There’s nothing like the smell of a dairy farm in the morning. If you grew up in rural Vermont, it’s a familiar smell and not one most of us recoil from. It’s sort of comforting, in a way, and reminds us of family farms and tradition. Newcomers to Vermont and Vermonters who grew up on the mean streets of say… Burlington, I guess, aren’t quite as familiar with the smell of cows, and that’s okay. It’s a distinct smell, for sure, but one that you can adjust to rather easily, especially in the spring when you see the sweet little baby calves. If you’re anything like me and my sons, you’ll fall in love with the calves instantaneously.
Vermont Breakfast on the Farm is a non-profit, volunteer-run organization that began in 2015 with the goal of helping more people enjoy the family-run dairy farms that make up the backbone of our landscape in Vermont. This year marks the organization’s return to live, in-person events after two years of virtual events due to COVID.
Vermont Breakfast on the Farm is organized by members of the local agricultural community working in collaboration with farming families to craft engaging, free, public events and programs that provide the general public with information about where their food comes from and connects them with farmers from their community. Each breakfast on the farm event relies on over 100 volunteers to make the events so successful and so much fun. Since Vermont Breakfast on the Farm began, over 13,000 breakfasts have been served at Vermont dairy farms!
Gosliga Farm – a Quintessential Vermont Dairy Farm
This year, Gosliga Farm is the proud host of Vermont Breakfast on the Farm.
I recently spent the morning at Gosliga Farm in Addison with my two sons, Luke, age 9, and Liam, age 8. Gosliga Farm is a twenty-minute ride from Middlebury and boy is that ride scenic! The roads wind, the hills meander, and everywhere you look is green. Visiting the farm with my boys on a sunny, mid-sixty-degree day helped, too. It could not have been more idyllic. Honestly, my kids didn’t even fight over whose leg was touching whose side of the back seat.
My sons and I were joined on our personal farm tour by Laura Hardie, the chair for Vermont Breakfast on the Farm, and farm manager, Gerrit Gosliga. Gosliga Farm is a multi-generational farm with eleven employees all from the same five families. They’re all related- fathers, sons, uncles, and cousins. All five families live on the same road as the farm. Their pride in their farm shows in their careful stewardship of the land and the animals. Gosliga Farm is a family operation and a labor of love.
Gerrit introduced us to the newest calves who were just a week old. If he could have, I think my 8-year-old would have crawled in with them, cuddled up, and taken a nap. He was in love.
Once we pulled him away from the newest little calves, we learned how the slightly older calves and cows are fed. My older son enjoyed adding feed to their troughs (maybe a little too much) and he was eager to help and thrilled to make the cows happy.
Next, we visited the milking parlor where we checked out the milking machines and watched as the cows were milked. The kids giggled when they felt the machines sucking on their fingers. I love a good kid giggle. We learned about the sterilization process that happens to the cows’ udders before milking. Not-so-fun fact: even with the sterilization process, cows get mastitis just like us! Gosliga Farm has about 800 milking cows and around 650 cows that are too young yet for milking. My boys love drinking milk and I feel good about supporting Vermont farmers.
We stopped our tour at a tractor and my kids climbed in! What is it about kids and tractors? I think they’d have sat in it all day if we’d let them. Alas, we had another barn to tour and more cows to canoodle with.
At Vermont Breakfast on the Farm, you’ll enjoy a FREE breakfast as long as you have reserved your FREE ticket for the event. Vermont dairy forms a nutritious backbone of this meal. Once you eat, you’ll set off on a self-guided tour to meet the cute calves and the herd of milking cows, tour the barns and milking facility, sit in the big equipment, and meet one of Vermont’s hard-working farm families.
This event is rain or shine, so dress accordingly. There will be covered tents but you could still get muddy. Rain ponchos and rubber boots are recommended. Closed-toe shoes are also better for safety on the farm but are not required.
This IS absolutely a kid-friendly event. There will be a sandbox full of grain corn, games, heavy equipment to climb on, and lots of opportunities to pet the cows and calves. This family-friendly event is a wonderful way to spend your Sunday.
Where Can I Learn More About Dairy Farming?
Dairy farming is an important part of our history in Vermont. As a parent or caregiver, you may want more information that you can share with your children. While not all dairy farms are open to the public, Laura and Gerrit encourage parents, teachers, schools, and other groups to connect with their local farmers and ask if they can come for a tour. Most farmers would be more than happy to share how dairy farming works.
And, check out these incredible resources from Laura:
For Younger Kids (PreK- 6th Grade)
- Discover Dairy Activity Booklet- includes word searches, word scrambles, a spot to color, and more.
- Undeniably Dairy Coloring Book- 8 pages of printable coloring sheets, each with fun facts about dairy farming, plus recipe pages.
- Dairy Vocabulary & FAQ- teach your kids new words about dairy farming, you might learn a few new words too!
For Older Kids (Grades 7-12)
- Dairy Vocabulary & FAQ- learn the common dairy farming language and find out answers to frequently asked questions.
- Easy Breakfast Bowl Recipe- ideas for how to make a creative breakfast bowl using yogurt as a base.
- What You Need to Know About Milk- answers to common questions about antibiotics, hormones, GMOs, organic standards, lactose intolerance, and more.
If you’d like to learn more about dairy farming, or if you’d just like to attend a family-friendly event at a gorgeous location with delicious local food, you should join us at Vermont Breakfast on the Farm on July 16, 2022.
As I write this, tickets only remain for the 11:00 AM seating. These will sell out soon, so don’t hesitate. Again, this event is FREE, it’s going to sell out, and it is going to be fantastic. Get your FREE ticket here.
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