So are you guys wondering what the heck I’ve been doing lately? It feels like this is the first time in a while (and it kind of is) that I’ve been in town long enough to get thoughts together for a post! It all started two weeks ago (has it REALLY been two weeks?) when I left for my very first time in Ohio ever with the American Dairy Association on the Ohio Dairy Adventure!
Y’all, let’s start off with this: I was blown away by this trip. 100%, in every way, loved the entire thing. From the very first flight to the hotel to the FABULOUS bloggers and hosts to the entire rest of the trip. All of it was such a blast!
You guys know me – I tend to get super emotionally involved in things that I do, and this trip was no exception. The longer I live in Arkansas, which is a huge agricultural state, the more I understand how farming is so integral to everything we do. I’ve had the opportunity to meet a lot of local farmers and am blown away by their passion and pride in what they do; and I’m also so happy to report that my new friends in Ohio are exactly the same way!
The trip started off on Monday morning with an early flight (although not as early as some of my new friends!) to Atlanta, and then a second to Cleveland. When I pulled up to the Hyatt Arcade I was blown away by how gorgeous it is!
After unpacking and calling my family, I decided to venture out toward Lake Erie. I short walk later and I was overlooking the second great lake I’ve seen in my life. It’s always so amazing for me to look out at water; it makes me feel so small and so peaceful. After walking along the water I went back to the hotel in time to clean up before a fabulous wine & cheese tasting.
Yes, yes – wine and cheese tasting. Sadly I couldn’t participate in the wine part, but what I lacked in wine tasting I made sure to make up in cheese. Plus, because the gals at the ADA Midwest are the sweetest ever, they got me some sparkling grape juice to sub for the wine. How sweet are they?!
I had such a blast that night but couldn’t wait to hit the hay before our big day ahead of us. That bed felt soooooo nice.
The next morning was an early start to catch the morning milking with the Indoe family. This sweet family has a small dairy farm, but takes every aspect of their animal care and quality of their product so seriously. We learned about the nutritional care that goes into feeding their cows, how their farm came to be, and had the chance to see the cows up close and personal.
And yours truly milked a cow – it’s true! I was a little nervous, but it was much easier than I imagined.
After a fun time touring the Indoe family farm, we hopped back on the bus for a tour through Ohio Amish country on the way to our next stop: Pearl Valley Cheese!
It’s one thing to read about what goes into making cheese, but another thing entirely to actually witness the process. I had a blast touring the facility and trying all of the cheeses made there; my only regret was not checking a cooler to take 800 pounds of it back with me. And to see a place where the milk is brought in locally and the final product is made locally was great as well.
After our cheese tour we had an AMAZING Amish lunch that I’m surprised I’m not still full from. Fried chicken, pot roast, noodles, mashed potatoes, green beans, homemade bread and butter, pie…it was all so amazing! I truly believe I could have eaten my weight in bread, but decided to not be “that girl” this time around.
After lunch we piled back on the bus and headed a short distance down the road to the Andreas family farm. A much larger farm than the first one we toured, it still held the same pride and values of all the farmers we met. They take such pride in what they do and how they treat their cows, and on more than one occasion I caught Dan or Matt hanging back to pet the cows and show them a little love. It’s refreshing to see that level of true passion.
While we were at the Andreas farm we got to see a calf that was only 30 minutes old and y’all? I totally cried. I probably would have anyway, but these pregnancy hormones are a doozy and I was totally sniffly and covertly wiping the tears away…it was so precious. And then I got to FEED a calf shortly after that! Let’s just say I’m glad that human babies don’t nurse like calves. OUCH.
After our tour we drove back to Cleveland where I promptly showered and then straightened my hair for the first time in probably over a year. I love my curly hair, but I forgot to pack some gel or mousse for the trip and realized halfway through the shower…so yeah. But I figured since we were dining at the Cleveland Browns stadium I could get a little fancy, amen?
That dinner was so delicious! You’d think I wouldn’t be hungry after all the deliciousness I consumed earlier in the day, but I was super hungry. Luckily we had some amazing fare to choose from, and after downing the entire Michael Symon-designed menu I was sufficiently full again. We had the chance to meet Joe Thomas, an Offensive Lineman for the Browns and a spokesperson for the Fuel Up to Play 60 program. We also got to meet a sweet student named Avery, who is her school’s ambassador for the program. It’s so great to see kids who are passionate about health, wellness and sharing that love and excitement with their classmates!
Before heading home we had two more stops: first, a chance to eat breakfast with local elementary students. I was so excited about this opportunity to see what school food actually looks like these days, and to see how kids are responding to it. I remember when I was in school I ate breakfast at home, and realize now what a luxury that is/was. After some yummy whole grain blueberry pancakes, an apple and some milk I am happy to report that meals are much better than I remember. And according to my new friend ‘J.Lo’ (that’s what she asked to be called) the meals really only improve from there. Not too shabby!
I’ll get into it more later, but I was super moved by the efforts going into providing the best possible quality options for food for schoolkids.
A quick stop at the hotel to pack was what I needed to get ready to go home, but we had one more stop: Melt Bar & Grilled. I have no words. Just so much CHEESE…from the Melt Challenge boasting 3-1/2 pounds of cheese to fried Twinkies for dessert, this was no dainty lunch. I honestly don’t remember a time that I felt more full than eating there, and yet I just couldn’t stop! It was the perfect send-off meal for the trip, though, and lasted me through the rest of the day.
I want to go more into the smaller details of things learned on the trip, but for now I’m still processing and remembering the fun!