Life on the farm

Muir Elementary School kindergartners Masceon Bester, from left, Dharsheel Ravishankar, Penelope Montes and Grant Brown check the wattle of a chicken on a tour of Hinchley's Dairy Farm in Cambridge.

[Editor's note: This caption has been changed to correct the spelling of "wattle."]

CAMBRIDGE — It’s never too early to learn about the origins of your food.

That’s the thought behind the field trip taken last week by kindergartners at Muir Elementary School to Hinchley’s Dairy Farm in Cambridge. One of the teachers, Meghan May, thinks it is the first time any of her students have seen firsthand how a working dairy farm operates.

“I hope they were able to learn more about agriculture, where their food comes from and all the work that goes into running a farm,” she said. “I want them to walk away with appreciation for farming.”

The focus of the Hinchley tour is on farming itself, particularly the dairy aspect. The students got to hand milk a cow and also see the robotic technology used for milking the cows.

“We squeezed out the cow’s milk,” said Fatimah Smith about the experience.

Tina Hinchley, one of the farmers who has been hosting farm tours for about 22 years, said everyone who tours the robot barn are amazed at how the cows are now being milked.

Life on the farm

Muir Elementary School kindergartner Drew Bittrich milks a cow with help from Tina Hinchley during a tour of Hinchley’s Dairy Farm.

“The cows will always be the center of attention, but now the milking with the robots (are) a great addition to the tour,” she said. “The holding of chicks, feeding goats, petting calves, will always be the same. In the future we will be putting up solar panels to do our best for the environment and our electric usage.”

The kindergartners also took a wagon ride where they got to choose a pumpkin and see fields along the way.

Students learned about chickens, eggs and the life cycle of a chick starting with an egg in the barn where chicks are hatching year round.

The chicken barn was a big hit for Kyrie Hatley, who liked seeing the eggs, and Penelope Montes, who thought the chicks were “soft and fuzzy.”

“I would love for the kids to take away ‘happy feelings’ about the farm. That it is a place where animals are happy and loved,” Hinchley said. “It is often these kids’ only time to ever visit a farm, and I will try my best to make sure it is a good time.”

Life on the farm

Muir Elementary School kindergartners, parents and teachers ride behind on a tractor driven by farmer Tina Hinchley.

The farm has been in the Hinchley family since 1958, and Hinchley’s children are fourth-generation farmers. The farm is milking 240 cows with robotic milking systems and growing crops on 2,300 acres of land. Some of the crops are to feed the cows, and some corn will be made into ethanol.

“(The students) were surprised by the number of cows and the size of a full grown cow,” May said. “They were surprised by how big a farm is, and how all the components of the farm work together.”

The farm will be hosting the Dane County Breakfast on the Farm on June 13, 2020, which will be coordinated by the Dane County Dairy Promotion Committee.

Jayceon Bester told Hinchley that the best part of the trip to the farm was “learning about what cows eat.”

May said the kindergartners at Muir take a field trip to Hinchley’s Dairy Farm every year in the fall as part of learning about the season, which includes harvesting.

The kindergarten classes taught by Nancy Padden, Sydnee Davis and Rachel Reeder also went on the tour, along with a number of parents as chaperones.

“It is a popular field trip among families,” May said. “Before teaching, I had never been to a working farm. I grew up in Madison, but never had the opportunity to go. I think this is similar to many families and because of this, many families want to go and experience life on a farm.”

“It is often these kids’ only time to ever visit a farm, and I will try my best to make sure it is a good time.” Tina Hinchley,

of Hinchley’s Dairy Farm

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