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Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2009

Sassy Cow Creamery’s Humane Practices

Tours offer insight into Wisconsin dairy farm

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Where does an apple come from? A bag. What about milk? A plastic jug. Growing up in a culture that embraces fast and convenient food, many children are showing gaps in their basic knowledge of the world they’re living in. Some don’t have a clue about agriculture and the countryside, and that puts them at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to living a healthy and balanced lifestyle. A simple trip to a working dairy farm could be a solution.

In September, Deputy Agriculture Secretary Kathleen Merrigan announced a new initiative within the U.S.D.A.'s “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food” program. Its aim is to help children develop an understanding about where their food comes from and to create opportunities for local farmers to provide their harvest to community schools.

We’re called the “Dairy State” for a reason. Wisconsin has more than 13,000 dairy farms and many operators, like the Baerwolf families of Sassy Cow Creamery, invite visitors to “stop out and visit” to see firsthand where dairy products come from. Along with their families, brothers James and Robert Baerwolf operate Sassy Cow Creamery, a farmstead milk bottling business where visitors can watch through large view windows as dairy products are being made. An adjoining shop sells the creamery’s milk, ice cream and other dairy products.

The Sassy Cow Creamery sits between the Baerwolf brothers’ two distinct herds of cattle (traditional and organic) that supply milk to the creamery. The brothers say the greatest difference between the two herds is the acreage their feed is grown on. The organic herd’s feed is grown without the use of weed killer or commercial fertilizers, while the feed grown for the traditional herd is grown on land treated with herbicides.

The animals’ health care is administered differently as well. For example, if a cow in the traditional herd develops a swollen foot, the Baerwolfs would use an antibiotic to cure the infection. The milk from that cow is then withheld from the tank while she’s being treated; to be sure it is clear of any residue, her milk is tested before it is collected in the tank again. For the cattle in the organic herd, antibiotics are not administered. Sassy Cow says that none of the Sassy cows have been, or ever will be, given recombinant bovine growth hormones (rBGH).

Regardless of whether they are traditional or organic, both farms treat their cows humanely, with the same care and compassion. The Baerwolf brothers are the third generation to farm the land their grandfather purchased in 1946. Their love of cows has been ongoing since they were little boys helping their parents on the farm. They place the highest value on the well-being of their animals and state that every farm-related decision is in the cows’ best interest. Sassy Cow gets it: Cows that receive the best care produce the best milk.

The Baerwolfs’ confidence in the everyday operation of their farm is evident in its transparency. Not only are they not hiding anything, they’re inviting people to visit. Kids need to go on farm trips to dispel misconceptions about farming, and also to learn a very important lesson on the origins of what they are eating.

608-837-7766/ W4192 Bristol Road, Columbus, Wis./ www.sassycowcreamery.com

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