Dairy sees advantages in opening to public events

Agri-tourism raising food-production awareness, some farms’ viability.

Jackson Family Farm in recent years has hosted more events aiming to raise public awareness of production agriculture.

Dairy West

Jackson Family Farm in recent years has hosted more events aiming to raise public awareness of production agriculture.



MERIDIAN, Idaho — Jackson Family Farm is opening its farm gates to the public June 22 as part of National Dairy Month, part of a growing effort to tell production agriculture’s story.

In addition to the annual open house, Clint Jackson said he and his family aim to put on more such events at their farm in Meridian, Idaho, including paid tours catering to private groups.

“Milk is a worldwide commodity now, like most farm products. It’s a very large playing field, so smaller farms like ours are looking to develop into areas that can help us be more competitive,” he said. “Developing unique products and expanding into niches — that is helping keep small farms viable.”

Jackson Family Farm began operating 65 years ago in Idaho. The family previously ran a dairy in Utah. The current operation on Victory Road consists of about 450 cows including a 200-head milking herd, and 300 to 400 acres of alfalfa and corn grown for feed. Also on the property are some horses, goats and a llama. Clint runs the dairy. His father, Brent, grows the crops.

“Families with kids are consuming the most milk, and those seem to be the people who come out to the open houses,” Clint Jackson said. Many of these families “enjoy the farm, seeing the animals and where their food comes from.”

He said the farm in the last few years has been expanding into agri-tourism — a trend, particularly among smaller operations.

The farm has hosted the free Dairy Month open house four years, and has offered private visits and tours for about two years. Jackson Family Farm can accommodate school groups, private parties and some other events.

“On the private-tour side, it does generate revenue,” Jackson said. “We don’t know that it’s significant yet. We’re hoping that in the years to come, it will grow into a significant component of our operation and we will use those profits to reinvest in the farm experience visitors have when they come see us.”

Studies show that Americans think about food production often, but that most know little about how food gets to their dining table, Dairy West CEO Karianne Fallow said in a release.

“Farm tours like our National Dairy Month celebration at Jackson Family Farm help demonstrate how farmers and ranchers share the same values as everyone else when it comes to environmental stewardship and animal care,” she said. Boise-based Dairy West is a USDA-qualified program that manages marketing and promotion work on behalf of dairy farm families.

“Being small and being so close to a large population in the Treasure Valley makes us very accessible to the public,” Jackson said.

Jackson Family Farm now produces about 10,000 pounds of milk per day. “Our goal is not large-scale expansion now,” he said. “Maybe just a little, slow, growth.”

The farm employs about six people and gets additional help from family members. It is part of Darigold, a farmer-owned cooperative that produces and markets dairy products.

“We are very proud of our family history on the dairy farm,” Jackson said. “It’s fun for us, and we enjoy sharing our story with other people. In turn, the visitors really seem to enjoy the hands-on learning experience that they get when they come to the farm.”




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