Jones Dairy Promotes Quality Product While Providing Youth Education
Utilizing social media is just one of the ways that Jones Dairy uses to inform the public about both their product and their operation. Jones Dairy is a family owned and operated dairy near Spencer, Iowa consisting of 970 cows that are milked three times a day. I spoke with Haley and Aaron, two of Patrick and Nancy Jones’ eight children, who are the 4th generation on the Jones Dairy. Aaron is one of the three children who has chosen the dairy as her career. Her children are now the 5th generation to reside on the family farm. She affirmed her goal for the dairy, “Is to provide, and to work hard, and do well so that there’s opportunities in the farm for my children.”
Aaron’s goal is preceded by the mission statement of Jones Dairy which “Is to produce a wholesome, quality product with an emphasis on families, cows, and the environment.” Incorporated into this statement is their very important sideline of educating the public about that product. About 4 or 5 years ago, the Jones family noticed that school aged children were less familiar with the activities on the farm. Just from the Spencer area or the Iowa Lakes area, they estimated that in a class of twenty-five students, maybe only one lived on a farm or that only two or three had actually ever been on a farm. So they continually look for ways to invite area youth to the farm.
One of those ways is through actual tours that generally start in May and run through September. These tours are given to area schools regularly. The students start with preschool/kindergarten to 4th grade, and all the way up to community college. Knowing that they’ve shown these students where the dairy products come from is the true vision that these tours promote. Tour participants are given an opportunity to milk a cow or bottle feed a newborn calf. Recently the Jones farm hosted a group from Iowa Lakes Community College and that’s exactly what they did. Their introduction into dairy farming included complete hands on dairy chores.
It doesn’t stop with actual tours, as Haley Jones realized the need for virtual tours of the dairy. She is one of the children employed off the dairy, and currently works for extension in the Southwest Iowa town of Creston. Haley explains that she has been involved with virtual tours called FarmChat in Union. After being trained to use the program, she transmitted the coverage directly from the Southwest Iowa farms into the classroom. One of these classroom teachers inquired about viewing a dairy farm to show how milk gets from the cow to the table. Since there were no dairy farms around her, she decided to use her own family’s dairy farm and background. The result was a FarmChat between Jones Dairy, from Clay county in Northwest Iowa, and Union county in Southwest Iowa. Several classrooms interacted with the dairy through the FarmChat. With the school year coming to an end, virtual tours are done for this year, but Haley is optimistic that it will catch on, as she considers these teachers the pilots for future virtual tours.
Haley is an advocate for her family farm emphasizing that those kids were unaware of the farm to table process of milk. They had no prior knowledge of what truly happens on a dairy farm. With Haley’s fond memories of growing up on a dairy farm, her added testimony is that they are completely unaware of what their missing. The students were definitely impressed and really enjoyed it. With the aid of the virtual tour program, the dairy was viewed from 4 hours away.
In addition to the induction of the FarmChat tours, Haley’s role is to maintain the farm’s Facebook page. The main purpose of their Facebook page is to promote their dairy. She constantly keeps the public posted about what’s happening on their farm year round. The site features fun photos and educational stats about life on the dairy farm. Haley states that social media sites like Facebook are very important because the information that is displayed confirms how active and hands on the Jones family actually is. She believes that this site portrays the family’s involvement through photos and the corresponding captions. In addition she feels that Facebook has the potential to spread very wide and far really fast, conveying that it’s exciting to watch it spread. Knowing that people share it on their pages shows their interest in supporting agriculture, dairy farms, and family farms.
The Jones family is appreciative of the community support and considers it exceptionally important. They are grateful for the positive attitude that the schools and community generate toward agriculture. Another favorable factor is the the local tourism that stems from the lakes area, indicating that everybody is interested and excited. Aaron asserts that alone is great. The local banks and business that they work with have been very accommodating. Their involvement with community and dedication to agricultural education are areas that the Jones family continually promotes and encourages. Recently, they talked to the Farm Bureau organization about reaching out to the schools with financial assistance for busing so that even more classes could come out to the farm. The basis for this recommendation is that the consumer is much more wary of where their food comes from. The idea of constant agricultural awareness is foremost in the actions of Jones Dairy as Aaron responds, “I think a lot of that [wariness] is just not understanding the farm, so our goal is to help them understand the farm at a younger age.”
Aaron enthusiastically speaks of their participation in the Ag-Citing program at the Clay County Fair. Ag-Citing provides learning opportunities that both educate and excite youth about agriculture. Fifteen school districts have been involved with this hands-on experience. An activity that the Jones family helps with is an obstacle course that offers additional dairy knowledge for both students and general fairgoers. Both the Western Iowa Dairy Alliance and the Midwest Dairy Association are involved with the Ag-Citing day. Jones Dairy, in support of dairy education, assists these two organizations by distributing dairy product samples and ‘fun little bags.’
Consumer education is generated by every member of the Jones family. Quinn, another off the farm sister, maintains the Jones Dairy website. Their website shows the environment and describes these surroundings during the various stages of the animal’s development. As part of public education, the photos detail the comfort and cleanliness that each animal receives. This includes dry bedding, tunnel ventilated/temperature controlled barns, auto feeder systems, and a fresh cow parlor that is specifically for fresh cows and/or cows that need any special attention. The main barn is a double 12 parallel parlor that milks about 130 Jerseys per hour.
Originally Patrick Jones chose the Jerseys because he liked them and they always did well for him. The family continues the Jersey tradition adding that they like the little brown cow and enjoy their personalities. What’s more, the dairy acknowledges that they are an efficient little cow. Despite the Jerseys efficiency, Aaron notes that the Jersey bulls are not very useful in the beef market. For this reason, the dairy tries to use sorted semen in order to get just heifers. While all the cows are artificially inseminated, the lowest genetic cows in the herd are bred to black, be it Limousine, Angus, or Simmental. Those offspring are sold. In conjunction with that, they raise all their own cows. They are born on the farm and remain there as part of the milking herd. The farm consists of 1000 acres of farmland which is enough to feed the 1000 milk cows and replacements. It’s a type of closed system. There is enough land for the manure to be used on. The dairy has 12-15 full time employees other than family.
Patrick and Nancy Jones are the owners and general managers of Jones Dairy. Three of their eight children are actively involved in the day to day operations of the dairy. Daughters, Aaron and Sheila manage all the livestock plus the employees who work with the livestock. Their son Nate is termed operations manager with responsibilities that include construction, maintenance, and farming. Yet both Aaron and Haley point out that even though not all of their siblings are physically present on the farm, they’re still involved with other aspects, like computer issues. Whenever the facility has an open house, everyone is involved. Haley indicated that the entire family promotes the dairy industry everyday. This includes consuming a lot of dairy products. Education is part of this involvement as all the family members are proud to talk about their dairy background and the positive aspects of agriculture in everyone’s daily lives. Haley fervently summed up the family involvement. “We’re all proud to have come from a dairy farm and to have grown up with hard work and motivation instilled in us.”
It’s obvious that the Jones family has a strong sense of pride for both their family and the quality product they produce. The family fosters agricultural education through social media, tours, and community involvement. You can visit their website www.jonesfamilydairy.com and also their Facebook page www.facebook.com/jonesfamilydairy for more information covering the dairy.
Jones Dairy Promotes Quality Product While Providing Youth Education