A few weeks ago, I was invited to attend the Grand Rapids Fresh Blogger Tour presented by United Dairy Industry of Michigan (UDIM). The purpose of the event was to learn more about the Michigan dairy industry and all of the wonderful products that stem from it.
Not only was I able to hang out with a group of my favorite Michigan bloggers, but also with artisan cheese experts, ice cream scientists, a local dairy farmer, and the wonderfully knowledgeable staff of UDIM. I’ve made no secret of my deep, abiding love of all things butter, yogurt, cheese, and COWS! Y’all have got to know how all sorts of fired up my inner Food Dork was to soak up the dairy knowledge!
I am passionate about supporting our local farmers because I have so much respect for those that dedicate themselves to providing healthy food for others. Speaking with our resident dairy farmer Cathy McCune (of McCune Family Dairy Farm) was equally fascinating and informative. (Be sure to say “Hey!” to Cathy! She’s standing directly in front of me in the photograph above, wearing the sunny orange blouse and scarf combination.)
Cathy and her family are fourth generation dairy farmers in Mid-Michigan. She’s such a doll, as well as a wealth of information. To hear her talk about her herd is like hearing a proud mama rave about her kids. They treat their cows like family because they strive to be good stewards to both the animals and their land. Besides…happy, healthy cows produce more milk! More milk means more of the dairy products that we love.
Milk contains nine essential nutrients, vitamin D, and probiotics making it a quick, economical source of nutrition. Milk can also help to achieve and maintain a healthy body weight. I always drink a big glass of chocolate milk each morning before going for a run because it gives me the energy and protein that I need to keep me going. When part of a healthy lifestyle, dairy foods may also help reduce the risk of osteoporosis and hypertension.
I was surprised to discover that Michigan dairy farms rank seventh in the nation for total milk production. That’s more than 9 billion pounds of milk from 380,000 dairy cows. Dudes. All of that milk could make about 767 gallons of ice cream or 920 million pounds of cheese!
Pardon me while I pass out from the excitement of it all.
We started the day touring a regional favorite–the Hudsonville Ice Cream Company in Holland, Michigan. If you live in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, or Illinois, then you’re lucky enough to have Hudsonville Ice Cream available in many grocery stores. The ice cream experts at Hudsonville don’t typically give tours, so we definitely felt like VIPs in the plant. I learned so many cool things about ice cream that I’m going to dedicate a post all it’s own to the tour. Until then, if you can find Hudsonville Ice Cream in your area, then for goodness sake buy it!
Psst! I have it on good authority that the Seaside Caramel is to die for.
After eating more ice cream in one sitting than anyone has a right to, we loaded on a bus headed to the comfortably swanky Reserve restaurant in Grand Rapids.
Reserve specializes in local food, which made it the perfect setting for a local cheese tasting. I was amazed at the variety of flavors that can be detected while sampling a wide array of cheeses. I was tickled to see a favorite from my neck of the woods in the mix. The Raclette from Leelanau Cheese rocks my world.
Pro Tip: When a restaurant sports their own charcuterie section and prominently professes their love for the local farmers providing the edibles, eat there! Like, move in. Make yourself at home. Never. Leave.
Basically, I spent the day eating ice cream and cheese like it was my job.
Do not pity me.
The following day we divided into teams for a friendly Iron Chef-type challenge. I’ll be sharing more about that experience, along with an awesome pork recipe very soon!
The MI Fresh Dairy Tour was so interesting, informative, and delicious that I’d highly recommend a similar event to anyone. I had so much fun learning and communing with such a talented group of local bloggers. These ladies are the Real Deal, Friends! I know they’d love it if you took the time to pay them a visit!
Other great Bloggers on the MI Fresh Dairy Tour:
Liz of The Lemon Bowl
Sheila of Eat 2 Gather
Rachel of Rachel Cooks
Sarah of The Chef Next Door
Lauren of Mrs. Weber’s Neighborhood
Wendy of Wholistic Woman
Lori of Foxes Love Lemons
Deb of Just Short of Crazy
Dianna of Promote Michigan (Dianna is actually the President of Promote Michigan, but she also writes a blog.)
Thank you Milk Means More – United Dairy Industry of Michigan for providing my lodging and the opportunity to attend the MI Fresh Dairy Tour. All opinions are my own.