More than 75 fifth-grade pupils from Central Cambria Middle School visited DoVan Farms in Berlin on Monday as part of the Fuel Up to Play 60 Adopt-A-Farmer pilot program, and had the chance to experience farm living firsthand.
Since February, pupils have been learning about dairy farming through Skype sessions with dairy farmer Jessica VanGilder, who helps operate DoVan Farms.
The lessons have focused on animal care, general farming practices and environmental issues. Pupils even adopted a cow they named Oreo.
While at the farm, they toured the facility, watched cows being milked and learned how the milk gets to the grocery stores.
Laura England, executive vice president of industry image and relations for the Mid-Atlantic Dairy Association, said the Fuel Up to Play 60 is an initiative of the National Dairy Council and National Football League and encourages children to eat healthy and get at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day.
“With this pilot program we’re bringing students to the farms where they can see and touch everything,” she said. “They can see all the hard work and dedication that goes into the farms that are providing us with good, healthy food.”
VanGilder said the farm was contacted by England to see if it would be interested in taking part in the program.
“It’s been a lot of fun and it’s a way to promote what we do and for kids to learn where their milk comes from,” she said.
Along with four Skype sessions, VanGilder made a visit to the school and has sent photos of Oreo to the pupils.
“We hope students will have a better appreciation of dairy farming and how hard we work to make sure our cows are happy and healthy,” she said.
Eden Shirt said seeing the farm through Skype was fun, but being there in person allowed one to get a grasp of the day-to-day operations.
“It’s an amazing opportunity to come here and it’s cool to see it all,” the fifth-grader said. “You understand it better.”
DoVan Farms was established in 1939 and is operated by David and Connie VanGilder. It has 620 Holstein cows and sits on 1,100 acres.
Kelly Urban is a reporter with The Tribune-Democrat. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/KellyUrban25.