Do You Know Dairy? Farm and City Moms Learn From Each Other
Routine farm exposure used to be something Mary Mackinson Faber took for granted. She now realizes her farm experiences lead to confident choices at the grocery store.
“We have a Facebook fan page for the family dairy farm, and the biggest misconception we get is the use of antibiotics,” she says. “Consumers think they have to worry about antibiotics in their dairy products. That should never be a concern of theirs.”
Yes, her family sometimes uses antibiotics on their central Illinois dairy farm – but only if a cow gets sick. (Liken this to how humans take antibiotics – just because one family member needs them to get over an illness doesn’t mean the entire household takes them.) Consumers can rest assured that milk containing antibiotics never enters the food supply. In fact, the milk undergoes two separate tests: one on their farm and again before a truck unloads at the processor. If positive for antibiotics, they destroy the milk.
“It’s not something consumers should ever lose sleep about at night,” she says.
As Faber knows, moms lose enough sleep. She and her husband, Jesse, have two young children. Faber works as the controller for a local farm supplier and grain storage facility. Jesse teaches agriculture and science and serves as an FFA adviser at the local high school.
Her dad, brother and uncle run the daily operations at Mackinson Dairy Farm in Pontiac. They milk 150 cows and grow crops, including corn, soybeans, wheat and alfalfa. Her great-great grandfather started the farm more than 100 years ago.
A few years ago, Faber mingled with a group of Chicago moms during a dairy farm tour through the Illinois Farm Families program, which aims to show urban parents how farmers raise and grow food.
After short introductions, the moms asked questions. Faber remembers a lengthy discussion about the meaning behind organic and conventional milk.
Relationships that started on that tour bus bloomed into email and social media conversations. Some moms even brought their kids to visit her family’s farm.
“I was surprised by how willing and how much they want to learn about something that my family takes for granted, something I grew up with,” she says. “They’re so willing to learn and see what we do every day. Something I don’t think is fascinating, they do.”
Today, Faber more often puts herself in a consumer mindset. In reality, this farm mom feels like that group of Chicago moms – minus the city and suburban traffic.
“I think about myself as a consumer because I’m just like them. I buy groceries. I have young children. We’re all the same and want the best for our kids, and for them to be happy and healthy,” Faber says. “They have questions. They may not know where to go for that information, and this program has given them a resource to develop that relationship. It’s a program that I’m honored to be a part of.”