Tina Hinchley, of Cambridge, Wis., is the Midwest Regional Finalist for America’s Farmers 2013 Farm Mom of the Year.
Tina milks the 105 registered Holsteins in the herd. "My husband doesn’t really enjoy milking, they’re my girls and I like it.”
In 1997 they started doing farm tours as an extra source of income plus “it would also make us better farmers, because we would keep the place tidy, making sure the environment around the animals would be safe for the kids.”
They host everything from school groups to families. The tours are booked in advance but the amount of time they spend on the tour is kind of up to the visitors. “The schools have a limited time but some of the families come at 10 o’clock in the morning and they are here all day.”
While the school tours are an annual occurrence, most of the individual tours are from online inquiries. When the Internet was first becoming popular, Tina got “dairyfarmtours.com" so if you Google dairy farm tours, theirs is the first search result. A tour starts with a basic lesson in farm safety “we put basic rules down."
They go into the milkhouse where they learn about how the milk gets from the cow to the store.
“A lot of the families that come out think the cows are still milked by hand” says Hinchley. A visit to the haymow gives her the opportunity to explain that the drought is the reason there is no hay in the mow right now.
The farm also is home to turkeys, chickens, pigs, dairy goats, sheep and a couple of beehives which each present the chance to talk to the visitors about meat, eggs, hormones, free-range, GMO’s, monoculture, pesticides.
In the 15 years she has been doing tours she has noticed people are further-removed from the farm along with more concern from people about where their food comes from and what is in it. She says transparency is the key.
“If you’re not willing to show them or tell them why you do what you do, it seems secretive to these consumers.” You need to let them know, share your feelings, “let them hear your passion.”
Hinchley says consumers just want to buy good food that is safe; she thinks food labels are “extremely confusing.” For starters, she says everything should say "USDA inspected because it is.” On top of that we have all different labels like free-range, hormone-free, cage-free, Angus Beef, natural, organic and so-on.
"They have to realize that everything in the store is meant to be safe.”
Besides the farm, the tours, their 15-year-old twin daughters school and other activities, Tina is also serving her second term on the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board, which she describes as an incredible learning opportunity. She was first inspired to run for the WMMB when she talked to small children in a school lunch room who didn’t want to drink their milk. She decided to try to do something about that. She is a strong advocate for chocolate milk saying if schools need to cut, cut somewhere else…the kids need the nutrition in milk and it doesn’t do any good if they don’t drink it.
Hinchley is one of five regional finalists for the America’s Farmers Farm Mom of the Year, the others are Mary Ann Bansen of California, Aimee Hachigian-Gould of Montana, Sue Roehm of Ohio and Elizabeth Rosson of Virginia. The winner will be named on Mother’s Day.