Cooking with the Hansens, Family, For kids, Health

Our Favorite Dairy Snacks – for June Dairy Month!

In honor of Dairy Month, we decided to show you a few of our favorite easy to make dairy snacks!

Smoothies: A great way to beat that nasty Iowa heat. Combine yogurt, milk, ice cubes and your favorite fruits and blend to make a tasty, refreshing treat! For an extra-thick smoothie with added calcium, include a spoonful of milk powder. For addition protein, toss in a spoonful of peanut butter with a banana and vanilla yogurt – yum yum!

Ice Pops: A great snack for kids on the go! Mix leftover smoothies from the above recipe or 100% fruit juice, yogurt and fruit like raspberries, strawberries or blueberries. Pour into ice cube trays and pop in the freezer for a sweet, frozen snack!

Parfaits: Parfaits are easily made by layering yogurt, fresh fruit and granola or chopped nuts. Looking for something a little different? Use cottage cheese in place of the yogurt!          Image (photo from blueprintforbeauty.com)

Mini Pizzas: A tasty, filling snack. Simply spread pizza sauce onto a whole grain English muffin and top with a small handful of shredded mozzarella cheese. For a heartier pizza, add lean hamburger, Canadian bacon and green peppers or mushrooms. Pop it in the oven for 3-5 minutes and enjoy your yummy, cheesy snack!

Fruit Pinwheels: Spread cream cheese and/or protein-packed peanut butter onto soft, whole grain tortillas. Add small pieces of fresh fruit, then roll and slice.

Quesadillas: Pack whole grain tortillas with shredded cheese, beans, corn, tomatoes and onions. You can also add cooked, cubed beef, pork or chicken. Heat in the microwave until cheese is melted. Serve with sour cream and salsa.                                                                                                                      Image (photo from babble.com)

Fruit Kebabs: Layer fruits like berries, melon and pineapple on a kebab stick. Serve with yogurt or a dip such as softened cream cheese with a touch of drizzled honey and a drop of vanilla.

Whole Grain Waffle Sticks: Transform messy whole grain waffles into an easy-to-eat handheld snack by slicing them into small rectangles. Serve with softened cream cheese and fruit spread.

For additional recipes and to learn more about dairy foods, dairy farms and healthy eating, check out these websites:

  • Midwestdairy.com
  • Dairyfarmingtoday.org
  • 3aday.org
  • Nutrientrichfoods.org

Leave your favorite dairy recipes in the comments below!

Family, Farm animals, Today on the Farm

A tribute to Daddy during June Dairy Month

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Daddy sharing his cows with Reese on his first Father’s Day. She’s a little scared in this photo but has really warmed up to them now.

Since today is Father’s Day, and June is National Dairy Month, I decided to share what makes my husband the best dairy daddy.

Blake loves showing our kids (Reese, 3, and Beckett, 1) all about being a farmer. Reese has already had a lot of hands-on experiences with cows and is discovering all the different aspects of raising them.

I love how he is instilling in our children (and his nieces and nephews) his love for animals. He is patient, caring, sensitive and kind, both in his work life and home life. He works hard until he gets the job done, then comes in and plays hard with the kids.

I love watching Blake be a dad. I would be proud if our kids grow up to be a farmer — or a parent — just like him.

Written by Jordan Hansen

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Reese feeding calves (and thinking the bottle is for her)
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Daddy lets Reese milk one of our most docile cows
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Part of doing chores means feeding the wallabies.
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Even inside the house, Reese enjoys looking at cows with Daddy.
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Beckett gets a closeup view of our 7-week premature calf Eyelash.

 

Cooking with the Hansens, Family, For kids, Local foods

Making butter — a fun and tasty snack

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Hansen’s Farm Fresh Dairy makes butter on a much larger scale, but the process is essentially the same.

Making butter is a fun, easy experiment — it’s educational and delicious. Try this at home with your kids. No old-fashioned butter churn required!

This activity will yield just enough butter for a single piece of bread or several crackers. For larger amounts of butter, use more heavy whipping cream and a mixer to thicken the cream. As a bonus, you can also make your own buttermilk by following these directions.

To start, purchase a quart of heavy whipping cream from Hansen’s Farm Fresh Dairy.

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Hansen’s Dairy tour participants shake their jars of cream.

Pour 2 tablespoons of the heavy whipping cream into a small sealable container (preferably glass, like a baby food jar).

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The chunk of butter is clearly visible after draining the buttermilk.

Seal the container and shake it vigorously for 3-5 minutes. The cream will start sticking to the sides, but you’re not done yet. Suddenly, a chunk of light, fluffy butter will clearly separate from the watery buttermilk and you’ll be able to hear it start slapping around in the jar. Once you hit this point, it’s important to stop shaking the jar (don’t over shake). The cream turns to butter because of the agitation and the warmth of your hands.

