Librarian Susan Sanders visited a Newburg-area dairy farm as part of the annual Farm-City Week job exchange, while farmer Wayne Beidel discovered how libraries have changed since he was in school.
The exchange is an annual event, and the participants talk about their experiences during the Farm-City Banquet, held the Monday before Thanksgiving. Members of farming groups and civic clubs - including Kiwanis, Lions and Rotary - meet at the banquet.
Beidel, in partnership with his brother Bradley, operates adjacent farms in Franklin County. The operation is a member of the Land O'Lakes cooperative.
The Beidels raise young stock, grow crops for feed and operate the dairy farm. The acreage is about half owned and half rented. On the 500 acres they grow alfalfa, corn and barley and produce grass hay.
Hay is sort of the miraculous food of the farm, Beidel said.
"A cow can take it and utilize it and we can't," Beidel said. "If we have a good quality hay and a good quality forage, you don't need a lot of expensive grain and minerals."
Forage is stored in large bunkers off to the side of the barns and custom-mixed to provide proper nutrition to different animals on the farm.
Visiting the library
Beidel also toured the Shippensburg Public Library as part of the exchange. He said he was surprised by the wide range of programs the library offers, including sessions for toddlers, schoolchildren, teens, adults and seniors.
"I didn't realize there were so many organized programs for the community," he said. "I probably haven't been in a library since college."
His work is very different than that of a librarian, he noted.
"Most of my days are pretty physically demanding," he said.
And because the cows are milked every 12 hours (at 3 a.m. and 3 p.m.), sometimes he gets up very early and sometimes other workers or his brother take the early shift. They try to organize the shifts so everyone has every other weekend off.
On the farm
Sanders wondered if different cows had different personalities.
Beidel said certain cows "you get to know when milking" them. He showed Sanders the milking parlor, which allows workers to stand in a lower pit and manage the milking equipment while the cows are several feet higher.
Sanders said she buys organic milk, because it has a longer shelf life.
"Now I rarely have to throw out milk," she said. "It's a little more expensive, but I'm using it all."
Beidel said he often drinks raw milk from the farm, but his wife, who was not raised on a farm, drinks purchased milk with a lower fat content.
Raw milk is about 3.5 to 4 percent butterfat, he said. One person who tried raw milk told him, "Wow, this is like (drinking) liquid ice cream."
The farm also does a lot of recycling. Cool well water flows through equipment that keeps the water separate from the milk while cooling it through a metal interface. The water, once warmed, goes to the locations in the barn where the cows drink.
Beidel said the cows actually prefer to drink warmer water rather than cold water.
In addition, manure from the farm is applied to the fields instead of purchased fertilizer. Soil testing determines which fields receive various amounts of manure or other nutrients.
"It's all very energy efficient," Sanders said. "I always wanted to come to a farm and see how it works."
Beidel is concerned about the future of farming. He said that he's heard people complain about the younger generation.
"To me, there's just too many people who don't have anything to do," he said.
Less than 7 percent of the U.S. population is working in production agriculture.
"To me, that's scary. That's an awful fragile margin," Beidel said. "If something should happen to that 7 percent, someone's going to get hungry."