By Anna Harris
6th Grade, Siskiyou County
Grenada Elementary School - Debbi Hoy, Teacher
Ms. Jersey is always taking us on crazy field trips. The latest field trip happened just last Friday. We were studying cows and all of the amazing products people get from them, when suddenly, Ms. Jersey shouted, "To the tractor, kids!"
"Not another field trip!" cried Donnie.
"Oh yes! The best way to learn about a dairy farm is to visit one!" replied Ms. Jersey.
So into the tractor we went. Zip, Zip, Zap, and all of a sudden we were at our local family-owned dairy farm.
The Duggar family has been operating this farm since 1854. Ms. Jersey asked Mr. Duggar to show us around the milking machines. We learned that it takes an average cow three to five minutes to give her milk. The extracted milk then passes through a strainer into a tank. It can be stored safely at around 42 degrees for approximately three days. He showed us how each cow had its own bed and access to food and water 24 hours a day. He told us that comfortable cows give more milk.
The milk truck was just arriving to transport the milk to a dairy factory for processing and pasteurizing. This is when the trouble began.
Ms. Jersey decided that we should hop back into the magic tractor and zap ourselves into microscopic size in order to hitch a ride in the milk tank with the milk to the factory. "We never zapped ourselves microscopic at our old school!" shrieked Alice.
But, we slid through the cooler vent anyway into the milk tank where we saw big chunks of protein and fat floating around. This would have been perfectly safe if only Donnie hadn't been lactose intolerant!
We helped him aboard a chunk of fat where he clung until finally we arrived at the factory. Ms. Jersey shouted, "Follow me, kids!" and we all slid down into a big vat. Poor Donnie was really suffering; he was holding his stomach, wailing for the bathroom.
Alice said, "Hold on, Donnie! It will be okay!"
The factory workers began separating the curds and whey. Thankfully we had hopped out and were standing on the rim of the tank by then.
The cheese makers added rennet to get the milk to coagulate. Then, starter bacteria converted the milk sugars into lactic acid. The rennet helped set the cheese into a strong texture. The soft cheese was drained, salted, and packaged for stores, right there in the factory. Ms. Jersey had to ask about making hard cheese because Parmesan was her favorite.
Donnie was really starting to feel better so the processors explained how hard cheeses can be heated to temperatures at about 100-130 degrees. Salt is added to the cheese for flavor and preservation. The cheeses are pressed into a mold. The harder the cheese, the more pressure it takes to shape it and squeeze out the moisture.
We discovered that some cheeses are ready right away and some are allowed to age, like Brie and Camembert. Donnie asked about what kinds of cheese he could eat with his lactose intolerance. They told him that aged cheese contains almost no lactose and cheddar cheese only has 5 percent.
"Amazing discovery, Donnie!" Ms. Jersey exclaimed.
"Cheese can also help people fall asleep faster and relieve stress because it has tryptophan in it," said Alice. "I never learned that at my old school!"
"Well kids, we better board the magic tractor and get back to our regular size before we crumble like feta!"
After a very educational day at the dairy farm and factory we were all glad to be back at school.
"What a gouda field trip," Ms. Jersey said.
"Ms. Jersey!" moaned the kids. And that was the end of our journey in our green tractor!