PARIS — In celebration of National Farmers Day, dairy farmer Betsy Bullard of Brigeen Farms in Turner visited students at Paris Elementary School on Thursday, Oct. 12.

Bullard dropped in during breakfast time because Maine’s dairy farmers, through the Maine Dairy & Nutrition Council, awarded the school a small nutrition equipment grant for coolers that would allow students to have breakfast in the classroom.

The school’s population makes it difficult to serve all the students breakfast in the cafeteria, and District Food Service Director Jodi Truman said breakfast participation has gone up since breakfast in the classroom has been offered to fifth- and sixth-graders. Currently, grades K-2 eat in the cafeteria, and grades 3-4 have a grab-and-go breakfast.

Principal Mary Peterson said school staff are “big proponents of breakfast.” Even if a student is late to class, he or she is always asked if they have eaten breakfast, and if not, they are directed to the cafeteria to grab something they can take to class with them.

Students had some great questions for Bullard and were surprised to learn that cows are milked by machine, not by hand, and that all the cows have names and numbers – the herd is registered Holsteins and each is required to have a name. Students were also surprised that her family and the farm’s employees milk 500 cows; most students guessed around 20 to 50.

Bullard also told them the cows have the bovine equivalent of a Fitbit. A collar or ear tag will measure a cow’s activity, how often they drink water, and a microphone keeps track of how much they are chewing their cud. All the information is used to track a cow’s health and is relayed to Bullard through an app on her phone, alerting her if a cow’s numbers are off.

“We have to make sure the cows are healthy every day,” she said. “We have a deal with the cows — if we take good care of them, they take good care of us.”

FMI: 207-557-2711, [email protected]

Betsy Bullard of Brigeen Farms, stand at far left, talks to sixth-graders during their breakfast time at Paris Elementary School on National Farmers Day.

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