Knollbrook Farm: A Day with the “Girls”

By Lindsay Martin, Ball State Dietetic Intern

Prior to this week, I had never been to a dairy farm.  I am 25 years old and it was finally time to make my first visit!  My wonderful colleague and I took a road trip to visit “the girls”, also known as dairy cows, in Goshen, Indiana.  Knollbrook Farm, owned by the hard-working Adam family, kindly welcomed and showed us all the effort and care going into producing milk.

As I made my way to the cow’s parlor to visit some of the cows, I noticed other cows were enjoying grazing on grass in the pasture.  I went to the farm at the perfect time; the local veterinarian was performing health check-ups  that same morning.  The veterinarian comes every 6 weeks to ensure the health of every cow and calf.  I must say, the cows are extremely friendly and cute—they loved to “kiss” our salty hands.  I now understand why people have antique cow collectibles as home décor; the girls have a way stealing your heart.  Continue reading

International Picnic Day – Fun in the Sun

International Picnic Day is June 18th

Guest Bloggers:  Amber Swinehart & Cheryl Jones, Ball State University Dietetic Interns

It’s that time of year again when the sun is shining and everyone likes to get out for some fun and fresh air!  Get ready to have some food and fun on international picnic day, June 18th.  It’s time for friends and family to get together to enjoy the outdoors.   Though it’s not an official holiday recognized by Congress, tons of families, organizations, and social clubs gather to celebrate this special day. 

The word picnic comes from the French word “piquer” (to pick or peck) and was joined together with the obsolete word “nique” (meaning to trifle).  These words were put together to form “picnic” where family and friends “pick” at small or “trifling” amounts of a wide variety of different foods brought by everyone to form a meal.

Change it up with a fun new place this year!  Try a riverbank, wooded area, garden, meadow, or even a picnic on a boat.  No matter 2, 4, or 10 people, a picnic can be an enjoyable experience for everyone and every occasion.  Get your friends and family involved in some fun and games like Frisbee golf, a scavenger hunt, horseshoes, charades, or corn hole.  To keep the kids entertained try making a picnic coloring book, playing with bubbles, having a water balloon toss, or setting up a play tent. 

After all the fun and games don’t forget to bring a picnic basket full of delicious foods and drinks for everyone to enjoy.  Some quick and easy ideas could include stuffed pita pockets, wraps, fresh summer fruit like strawberries and melon, cheese and crackers, and potato and macaroni salads.  Cool down with a refreshing beverage like strawberry lemonade, a glass of ice-cold milk, or a glass of champagne for adults.  For a fun and refreshing dessert try a yogurt S’more parfait  or some angel food cake with berries.  No matter what you pack in your picnic basket just relax and enjoy the company of your friends and family.

Indiana’s Family of Farmers Celebrate Being Everyday Environmentalist at Earth Day Indiana 2011


INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (April 18, 2011) – Indiana’s Family of Farmers are exhibiting at Earth Day Indiana 2011 on Saturday, April 23, 2011, from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at White River State Park at 801 W. Washington St., Indianapolis.

Indiana’s Family of Farmers, a coalition of more than a dozen ag-related organizations, will be among the more than 140 exhibitors at this year’s celebration.

Among the many exhibits on display on behalf of Indiana’s Family of Farmers is an activity your youngsters will not want to miss! Children stopping by the booth will learn how to grow soybeans in CowPots – manure-fiber based seed starter pots that allow for unrestricted root growth – resulting in stronger, healthier plants. You sow the seeds, plant the pots and harvest the crop.

In addition to the kids’ activities, Indiana farmers will sponsor informational booths about the sustainability of Indiana agriculture as well as offer information about Indiana agricultural products. Indiana pork farmers will also be represented in the food booths where Indiana-raised pork will be offered.

For more information about the free Earth Day Indiana 2011event on April 23, visit

For more information about the organizations represented by Indiana’s Family of Farmers, visit


 The following are some Fun Facts from Indiana’s Family of Farmers about sustainability and environmental stewardship practices accomplished right here in Indiana:

  • Pork farmers have worked with state and federal regulatory agencies to develop and present environmental workshops for more than 5,000 producers throughout the nation. These cooperative and educational efforts have improved operational efficiency while protecting the environment for future generations.
  • Cattlemen also are recyclers, raising their animals on the abundant source of grains available in this country and then turning the manure into natural fertilizers.
  •  Between 1987 and 2007, corn farmers have reduced soil loss per bushel of corn by 69 percent and land use per bushel of corn by 37 percent.
  •  Soybean farmers are planting crops that are resistant to herbicides. This allows farmers to come close to eliminating plowing on their fields. The resulting environmental benefits include better soil health and conservation, improved water retention, decreased soil erosion and decreased herbicide runoff.
  • Indiana farmers using biotech crops have contributed to the elimination of 379 million pounds of pesticide applications globally.
  • Of the 65,000 dairy farms in America today, most are smaller farms with less than 200 cows. The vast majority of U.S. farms – big and small – are family owned and operated.
  • One benefit of fertilizing the soil with cow manure is to help conserve water. When manure is used as a soil treatment, the water-holding capacity of soil is increased by 20 percent, resulting in reduced groundwater needed to grow crops.

