Saturday, April 30, 2016

Dairy Visits with International Visitors

April has marked the end of the arduous but fulfilling task of organizing an International Visitor Leadership Program from beginning to end. In January, I moved to Sacramento to intern at the Northern Californian World Trade Center assisting with the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP). IVLPs are short-term professional exchange programs for international leaders organized by the Department of State and facilitated by local nonprofits.  

In February, I saw a program proposal for dairy producers from the Palestinian territories. I successfully created a bid in the Sacramento region, which is essentially a collection of potential local site visits,  for the program.  Once Sacramento had been selected as a city stop, my internship advisor and I contacted various dairies and dairy research facilities. Following-up with all of our initial inquiries was a good lesson in patience and perseverance. We ended up contacting around 20 different sites. 

With all of our preparation, the finally arrived this week. Their professions ranged from a dairy researchers to a quality control manager to a dairy owner to a dairy by-product producer. 

As a part of the program we visited two dairies of different sizes. Our first stop was at Long Dream Farm in Lincoln, CA. I arrived earlier than the group (Both of us got lost), to which Krista, one of the owners, responded by giving me a tour of the emu flock. Long Dream Farm currently has an egg production and overnight stay options for those wanting a quite country getaway. They are also building a milking facility where they can milk their Scottish Highland and Dutch Belt cows. As Andrew, Krista's husband, guided us through the pristine cement space, one can only imagine how busy they will be once they open their dairy. The family hopes to sell creamy cheeses like camembert to folks in Sacramento using a mixture of the 12% fat milk from the Scottish Highland and the 4% fat milk from the Dutch Belt cows. 

At New Hope Dairy in Galt, CA, Arlin Van Grongingen and Arlan Van Leeuwen showed the group around their large dairy farm and milking facility. New Hope Dairy houses over 1,000 heifers and has one of the region's first bio-digesters. A bio-digester takes the gas produced by the cows' waste and transforms it into electricity. 

During our visit, Arlan shared the importance of having a transparent large family farm. Basically, the public can learn about the entire food system, especially from where their dairy products come. As we passed the parking lot, several of our group members asked if the parked Corvette was one of the owners'. Arlan laughed and said it was one of their employee's cars. He said that New Hope Dairy valued paying living wages for their employees. 

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