A farm feast

Tribune Staff • Jul 21, 2015 at 12:53 PM

It is one of five Breakfast on the Farm events across Michigan this summer, all hosted by the Michigan State University Extension program and the Michigan Farm Bureau.

The host farm at 8099 W. Arthur St. in Coopersville is a family owned-and-operated dairy farm, dating back to 1932.

The Walt family will be opening up their farm for the community to enjoy a free pancake breakfast made with Michigan products. There will also be wagon rides, self-guided tours and educational exhibits to give consumers a chance to see where the food they eat comes from.

“Farming is a way of life for us,” Kathy Walt said. “We would like the public to learn about agriculture, where their food comes from, that we do care about our environment and community, and we take good care of our cows. 

"We are moving to a generation away from people who grew up on a dairy farm or their grandparents having a farm," she continued. "If we open up our farm so people can learn and see what we do and how we do it, we hope people have a better understanding of what farming is.”

Arlyn and Kathy Walt are third-generation farmers. Along with their children, April and Sybrant, the Walts care for 430 cows on 1,200 acres. They also grow corn and alfalfa to feed their stock for the year.

The cows are milked twice daily, and produce about 25,000 pounds of milk each year. The milk is shipped to the Country Fresh Dairy in Grand Rapids and Leprino Food Cheese Factory in Allendale.

Merrill Gould, an MSU Extension educator and co-chairman of the Breakfast on the Farm organizing committee, said the Walt Dairy Farm is a great example of Michigan’s farming industry. Gould said the Walts were selected because their farm is "very clean."

“People can actually see how cows are milked and the milking parlor, and how their food finds its way into their house," he explained.

MSU Extension educator Nancy Thelen said the breakfast events have grown in size over their four years.

“The Breakfast on the Farm events started in 2009 with one event held in Clinton County,” she said. “Since then, attendance has grown from 1,500 people in 2009 to over 18,000 at eight events in 2012. Almost 44,000 attendees have participated in one of the 22 Breakfast on the Farm events.”

The breakfast food is donated from throughout the state. Much of the eggs, turkey, milk, yogurt, apples and ice cream for the breakfast at the Coopersville farm will come from Cargill Kitchen Solutions, Michigan Turkey Producers, Country Fresh and Peterson Farms.

The event remains free thanks its statewide and local sponsors.

“The program has 12 statewide sponsors, and this Ottawa County event has over 60 local sponsors,” Breakfast on the Farm program coordinator Ashley Kuschel said. "Because of all of that support, we don’t ask for donations at the event. We like to think that people can leave their wallets in their pocket and simply enjoy a free, educational event with their family.”

Still, tickets are required for admission. Free tickets can be obtained at the Jim Humphrey Farm Bureau Insurance Agency in Grand Haven.

CLICK HERE for the full list of ticket locations, directions to the farm and other information.

— By Ben Perfect, Tribune intern

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