About Indiana’s Family of Farmers
Indiana’s Family of Farmers grows the grains, produce and meat you eat every day.
We believe that quality farming means quality food that is good for you,your family and the environment.

Learn more at

Food for your family, from our family.

Contact information:
Jeannie Keating, Manager of Media Relations
Indiana State Department of Agriculture

Getting to Know Deb O.


What do you do at Indiana Dairy?

I am the General Manager.  I focus on our organization’s vision, mission, goals, strategies, staff and budgets.  I work with our dairy farmer board of directors.  I participate in our senior leadership team comprised of staff from our national and state and regional dairy promotion organizations.  Occasionally I go into a recording studio to tape radio spots featuring our events and Every Single Day dairy image campaign.


What is your favorite part of your job?

My favorite part of the job is the people with whom I work.  Agriculture is a small community and dairy is a small neighborhood within that community.  Everyone is so passionate about producing food.  I especially enjoy visiting dairy farmers on their farms and seeing first-hand how they care for their animals and the land.  They take pride in what they do.  They love their cows.  So many times over the years dairy men and women have told me how they love working together with their families on their farms producing food for others.  I’m very passionate about them and about spreading the good nutrition news about their product:  milk.


Tell us a little about yourself

I have a BS degree with a double major in Business Administration and Marketing.  I’ve worked for Indiana’s dairy farmers in dairy promotion for over 30 years.  I am very passionate about representing dairy farmers and the food they produce.

I am a lifelong Hoosier.  I grew up in St. Joseph County, where the plentiful lake effect snow teaches you to learn to enjoy it.  My husband and I live in a rural community not too far from Indianapolis and are active in our church.  We also participate in our community band.  I play a flute in the band and he runs the sound system.  I enjoy working with animals.  I have geese, a cat and a dog.  I’ve owned horses and goats as well.  My very elderly Arabian mare recently passed away.  It was tough losing her, but I was blessed with 22 years of caring for her.  She and I even shared the same birthday.  I enjoy watching and identifying the birds of Indiana as well as in other parts of the country when traveling.


Tell us a little about someone who has influenced your life and why?


My mother influenced my life a great deal.  I wish she was living to read this.  She would be proud and gratified.  She was very bright, funny, kind and caring.  A polio survivor, she lived her life and raised two children, kept a home, entertained guests, had her own child-care business and traveled the country—all this and much more from her wheelchair.  And she did all this long before accessibility issues were on anyone’s radar screen.   I’m so proud of her and so blessed that she was my mother.  She was my teacher and role model.


Do you have a favorite recipe or restaurant to share?

Bonge’s is my favorite restaurant.  Check them out at  The food is fabulous and people travel many miles to enjoy that dining experience.  Fortunately I live nearby.

On the Farm

By Deb Osza
One of the activities I enjoy most about my job is getting to visit dairy farms. I love animals and cows are one of my favorites. This week, our team visited Four-Leaf Clover Dairy in Geneva Indiana. The dairy is owned by Leontien Oostdijck – Vandelaar and her family. The Vandelaar family immigrated to America from the Netherlands and is adjusting well to life in Indiana.

Leontien and her family began operating Four Leaf Clover Dairy three years ago this month. The family operation also has 21 employees. Their primary focus is on quality. During our tour of the farm, Leontien showed us how the family cares for their cows and the land to produce high quality milk. Cows get regular pedicures at Four-Leaf Clover. Cows get a foot bath every three days and a hoof trimmer comes in once a week. The cows are in the milking parlor for about 5 to 10 minutes each session, and are milked three times a day. The cows and workers both stand on thick rubber mats during the process so everyone’s comfortable. Sand beds add to cow comfort. Cows spend much of their time relaxing in their beds. The cow’s sand beds are fluffed three times a day with new sand added once a week. The sand beds are like a day at the beach.

We also learned that this dairy is the first facility in the state of Indiana to operate under the Direct Load system, which means all that milk is pumped right from the cow directly to one of three tanker trailers parked at the facility. The really cool thing about this system is the cooling! In just minutes the milk is chilled to 34 degrees. It comes from the cow at her body temperature of about 101.5 degrees. This system also saves on water and cleaning supplies so it is very ‘green.’

When Leontien is not busy with the farm, she blogs. Check out Four-Leaf Clover Tales at . She also has a cooking blog called A Farmers Recipe at I tried her recipe: Boerenkool met Nootjes en Brie…I call it Kale and Mash with Nuts and Brie. Very yummy (though I’m convinced some of my family would think I’d ruined the mashed potatoes by adding Kale, nuts and brie, they would be wrong). This traditional Dutch dish is something I plan to make again. I have Kale in the fridge right now.

