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Family farm offers free educational tours

Do you really know where your food comes from?

Don and Dave Telaak say this information is a necessity. They invite the public to come see firsthand Saturday in a free, one-hour tour of the family's 1,200-acre dairy farm in Mansfield.

After leading many tour groups for schoolchildren in recent years, Don Telaak said he realized that the teachers usually didn't know any more about farming than the kids.

"Many think milk comes from a grocery store. This is why we're having an open house. We want to inform people what a farm is, what we are doing here and why we are doing it," he said. "It's pretty obvious people need to be informed. They want to know."

The "Visit the Farm Day" runs from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., rain or shine, and is sponsored by the Cornell Cooperative Extension in Cattaraugus County. There is no preregistration, and visitors should arrive casually dressed to walk through the farm buildings and the outdoors. In addition to receiving free samples of milk and ice cream, visitors will be provided disposable shoe covers to wear on the tour as a biosecurity measure.

Telaak hopes visitors will come armed with questions that can be answered by some of the farm's outside advisory team of experts.

"The dairy business has become too complex to know everything. You need teams of people to base your decisions on, to lean on, people who can help with finance issues, animal health issues," Telaak said.

He said the recent outbreak of E. coli in spinach and lettuce, though relatively limited in effects among the millions who eat spinach, nevertheless caused fear and revealed how concerned the public can become about food safety. But Telaak said he wants people to know that food is safer now than it has ever been.

Much of the Telaak Dairy's milk, which is sent to the Upstate Farms Cooperative, is processed at the new Bison plant in West Seneca. The products can be purchased in Cattaraugus County and elsewhere in Western New York and as far away as Florida and the Midwest.

Tours will cover six stations around the dairy operation. Among the experts will be Dr. Mark McConnon, a veterinarian, to address food safety and raising young cattle, representing the state Department of Agriculture and Markets; Paul Laing of Laingro Fertilizer in Eden; and Dan Steward of the Western New York Crop Management Association in Perry, who assist the Telaaks in crop activities, pesticides and nutrient management.

Also, Jason Loper of Don Beck Equipment, and Jim Brennan of Lamb & Webster will address farm equipment topics and the workings of the milking parlor; Bob Mattison of Gramco and Lisa Kempisty, the Cattaraugus Extension dairy livestock educator, will cover nutrition and ration formulations for dairy cattle; Brian Davis of the Cattaraugus Soil and Water Conservation District, and a representative of Trout Unlimited will talk about environmental protection from pasturing cattle in creeks, erosion issues in croplands and related topics.

The Telaak Dairy Farm is located at 7301 Hinman Hollow Road in the Town of Mansfield.

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