Recognizing an opportunity to share information
with a large group of dietitians, the Fulpers hosted close to 50 people for an afternoon and evening tour.
What do farmers and dietitians have in common?
A lot, really.
Both are experts in nutrition, and both aim to balance the best diets for their clients, be they human or bovine.
When a group of dietitians visited a New Jersey dairy farm last spring, they were able to see firsthand not only the nutritional value of dairy products, but the care farmers take in balancing dairy cattle diets. They also saw the environmental efforts and the focus on animal well-being at a fifth-generation family operation.
In June, members of the New Jersey Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics visited the Fulper Family Farmstead in Lambertville for a farm tour. Coordinated by the American Dairy Association North East (ADANE), the event gave dietitians and nutritionists a unique opportunity to learn more about dairy at several levels. At the same time, it was a chance for the Fulpers to share their family history and their own dairy products at a farm- to-table dinner held later that evening.
Nutritionists took to lead
Mandy Enright, a registered dietitian nutritionist and New Jersey Dietetic Association media representative, contacted ADANE about a possible farm tour to learn more about production.
“As dietitians, I believe it’s important to see first- hand how our commodity foods are produced,” she said. “Milk, in particular, has a lot of conflicting information in the media about production, safety, and health factors.”
Recognizing an opportunity to share information with a large group of dietitians, the Fulpers hosted close to 50 people for an afternoon and evening tour. Dietitians from many fields of practice, including pediatrics, sports nutrition, long-term care, schools, retail, and others, attended the event. According to ADANE, registered dietitians (RDs) are a trusted source when it comes to nutrition information.
The Fulpers have farmed for more than a century, starting in 1903 when Mary Fulper brought one cow to the farmstead. The family grew tomatoes for Campbell’s Soup and vegetables for farmers’ markets, then focused on dairy, hay, straw, and grain in the 1950s. The Fulpers — currently three generations still on the farm — farm 1,200 acres. Taking advantage of their proximity to several large cities, they began making dairy products on-farm and now sell yogurt, hard and soft cheeses, cream, and whole milk at the farm, farmers’ markets, groceries, and restaurants.
They also believe in educating consumers, starting at a young age. When Breanna Lundy was growing up on the farm and served as Hunterdon County Dairy Princess, she recognized the importance of sharing their farm with families and youth. Lundy also had a passion for creating a fun and educational on-farm experience.
Developed a day camp
That interest grew into Farmstead Adventure Camp, a day camp for kids that immerses them in dairy farming. Breanna first organized the camps while she was in high school, and they continue today, more than a dozen years later.
Breanna was on hand for the June tour, along with several family members. They also invited the farm’s nutritionist and veterinarian so they could explain their roles at the farm and answer questions.
“The group was very open and intelligent,” she said. “They asked great questions and were very interested in the experts we partner with on our farm. They had no farm experience, but they really connected with our nutritionist. They could relate to the cow side of nutrition, coming from the human side of nutrition.”
“One of the best things that came from this was witnessing all the steps involved in dairy production and learning about the extent of care that are provided to the animals,” Mandy said. “As a result, we as dietitians can provide educated responses to the public about including milk as part of a healthy diet.”
She said her favorite part of the night was seeing the calves and learning more about their care. “Speaking with the farm owners and caretakers of the animals educated us on the process of dairy production and allowed us to ask the questions we commonly hear from the public,” she said. “Dietitians are the ones ultimately educating consumers about dairy and recommending it as part of a healthy diet. It’s essential that we are well-informed on the steps involved in dairy production and experience the process to make appropriate recommendations and address public concerns.”
ADANE has been working with dietitians and nutritionists to involve them more at the farm level. In the past year, dietitians toured the Penn State dairy barns, learning about animal care and the latest in dairy science research. They also toured Penn State’s Berkey Creamery where they learned about milk processing and ice cream manufacturing and met with a faculty food scientist to discuss dairy foods research.
The dairy promotion group also arranged for supermarket registered dietitians to take a “Cow to (Yogurt) Cup” farm tour. This event included an in-depth tour of the Chobani plant in New Berlin, N.Y., and a visit to Terry Ives’ Greenview Farm in Bainbridge, N.Y. In turn, these dietitians share their experiences through blog posts that reach even more consumers.
For the Fulpers, located in a heavily populated area of a state not known for its dairy farms, opening their farm to a group of people who are influential in consumers’ food decisions was beneficial for everyone involved.
“This was an excellent fit,” Breanna said. “These are individuals in the field who are educating their clients about how to be healthy. They told us questions they are asked, and we were able to respond with answers that made sense to them.”
For Mandy, the tour opened the door for dietitians to be more involved and educated in commodity production.
“For my dietitian colleagues and myself, this tour provided an opportunity to showcase our expertise on nutrition and food science, while expanding partnerships with local farmers and producers,” she added. “Consumers need to be educated to make informed purchasing decisions, and that is where dietitians play an essential role in working with local farmers.”
Following the tour, a farm-to-table dinner was served, catered by Storybook Cake Designs and featuring the Fulper family’s own products. One of the farm’s employees, Allie Burdick, owns the catering business and often incorporates the farm’s products into menu selections, so the group was able to enjoy fresh mozzarella, yogurt, and milk as part of their meal.
Breanna noted the meal helped reinforce the health aspects of dairy products and the work that goes into producing them. “Overall, the group was very interested in the health aspects of dairy based on facts, not current fads or trends,” she said. “I think they learned that dairy is more than a label.”
Originally published by Andrea Stoltzfus of Hoard’s Dairyman