The Vandelaars’ are especially appreciative when people stop by to look over their dairy operation. If you can’t make a visit to the farm, visit them online at and E-dopt a cow! You can sign up and get a link to an 8″x10″ photo of “your” cow and a Certificate of Edoption that you can save and print. Then, you can check out the website each month to learn about ‘your’ cows’ life on the farm.

Greetings from Northern Indiana Dairy Country!!

Sure seems odd to be blogging about water use when things are so very dry here right now!!  I water only 5 pots of flowers by the house here – even though things look so rough!  Neighbors’ crop field irrigation systems have been going on a frequent basis this summer.  This spring sure seemed like it could never get wetter – all of our crops were delayed by the wet and cool spring that we experienced!  Now they are drying too fast! It was so cool that my children (ages 9 + 12) and I didn’t even swim in the neighbor’s pool till late July – and now the summer is almost over – boo! 

We milk around 60 cows and our milk is sold through MMPA (Michigan Milk Producers Association) – a cooperative that services the needs of almost 2000 dairy farmers of Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin.  They are wonderful! 

Every day we practice water conservation on our farm! Our cows drink about a bathtub of water every day. The cow’s water comes from the same well that provides my family with our drinking water! So water is a big piece of their budget! What they drink goes in and around the cycle of milk production – what is good for the cows is good for us, you, me and our children, in the way of a wholesome, nutritious, safe, dairy product!!  Nowhere can you get such a wonderful food for your family!  

  • Economical (Price the nutrition per dollar yourself!)
  • Nutritious (Can you believe all that is available in one serving of dairy?)
  • Safe (Dairy foods are one of the most regulated foods) 
  • Delicious (milk, yogurt, cheese, cottage cheese and ice cream!)
  • Healthful (Have you seen the research that deals with chocolate milk as an after sport recovery drink – or dairy’s position in weight loss?)

Each day we wash the equipment that milks our cows – twice a day.  That water is used or recycled at least 3 times. Once to wash the equipment, once to wash the floor, walls and equipment in the milking parlor, and once to fertilize our fields, for crop production. We have a filter strip, which is a strip of grass that helps to filter out sediment along the lane of our farm.

The kids help recycle water by watering the sheep’s pasture with the water from the calf buckets and using any of the animals’ old drinking water to water flowers. They also would love to be able to conserve water by following an old saying, “yep, we shower once a month, whether we need it or not!”…..  🙂

Remember, our family lives on the same ground that produces your wonderful, healthy milk supply!!  Enjoy! 

– Sue and family

Legacy of a Dutch Indiana Dairy Princess

Hi, this is Elles Niessen, a junior at Indiana University in the nursing program and the 2010 Indiana Dairy Princess.  You’re probably wondering why a nursing student is your new Indiana Dairy Princess, but I have always lived on a farm.  I guess you can say that, “I was born and raised a dairy girl!” Born in 1990, in the Netherlands, my parents owned a dairy farm of 100 cows in Belgium, and when I was nine years old my family moved to Indiana to expand our farming business.  Now, we live in Lewisville, Indiana, with a herd of 2000 dairy cows and 1500 acres to farm.  Yes, I have had to haul manure, bottle feed calves, vaccinate cows and calves, bale hay and straw, and many more things on the dairy farm to help out!  However, I’m not complaining because farming has made me who I am today and that includes great work ethics.  But, in celebration of it being “What will be your legacy?” Month, I will share with you what I hope my legacy will be.

My legacy has started by being Indiana’s first Dutch Dairy Princess and a one of a kind type of girl.  It will continue by educating the public on where dairy farmers’ hearts truly stand, and in case you didn’t know, that’s by providing great animal care for their herds and producing a wholesome product for their community.  I will accomplish this task of educating consumers by using the campaign I have developed.  My “Dairy Go Green” campaign symbolizes three arrows resembling how dairy farmers have been and still are contributing to an evolving world headed towards a “Go Green” status.  I created my own logo for visual learners to represent each arrow in a dairy type of manner.  The first arrow stands for REDUCING the use of commercial fertilizer with natural manure, but dairy farmers are doing more than that.  They are also reducing all resources leading to a reduction in the carbon footprint which benefits the environment. The second arrow represents the REUSE of sand and water, benefiting the cows comfort levels.  The third arrow depicts RECYCLING bi-products from human food companies.  These products can be used for the dairy cows’ balanced and nutritious diet which a nutritionist analyzes monthly.  All of these factors of the “Dairy Go Green” campaign impact the cows’ diet, comfort levels, and animal care allowing them to produce high quality, fresh milk!

After leaving my mark with my “Dairy Go Green” campaign, I will continue my legacy by answering all consumer questions and being as helpful as I can in weakening myths and supporting facts.  In addition, I’ll work to clarify the truth in controversial dairy topics and build strong relationships with my community and the public.  I hope to be known for who I am and my talents by sharing my hands on personal experience.  If there is something I have not yet tried in the dairy industry, I’ll make every effort to do so in order that I can share that experience with others. For example, I had to try the fried butter at the Indiana State Fair!

Thank you to everyone who supports the dairy industry, and feel free to ask me any questions that you have in regards to what we do, how we do it, or why we do it!