I am so excited to tell you about my recent trip to Cleveland for the Ohio Dairy Adventure sponsored by American Dairy Association Mideast and Ohio Dairy Farmers. As a new mom who just so happens to be introducing her son to cow’s milk for the first time, this experience could not have been more timely.
Don’t we look hot in our protective boots? It was so nice to have rare face-to-face time with 7 fellow bloggers (L to R): Susan of Doughmesstic, Vanessa of French Foodie Mom, Heather of Domestic Extraordinaire, Christina of A Mommy Story, Katrina of In Katrina’s Kitchen, Myself, Sheila from Eat2Gather, and Rachel of Hounds in the Kitchen. The two behind us are Matt and Dan Andreas of Andreas Farm.
The event kicked off with a wine and cheese tasting led by Marianne Franz, Founder, American Wine School. As one of the nation’s top wine educators, we tasted over 8 varieties of wine perfectly matched with award-winning Ohio cheeses. The informative and delicious reception set the perfect tone for the days to follow. (Bonus: I discovered a new favorite wine!)
Isn’t Sheila pretty? We were up before dawn the next morning (literally) so that we could head over to Richman Farms in time for the morning milking. As a nursing mother, this wasn’t my first time awaking at 5AM for a feeding. ;) It was so nice to chat with Dick and Bill Indoe as well as Tom & Debbie Indoe, all co-owners of the small dairy farm of 80 Hilsteins, Brown Swiss and Jersey cows. And yes, they all have a name! I couldn’t believe my ears when I overheard the lady milking one of the cows and calling her by name. The passion and love these folks had for their cows was undeniable.
Our next stop was Pearl Valley Cheese where over four generations of cheesemakers have been making cheese for over 80 years. Fun Fact: Did you know that Ohio is the number one producer of Swiss cheese? If you think you don’t like Swiss cheese, you’ve never had Pearl Valley Swiss. Creamy, mellow and delicious. I was in cheese heaven.
After visiting a small farm with 80 cows, we were now off to Sugarcreek, Ohio – home to Andreas Dairy Farm where Dan and Lois Andreas and their son, Matt manage over 1,500 cows who are milked 3 times a day. Their farm employs 35 people and support 110 local residents.
Side Note: Do you ever watch Pawn Stars, the reality show, with Richard, “The Old Man” and his son Rich Harrison? Dan, the father, reminds me of The Old Man. Sarcastic, blunt and not politically correct. My kinda guy! TLC – if you’re listening, you have a reality show waiting in Ohio!
After a long day of milking, it was time to wash up for the main event: dinner at Iron Chef Michael Symon’s restaurant, Lola Bistro. As you may already know, I’m a HUGE Michael Symon fan so I was pretty thrilled when I found out we were all getting autographed copies of his brand new book! Speaking of autograph: Joe Thomas, Offensive Lineman for the Cleveland Browns was the special guest of the evening. Joe works very closely with Fuel Up to Play 60, a program sponsored by the NFL and the National Dairy Council that encourages students to make small, every day changes at school. Even better: he signed a football for my son.
The next morning we headed to the classroom for school breakfast! As we chatted, ate breakfast and got to know Cleveland area 2nd graders, I couldn’t help but hold back a few tears and I thought about the fact that my son will be in school before I know it. (Did I mention I’m weaning? I cry. A lot.) Every morning, each student gets milk plus their choice of three other items such as string cheese, whole grain cereal bars or an apple. Without this program, many students would not eat breakfast which we all know is the most important meal of the day.
We were so lucky to have our very own Registered Dietician, Karen Bakies, along with us for the journey fielding every silly, crazy and long-winded nutrition question that came to mind. As a gal who has always dreamed of becoming an RD, it was truly a once in a lifetime experience. In the coming weeks, I hope to write more about my experience and the wealth of knowledge I learned about milk. I also have a few delicious dairt recipes to share that my family has been enjoying ever since my return.
In the meantime, I’d love to hear from you! How do you incorporate dairy into your healthy lifestyle?