The butter isn’t ready to eat quite yet. Drain the buttermilk (the excess liquid) from your container. Next, spoon up the butter left in your container and dip it into cool water to rinse the remaining buttermilk from the butter.

When the excess water is gone from the butter, sprinkle on a small amount of salt, or even some fresh herbs, and spread it onto your bread or crackers. Enjoy your homemade butter!

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Let us do the work — try a tub of Hansen’s Dairy butter!

To store leftovers, put the butter in a sealable container and refrigerate it.

Written by Kelby Robb, Hansen’s Dairy intern

Family, Farm animals, Local foods, Today on the Farm

Is dairy farming really one of the worst jobs in America?

CareerCast.com recently posted their annual listing for the 200 Worst Jobs in America for 2013. The rankings were based on five factors: physical demands, work environment, income, stress and hiring outlook. “Dairy farmer” was listed as No. 6. So what do the farmers at Hansen’s Farm Fresh Dairy have to say about that?

Blake Hansen feeds hay to the 3-month-old heifers.
Blake Hansen feeds hay to the 3-month-old heifers.

“If everyone loved their job as much as dairy farmers, there wouldn’t be such a list,” says Blake Hansen, herd manager.

Indeed. Working with cows can be very satisfying and rewarding, and a dairy farmer has to be completely committed to his craft in order to be successful. Like other self-employed people, their whole life revolves around their business. They do what they love to provide a nutritious food group to feed America. Their livelihood relies on those animals staying alive and healthy for years. If a farmer takes proactive steps to maintain the health of his cows, he maximizes his chances of success. If he takes care of the cows, they will take care of him.

Let’s address the factors that went into creating this worst job list.

Physical demands. Dairy farmers milk their cows at least twice a day, feed them three times a day, and care for them around the clock. They deal with inclement weather, delivering calves, heavy lifting and being on their feet all day. But Blake says the physical demands are nothing compared to the mental effort. Keeping track of the needs of 375 animals in different life stages is mentally taxing.

The 375 cows on the farm include Black and White Holsteins and Red and White Holsteins.
The 375 cows on the farm include Black and White Holsteins and Red and White Holsteins.

Work environment. OK, sometimes the smell is a little overwhelming. (You get used to it.) But who wouldn’t love the wide open spaces a farm provides? The steady supply of milk right outside your door? The opportunities for your kids to learn the value of family and hard work? Our small-scale farm (375 cows from newborn to 10 years old) allows us to get to know each cow by name and temperament. Blake knows who likes to be first in the milking parlor, who loves her tail rubbed and who is ready to calve. Imagine working with a group of girls with very unique, individual personalities, and not a catty one in the bunch!

Income. We’ll agree with this one. Many small dairy farms have had to sell out because of high input costs (feed and fuel) and low income (market prices for the milk). Twelve years ago our family took a financial risk by investing in facilities and equipment to bottle our own milk, and it has paid off in a big way. But we know it would be much harder for single-family farmers to put in that kind of time, money and effort. We are grateful to be able to support five families with the size farm we have.

Blake Hansen checks on a calf born just minutes earlier.
Blake Hansen checks on a calf born just minutes earlier.

Stress. Every job has its ups and downs. The death of an adult cow who you saw being born, trying to get fieldwork done ahead of the rain, working side by side with family members, and managing employees can all be stressful. There’s very little vacation time. But there is nothing like the feeling of seeing a cow nursing her newborn calf that you helped deliver overnight. The life cycle is renewed, and it’s wonderful to think about that calf’s potential down the road. Our oldest cow has produced enough milk in her lifetime to fill four semi-trailers. And she’s still going.

Hiring outlook. Land prices around here have skyrocketed, so if you don’t already have a farm in the family that will be passed down to you, getting into the business by yourself is financially tough. And with large operations streamlining milk production, jobs are harder to come by. But hey, if any of you are looking for a job in the dairy industry, we usually have something available!

Gallons of 1% milk are bottled in the Hansen's Farm Fresh Dairy creamery.
Gallons of 1% milk are bottled in the Hansen’s Farm Fresh Dairy creamery.

So, we would argue with dairy farming’s placement on the worst jobs list. The proof is bottled in a jug on your table with our name on it.

Family

What’s it like to live on the Hansen Dairy farm?

Hansen’s Farm Fresh Dairy is a unique family business. In the early 2000s, all four sons of Jay and Jeanne Hansen decided to come back to the home farm and work together to build an on-farm creamery. There are now 19 people (11 kids) who live on or near the farm. So what’s it like to live and work so closely with each other?

First, a little about me. I’m married to Blake Hansen, the youngest son. We have a 3-year-old daughter, Reese, and 5-month-old son, Beckett.

