Oct. 21 2015 06:14 AM

State showcases family dairy operation in video series

The Georgia National Fair just concluded this weekend and celebrated its 25th anniversary. During the 11 days of the annual state-sponsored fair, the onsite "Georgia Grown" building features space dedicated solely to "Georgia Grown" products, manufacturers, and agricultural businesses. The building is a joint project of the Fair and the Georgia Department of Agriculture. "Georgia Grown" is a marketing and economic development project that educates consumers about the agricultural people and products their state grows.

A new attraction this year – a video about a dairy farm family talking about their cows and lives. The dairy video is sponsored by the region's milk marking organization, Southeast United Dairy Industry Association (SUDIA), and Georgia dairy farmers.

Brothers Mark and Andy Rodgers and their adult children operate Hillcrest Farms in Georgia. Standing in a sand-bedded freestall barn, Mark talks about animal care in his straight-forward Southern drawl. While his words may be commonplace to those in the industry, he is attempting to connect consumers to his role as a dairy farmer. With today's current society three generations away from a farm, he shares his passion for his cows and the land.

Andy stands in their field and talks about the crops grown on their farm – corn, sudan-sorghum and ryegrass. They only grow half of the feed needed for the herd, and purchase other crops from local farmers – but not just crop farmers. Their region has many by-products available including distillers grains, citrus pulp and cottonseed, which Hillcrest uses in their feeding rations. Farm nutritionist, Holly Ballantine, speaks about how valuable the ruminant dairy cow is because she is able to take by-products that others (humans and monogastrics) cannot utilize for food or feed.

Various family members at Hillcrest talk about working together on a family farm. Even Mark and Andy's parents, Billy and Gladys, share their feelings about getting to spend everyday working with family. Caitlin, Mark's daughter, who handles herd health talks candidly about working with family – and in particular her father on a daily basis. While all enjoy working with family, they share that it can be difficult at times.

Each generation is grateful for being able to pass along the farm and its traditions to the next. And the youngest generation, the fourth, hopes to pass it along to many more.

Consider sharing the video with others – especially those in your community that may be unfamiliar with modern dairy production. I had the opportunity to meet Mark and Holly when they were participants in the Holstein Foundation's Young Dairy Leader's Institute. They are as genuine in person as they seem in the video. Well done.

Hurtgen blog footerThe author is the online media manager and is responsible for the website, webinars and social media. A graduate of Modesto Junior College and Fresno State, she was raised on a California dairy and frequently blogs on youth programs and consumer issues.