By Jeanne Sager
LAKE HUNTINGTON August 6, 2002 Jake Cohen can tell you where milk comes from now.
When the 5-year-old from Long Island ate breakfast with his family in Swan Lake Saturday morning, he told his dad, Michael, that milk came from the refrigerator.
But that was before he met the cows on Donald Zylstras farm.
Now he knows the answer unequivocally.
It comes from cows, he said.
The Cohens were among the many visitors who chose Down on the Farm Day as a way to expose their youngsters to agriculture Saturday morning.
Sponsored by Cornell Cooperative Extension of Sullivan County, the program is aimed at educating the public about farming in the area. Donald Zylstra and his family volunteered to host the visitors at their Lake Huntington farm this year, a last hurrah for the family before they sell their business.
And the event attracted a huge crowd. By 10:35, just five minutes after the gates opened, there were already cars lined up along the fence at the Zylstra farm, and families wandering through the barns, petting the cows and peppering the tour guides with questions.
According to Joe Walsh, an educator from the extension office in Liberty, the event usually attracts 1,000 people to a Sullivan County farm for one day.
But the program was canceled last year because of the hoof and mouth disease scare, and organizers were afraid theyd lost the momentum the program had built up over the last 25 years.
Not having done it last year, were not sure what to expect, Walsh said.
But by mid-morning, things were running smoothly, he added.
To protect the farmers from visitors carrying any diseases onto the farm, there were biomats set up at the entrances to the barn. The crowd walking in and out were required to step in disinfectant to ensure their safety.
Anyone who walks into the barn wont bring anything in, and they wont carry anything out, Walsh explained.
Members of the Zylstra family and officials from the extension led milking demonstrations every hour, and showed off how to bale hay or mix haylage every half hour.
Scattered throughout the farm was equipment used daily by the Zylstras, ticketed with approximate prices to show visitors the cost of farming. And local 4-H children showed off milk products and animals from local farms.
Saturday was the first time Jacob Cohen had ever been on a farm. His mom and dad, along with his grandparents from Swan Lake, said Down on the Farm Day was a perfect place to expose him to farming life.
Hes very inquisitive, said Jacobs dad, Michael. We felt he should learn about agriculture and where his milk is from, and to understand that there are all different types of people in America who do all different things for a living, and he should accept that.
Though the Cohens live near a farm in their hometown, St. James, there is no cattle on the local farm.
Hes never experienced cows, Cohen noted.
But Jacobs favorite part of Down on the Farm Day wasnt the cows.
Its everything, he said with a grin.
The program didnt only draw from the tourist crowd this year.
Chris and Jennifer Hermann of Callicoon stopped by with 15-month-old Sydney and 4-year-old Garrett.
I know we get to see these things at home, Jennifer said, but we like to look at different farms.
We like to meet other farmers, Chris added, and visit with people.
Sal and Marilee Guarneri of Smallwood dont own a farm themselves, but theyve made friends over the past 25 years of visiting Down on the Farm Day as its traveled throughout the county.
Their first visit was a snowy Columbus Day weekend at a farm in the Beechwoods, and they remember winning an apple pie in a raffle.
Best apple pie I ever ate, Sal recalls.
And it kept pulling them back.
This was the first year the Guarneris made the trip without their children or grandchildren, but they still took the time to pet the cows and sample the ice cream.
Its nice coming here, Marilee said. Weve already spoken with several people here who we only get to see at Down on the Farm Day.
The event was a success for the extension. Donald Zylstra wandered the property greeting visitors, and by midday said hed already made a lot of new friends.
Don made a comment that this seemed to be a much more interested crowd than was here the last time they did Down on the Farm Day, Walsh said.
I think it went very well we had a lot of good questions from the crowd.
By the end of the day, more than 700 people had stopped by Lake Huntington to tour the farm.