A USDA program tour makes a stop at a Cokato dairy operation
By Kristen Miller
Six African professionals embarked on a guided tour of Minnesota’s agriculture and dairy industry recently with one of the stops being a Cokato dairy operation.
Daniel Lemke, owner of Morning Star Farm and Sunny Road ice cream and cheeses, gave a detailed tour Sept. 10 of how he manages, processes, and markets his dairy products.
The tour was part of the Cochran Fellowship Program through the US Department of Agriculture which was created to “provide US-based agricultural training opportunities for senior and mid-level specialists and administrators from public and private sectors who are concerned with agricultural trade, agribusiness development, management, policy, and marketing.”
“It’s an opportunity to bring professional people from other countries to the US to observe our agriculture industry and its technology,” said Dennis Bergquist, a local USDA contractor from Hutchinson, who guided the group.
Though Lemke’s Farm was one of many stops along the two-week tour of Minnesota’s dairy and agricultural industry, it was a prime example of the type of operations they need to conduct back home, according to Bergquist.
While at the Lemke farm, the group was able to see another means of producing milk products such as ice cream and cheeses and how Lemke uses a portable trailer to sell and market his operation.
The visitors on the tour included a woman from Senegal, Awa Diallo, who milks 45 cows by hand in a country where the average herd size is 10 cows. She also developed an organization made up of 20,000 women to help them develop leadership roles in agriculture.
One of the stops along the tour included the Minnesota Holstein Association in St. Cloud, which highlighted marketing and women in agriculture.
Seeing the large number of women in the US agricultural industry, especially in the dairy sector, was impressive to Diallo.
Mamadou Loum, also from Senegal, is the general manager for a 900-cow dairy processing plant. He saw the passion Minnesota farmers have for their operation, including Lemke.
“If you have passion, you will succeed,” he said.
With a difference in cultures, the visitors noticed America’s use of time management and the efficiency in the American agriculture and dairy industries.
Aside from the Lemke farm, the tour stopped at First District Association in Litchfield and Glenmark Genetics in Glencoe, where they learned about embryo transfers, which speed up the genetic process, according to Bergquist.
Other stops along the way included the Minnesota Health Department, and Minnesota Board of Health and Ecolabs, to have an understanding of US government regulations and standards, as well as good practices for food safety.
In Africa, it is the perception that regulatory agencies and workers are against the farmers and companies.
Here, they were able to see the opposite in that these particular agencies want to work with the companies and farmers, one group member explained.
Mpho Hoeane, who is the chief agriculture products quarantine technician with the National Department of Agriculture of South Africa, noticed the different ways in which the young people of the US get involved with agriculture, such as FFA and 4-H. One of her favorite stops on the tour was the Miracle of Birth Center at the Minnesota State Fair.
These were just a few of the lessons the members on the tour said they will take back with them to teach others in their home country.