flow.  We even provide our baby calves with warm jackets to stay warm and cozy!”

When asked how she feels about there being fewer small dairies and more large-scale dairies Sarah explains, “I honestly feel that instead of size we should focus on quality.  In Indiana, we are blessed with diversity of size from 7 cows to several thousand cows.  The best part is, they are all focused on cow care and on providing consumers with a great, nutritious, high-quality product regardless of size.”

Aside from living on a dairy farm, Sarah also has the privilege of working with hard-working dairy families through her career with Dairy Farmers of America (DFA).  “DFA is a milk marketing cooperative that markets members’ milk to the processing facilities.  I am a field representative for DFA and, honestly, do something different about every day.  I love my job because I get to work with great people, great farms, and help ensure a superior product is delivered to market.”

The greatest satisfaction Sarah gets from dairy farming, “It’s hard to pick just one, but I would have to say that at the end of the day, knowing our hard work and dedication is helping feed our neighbors near and far always puts a smile on my face!”

Interesting dairy facts:     
  • Indiana has more than 1200 dairy farms and 97% of them are family owned.  The average herd size is 129 cows.
  • Some cows wear pedometers to measure how many steps they take each day—time spent walking can be a sign of how healthy a cow is.
  • Indiana ranks second in the nation in ice cream production.
  • Milk travels an average of only 100 miles from farm to grocery store.
  • An adult dairy cow drinks nearly a bathtub full of water every day.
  • The average cow produces 90 glasses of milk every day and nearly 200,000 glasses of milk in her lifetime.
  • Dairy farming and processing contributes $810 million to the Hoosier economy every year and creates 8,220 jobs in Indiana.

Vanilla Ice Cream Recipe

Rock Salt (also called Ice Cream Salt)
Gallon Baggies
Quart Baggies

1 cup half and half (or whole milk)
2 Tablespoons white sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
Any additional mix-ins that your heart desires (cocoa powder, strawberries, chocolate chips, sprinkles, etc.)

1) Fill gallon size baggie half full with ice.  Generously pour rock salt over ice.
2) Pour half and half, sugar, vanilla extract and mix-ins in the quart sized baggie.  Seal tightly!
3) Place quart sized baggie inside gallon sized baggie and ensure both are sealed completely!
4) Shake, shake, shake!  Shake for approximately 5-7 minutes, or until ice cream becomes firm.
5) Scoop ice cream into your favorite dish or cone and enjoy!
6) Place any leftovers in freezer.

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