Fresh From The Farm

Livestock Management and Agriculture Produces Dairy Products
Posted on 02/02/2024

This school year, Madison-Oneida BOCES has taken a huge step toward building the region’s agriculture leaders of tomorrow with the introduction of its Livestock Management and Agriculture program. A key aspect of the discipline is developing an understanding of where the food that drives our society comes from, and how it reaches our table. The inaugural class got a firsthand look at both perspectives during a recent farm-to-table unit about dairy products.

The goal of the unit was simple. Take farm fresh raw milk and use tried-and-true processing techniques to transform it into a finished product.

Large Animal and Agriculture teacher Alyssa Lamphere-Cresswell was assisted by Conservation teaching assistant Rich Collins, who was very enthusiastic about imparting his knowledge on the subject, and showing students how accessible home dairy processing can be. 

“I just want them to see how simple this all is. A lot of this can be done at home,” Collins said. “It’s important to me that they learn how nutritious things that come right from the cow can be. I’ve been a dairy farmer my whole life. I want these students, even if they never become a dairy farmer, to be able to go out and understand the process of being one.”

The process began at Spring Water Farms in Canastota, a farm that supplies a significant amount of milk to the Kraft Foods facilities in Lowville.

Milk for the project was retrieved directly from the farm’s bulk tank. The farm has a close MOBOCES connection, as Canastota junior Wesley Mason’s family owns and operates it. He is enrolled in this class to bring expanded knowledge and skills back to the family farm.

With the milk back on campus, the class got a crash course in the basics of dairy manufacturing, starting with raw material preparation.

The students began with pasteurization, or the precautionary process of heating milk to 145 degrees to eliminate bacteria. They also skimmed cream off the top to make a wider range of products from their bounty.

Then, the fun began to create some ubiquitous favorites.

Students experienced what it takes to create a handmade product by making butter using the common mason jar technique. This practice involves filling a jar with heavy cream, shaking it for approximately ten minutes straight, and rinsing and draining off the buttermilk as it separates during the process.

Homemade ice cream was another favorite. Students froze milk, cream, and sugar to produce America’s most enduring dessert in two flavors. Naturally, one flavor was vanilla. The second was maple, featuring the sweet taste of maple syrup and a sharp overtone of collaboration. The maple syrup came from the 2023 batch produced by students in the MOBOCES conservation program.

The class also produced mozzarella cheese, and cottage cheese.

While dairy farming is a huge part of his life, Mason certainly felt there was more than meets the eye when it came to making milk products.

“If I've learned anything, it’s a process,” he said. “It’s not something you can just do in 20 minutes.”

The next step is to take the products to market. While the class didn’t sell their wares for profit, they did offer them to MOBOCES guests during a special tasting event.

Among the tasters were Work-Based Learning Coordinator Paula Orr, and CTE Outreach Coordinator Ann Sylstra. They enjoyed freshly buttered popcorn, ice cream, and cottage cheese. The class also had homemade and store-bought mozzarella cheese for a side-by-side taste test experience.

While this unit came to an end, the program is just getting started in the farm-to-table space. Aspirations for the future include offering homemade products during major campus events.

Want to see the process in action? Check out this video from our Instagram page.