Kelsay Farm, a modern dairy farm just south of Indianapolis, IN, has done an excellent job of helping more people understand food production. I recently asked Amy Kelsay to share her passion educating others about where their food originates. As the first of several producer profiles, I am sharing our interview to showcase those who are championing agriculture on their farm.
Describe your farm tour business and why it started: Our family had been giving farm tours for over 30 years; however in 2005, I quit my job with Purdue Extension to stay home with our daughter and found myself becoming the tour coordinator for the farm! This is a role that I absolutely love! I especially love educating young people and I feel very blessed to have this opportunity to share our 6th generation family farm with them. It’s a perfect fit for me!
We provide tours to school /youth groups in the spring and fall. I offer cow camps in the summer months to children in daycare or day camps. We open the farm to the public on October weekends for people to come and “Experience the Farm.” We offer farm tours, a 5-acre corn maze, games and activities for children, delicious dairy snacks and hands-on with the animals.
We went from hosting 1,598 people my first year as tour coordinator to 9,080 in 2008.
Why do you feel this business is an important part of agriculture? We must tell our story about why we are here and what we are doing! The general consumer is becoming more and more skeptical about the food they eat and are willing to believe things that just aren’t true. If we don’t speak up and let them know the ‘true’ story about their food and how it is produced – who will??
People are getting farther and farther away from production ag, so we’ve got to get them back to the farm. Agritourism is one way to do that. What has been the biggest eye opener as you’ve hosted people on your farm? We take dairy farming for granted – it is our life, day in and day out…
However, I have found that people are fascinated by farming. Grandparents can relate because they used to milk or knew someone that milked, parents are excited because they want their children to have an opportunity to be on a farm and see animals first-hand, and the children are excited because it is a totally new experience for them! Most students that visit our farm have never been on a dairy or any type of livestock farm. They are overwhelmed by the size of the animals, the amount of work that goes in to farming and the technology used on a modern farm today.
Who do you believe needs to learn about modern food production and why? Although I feel that all ages need to learn about modern food production, our target audience is young children (preschool – elementary school.) This is the age where children are beginning to develop their thoughts and ideas about the food that they are going or not going to put into their little mouths!
We want to show them where their milk comes from and why it is the single most nutritious beverage that they can choose. They must know that food does not come from a grocery store but that there are many, many steps that happen prior to that store. Most of them have only experienced food at the grocery store level.
If we can educate them about modern food production, we hope that they will educate others and make smart food choices as they become older. Farming has enough challenges (time, economy, regulations, etc.)
Why is educating people worth your farm’s time and resources? We feel that it is our responsibility and our obligation to educate the public about farming. We are extremely proud of our farm and of the 5 generations before us that worked hard every day to keep it here for us – we have to do our part to keep the farm around for the 7th, 8th, 9th, etc. generations. In order to stay viable and remain competitive in the industry, we must take the time and utilize the resources to promote what we do.
Congratulations Amy and Joe for investing your time and talents to share the story of food production.