Monday, June 4, 2012

Vale Wood Farms Summer Jubilee

Roadside beauties!
This past Sunday, Vale Wood Farms (Loretto, PA, dairy) held its annual "Summer Jubilee," an event to host customers at the farm.  We got to take a hay ride around the property, "milk" a pretend cow, enjoy some music from a local band, and eat ice cream (of course).  I learned a few new things about the farm I wanted to share.  (We have Vale Wood listed on our "Local Farms" tab, where you can read a small blurb about their farming techniques.)

The Original Itle Homestead
In addition to growing their own crops for the cows to eat, Vale Wood does not administer any hormones such as rBGH/rBST (a genetically altered hormone created by Monsanto).  While the farm is not "organic," it is their preference NOT to spray the fields and crops.  According to our tour guide, they only do so if the "bug counts" are predicted to be high at a particular time.

Some of the pregnant cows on "break" from their milking duties.
 The cows are given access to pasture and are also given a daily ration of corn and greens (such as timothy hay and alfalfa).  (I am not sure if the corn comes from genetically modified seed.)

Dan talking to us about the calves (behind him) and some of the farm practices.
When the calves are born, they receive vaccinations.  They are kept in these stalls (above) for a short time and then gradually introduced into larger herd settings.

The "girls" waiting to be milked.
If a cow would ever need an antibiotic, their milk is discarded and NOT given to the customer.  The farmers here believe that one ought not withhold antibiotics if an animal is sick.

Vale Wood cows are Holsteins.  Each Holstein cow has a distinct marking/pattern on their body - it is like a fingerprint; no two are alike!

When the cows know it's time to be milked, they also know the order of who goes first!  They line up accordingly, and those first-in-line cows do not give up their spots.  I found that so interesting!

"Milking" the cow!
 The farm has been in operation since 1933.  It's still run by members of the Itle family, and the lady who gave us our hay ride tour had lots of stories of her childhood on the land!  

While I was waiting for my ice cream in the dairy store, I checked out the ingredients on some of the ice cream containers.  I was somewhat disappointed to see lots of additives and thickeners like guar gum and diglycerides, plus corn syrup.  I guess not all things can be perfect!  It sure does taste good, though.  For more information on the Vale Wood product line, click here.

 Also, a Vale Wood employee once told me that the eggs they offer come from a neighboring farm.

I still think that Vale Wood milk is the best I have tasted.  I love knowing that it comes from right here in western PA and that the family is intimately involved in the dairy practices.  They truly seem to care about their cows, and their customers!

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