Farm-to-table events offer behind-the-scenes view of working dairy farm

September 22, 2022 9:13 am

By Meta Hemenway-Forbes, Hansen’s Dairy Marketing Manager

A Holstein greets a young boy during Hansen’s Dairy Down on the Farm Breakfast in September.

On a recent Saturday, a little boy stood captivated by Macey, a nearly one-ton Holstein poking her head from the barn to greet visitors. As Macey munched on silage, the boy’s family explained the cow’s role in getting milk to the family table.

More than 500 people from across the state enjoyed a menu of locally sourced foods during the Down on the Farm Breakfast.

More than 500 people from all over Iowa experienced the wonder of a working dairy farm during our Down on the Farm Breakfast on Sept. 17. The driving force behind the event was to celebrate local food and the importance of dairy. The menu included goods from 11 local food suppliers — eggs from Groothuis Farm, Nashua; Edgewood Locker sausage; Hansen’s Dairy cheese curds, butter, milk and heavy cream; Litteaur Produce peppers, Waterloo; Kramer’s Salsa, Camanche; Apples on the Avenue, Nashua; Rustic Hearth Bakery bread, Cedar Rapids; Clear Creek Orchard jam, Collins; Wildflower Acres Honey, Waterloo; Fat Cup Coffee, Waterloo; and Wilson’s Orchard apple cider, Iowa City.

“With this event we really wanted to showcase the quality food our area has to offer,” said Hansen’s Dairy spokesperson Jordan Hansen. “We designed the menu based on what is available in our area, and nearly every food item was sourced locally. It was truly farm-to-table!”

Each supplier was paid for their product, Hansen emphasized.

“As a small business, we know that the best way to support local businesses is to actually purchase from them instead of asking for donations. All of the people who work at the event are also paid for their efforts.”

Commitment to education

Kids got to “milk a cow” during the Down on the Farm Breakfast.

The annual Down on the Farm Breakfast is part of our commitment to educating people about where food comes from. In addition to a hearty breakfast, guests enjoyed a tour of the farm where they got to meet cows like Macey, pet calves, learn how we care for our cows, and see the milking parlor. A variety of dairy-themed games made learning fun, which is important when teaching kids about agriculture, Hansen said.

“Milk, cheese, butter and other dairy products don’t magically appear at the grocery store,” she explained. “The real magic is seeing how these items get from the farm to your table.”

Jean Regalie-Carr, president of the National Dairy Council, wrote in a recent piece for Progressive Dairy about the shift in messaging to children. Kids need to know the nutritional value of dairy foods, but contemporary communication also includes education on food sourcing.

“We also understand today’s kids are further removed from the production of food, yet they have questions about what they consume and how it was produced,” she wrote. “Fortunately, farmers have a powerful story to tell about ‘sustainable nutrition,’ assuring this vital generation that dairy is produced in a way that’s good for the planet, animals and their communities.”

Picnic at the Pond

Picnic at the Pond guests will enjoy an evening of rustic elegance and an array of local foods.

An upcoming event at the Hansen farm aims to do the same for adults. The inaugural fall Picnic at the Pond takes place from 4:30 to 7 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 2.

We’ve partnered with Lux Pop Ups, a local luxury picnic creator, to bring guests a country chic experience at our tour center pond while enjoying the countryside and a sense of community with fellow guests.

Picnic patrons will graze on locally sourced charcuterie items and take a trolley ride around the farm. Then they’ll gather around the firepit for a gourmet s’more while taking in a picturesque sunset over the water. Seating is limited to 60 guests. Reservations are $20 per person and available online at

Events like the breakfast and Picnic at the Pond, as well as our April 1-Oct. 31 tour season, spotlight the importance of local food, the effort it takes to produce it, and what that means for the communities we serve.

“Buying local food has a positive impact on the economy and the environment,” Hansen said. “In addition to producing our own dairy products, we pride ourselves on being a local food hub for the Waterloo-Cedar Falls area, where farmers can sell their goods at our stores and customers can buy. We live in an agriculturally rich part of the country. We have a duty to take advantage of the bounty of quality food produced right in our backyard.”

Guests will enjoy sunset views over the tour center pond during the Picnic at the Pond event on Oct. 2.