Me (Jordan), Beckett, Reese and Blake Hansen

I grew up on a dairy farm near Decorah, so I’m used to the nature of this work. Not eating supper until 8 p.m., struggling to find vacation time, and dealing with fly spots on EVERYTHING is commonplace to me. But it was just my mom, dad, sister and me. No employees, no creamery, no marketing. The Hansen farm is a different animal, and here’s why.

There’s always something going on. There are 7 family members and 10 non-family employees who work on the farm. That means you can’t go 20 feet without finding someone riding a tractor, someone cleaning something, someone giving a tour, or a cow having a calf. Milking happens from 4 to 7 a.m. and 4 to 7 p.m. every single day. The creamery runs full-steam all day Monday, Wednesday and Friday with ice cream made on other days.

Brad (right) and other creamery employees package butter.

In between, there are tours happening, cows and calves being fed, and machinery, vehicles and equipment being fixed. Work can happen around the clock when calves are being born, the electricity goes out or cows escape their enclosures.

It’s a great place to raise kids. The 11 grandkids who live on or near the farm are so creative and energetic. They love the wide-open spaces to play. They’ve made a train of kiddie tractors, wagons and bikes tied together with twine.

Morgan, Brady, Maddie, Reese and Mollie Hansen travel around the farm by “train.”

They’ve created full-course “meals” out of objects found outside (leaves drizzled with muddy water for salad; hosta leaves rolled into manicotti; flower petals, rocks and twigs stirred into soup).

They swim and fish in the pond.

Blair cools off in the pond this summer with the family.

They’ve each made a “treehouse” using old blankets and towels. They’ve crafted owls out of black walnuts split in half, pinecones and feathers. They jump on three trampolines nestled in the ground, and play cops and robbers.

They also willingly help do all different kinds of chores, which teaches them the value of hard work.

Reese helps Daddy wash calf bottles at age 18 months.
Brady, Reese and Mollie feed calves.

Almost everything we need is right here. Grandma and Grandpa or aunts and uncles are always around to baby-sit. We get together for meals a lot because someone will generously cook for a crowd. We have most any tool or piece of equipment one might need to fix something. As soon as we finish the racquetball court in the dome, Grandpa and the four sons will have a place to play their favorite sport. And the best part? Having an on-site grocery store. Thank God for it! How do you people remember to buy milk? We go through a gallon a day at our house. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve looked in the fridge to find the milk almost empty … or not enough butter to bake with … or no cheese for my casseroles … and I’ve cursed having to walk all the way outside to the cooler to get it! We also have enough meat to feed a small village (which, of course, is what we are).

There are always visitors. People are always dropping by to get their milk at the tour center or take a farm tour. A lot of business deliveries are being made.

The tour center is especially busy in the summer.

Also, four of the families live right on the farm. My house has the farm office so family members frequently drop by to take care of business. Privacy? Ha! Walking around naked in my own home is a risk I’m not willing to take. But at least I think most family members have figured out that afternoons are rest time at our house (for Mom and Dad too, not just our two kids!)

There’s a lot of love. Yes, we’re all in close proximity. Yes, personalities collide. Yes, the work is never done. But everyone takes time to stop and play a little bit. Above all we’re working as a team for our livelihood, and that of the next generation, too. I wouldn’t trade this life for anything!

Cows curiously watch Bridget pedal past.
Family

Family Photo: Then and Now

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ImageWho doesn’t love looking at old family photos? Check out the Hansen family then and now. The first is from December 1995 and the second was taken just two weeks ago. The boys have always had baby faces, haven’t they? Most of them don’t look like they are in their 30s or pushing 40. But it’s good genes — Jay and Jeanne are also pretty youthful-looking in their early 60s. I think it’s because the family stays so active with work and play. It always amazes me that even at the end of a hard day’s work they all have the energy to wrestle around with their kids/grandkids. Milk must be the fountain of youth.

Written by Jordan Hansen
Family, Farm animals, Today on the Farm

Today on the Farm: Mermaids, Dandelions and Sunsets

The Hansen family had an occasion to celebrate on Sunday. Baby Beckett (son of Blake and Jordan) came home after a nasty virus landed him in the hospital for two days. He made it home just in time to celebrate his big sister Reese’s 3rd birthday. We all gathered at the dome for Dora mermaid-themed cake and ice cream.

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Afterward the youngsters went outside to see who could pluck the longest dandelion. Blake is the judge while the kids thrash around the hayfield and bring back their finds. The stems are usually about 2 feet long. The cows in the background are very curious about the night’s activities.

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Even the little girls (Bridget, Mollie and Reese) get in on the fun and make a game out of hiding in the crops.

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The night was capped off by a gorgeous sun setting above the pond. Brent, Sam, Sara and Sadie went down to enjoy the view.

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Even though we work together all day, it’s great to have some downtime to enjoy the wide open spaces on the farm with the fam.

Written by Jordan Hansen