GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/
BLUFF COUNTRY NEWSPAPER GROUP
You betcha, this milker is keeping Minnesota supplied with ice cream, cheese and other dairy products. 
GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/ BLUFF COUNTRY NEWSPAPER GROUP You betcha, this milker is keeping Minnesota supplied with ice cream, cheese and other dairy products. 
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Dairy farms.

They do a preschooler good.

“Some of them have never been on a farm before. Some have, but the majority of them haven’t…they haven’t seen cows or the little calves,” said Chatfield dairy farmer Carolyn Burnap.

She and her husband, Jim, opened their farm up to host a herd of preschoolers and chaperones from Rochester Civic Day Nursery who enjoyed traipsing around her family’s farm outside of Cummingsville, northwest of Chatfield. The visitors came to the farm to learn how milk gets from cow to table.

Carolyn and Jim have hosted little ones on their sixth-generation farm for well over three decades, introducing them to the critters in each pen – from the dairy cows and calves to the piglets, ducks, turkeys, peacocks and deer they raise on their end-of-the-road spread in a wide, verdant valley.

She related that the farm was homesteaded in 1856 and the house she and Jim share is likely the second cabin on the land, a home they inherited from his parents, Bud and Dorothy Burnap. Bud and Dorothy died in 2008 and 2010, respectively, at the ages of 90 and 92.

“We farmed with Jim’s folks – we started in 1971…both my grandparents were on farms, but it’s a lot different visiting a farm than living on one,” Carolyn said.

It’s that principle that has led her to welcome schoolchildren to trot through their tie-stall dairy barn and watch as her older son, Russ, who graduated in 2002, cares for the lineup of approximately 80 head of red and white Holsteins, Jersey and black and white Holsteins.

“Russ graduated in 2002, and Don, in 2005, and I quit milking when Don graduated from high school,” she added. “We milk twice a day, but some people milk three times a day.”

Russ wandered behind the row of cows, stopping to connect milking lines to one and explaining to the children, “The ones with personality get names – this one’s Natalie. When we milk them, first we wash the udder – this is mostly peroxide – to get the cow clean before we start milking her.”

Carolyn then took the youngsters to the bulk tank room, where she shared with them and their guardians, “The milk is 101 degrees when it comes in, and it’s chilled to 39 degrees. We separate the cream and the milk and send it to AMPI in Rochester, where they make it into ice cream and cheese.”

Outside the barn, the explorers visited the calf huts, taking advantage of the chance to bottle-feed the new heifers and bulls. Jim and Carolyn’s granddaughter, Sydney, 5, flitted alongside the entourage in her pink chore boots, taking in the novelty of having an entire crew of people her own age on the farm – instead of the everyday view of bovines.

Carolyn commented that she and her husband have three grandchildren, Dallas, who’s 10, Sydney, and another wee one who also belongs to Don. They’re farmers in training, and she noted that she personally can no longer imagine life off the farm. “Farmers don’t retire. They just slow down and the next generation takes over,” she said.

The Burnaps’ Rochester Civic Day Nursery farm tour came to a close with the preschoolers getting to examine fossils, cow teeth and other artifacts that Carolyn has gathered.

She admitted that it is hard work to prepare the farm for little visitors, but in the end, it’s entirely worth it, knowing they’ve done their best to educate the short stacks on the facts of dairying life.

“My favorite part is just watching them because a lot of kids have never been on a farm, so it’s nice to see them learning,” Carolyn concluded.