Every so often, someone asks me about why I give farm tours.
    “Wouldn’t you rather be doing something else for yourself or your family?”
    “You have spent years doing this, isn’t it time to relax when you get out of the barn?”
    I can honestly say I love being an advocate for agriculture. I enjoy sharing our farm with others and educating visitors about our life as farmers. It is emotionally rewarding to see our guests appreciate all the work we do, and they feel our passion when they are getting licked by the cows and sucked on by the calves.
    There is a moment on every tour when someone finally understands something that they wondered about for many years. Today, on the tour I hosted, the family was local, and they never understood what a silo is used for. They wanted to know more and more about how things work. The gears in their heads were turning, and the questions were so much fun to answer.
    As the tractors move about the farm, loading and mixing feed, the children are mesmerized. Some of these little guys and gals can name every type of tractor, and they even have the toy versions parked in their own little farm landscapes.
    The one finger touch of a chick is softer than anything they have ever felt. They all whisper and talk softly around the baby animals. And when they get to hold a chicken all by themselves the pride beams from their eyes as photos are taken. These are the best of times for all of us. I am thankful I can give them my time and patience.
    But with the many great tours and fun times, there can also be the person who makes me say to myself, “Why do I do this?” The person can be sarcastic, rude and heckle or dispute what I have said. There have been animal activists on our farm. They use their opinions to try to turn the conversation to things they have seen or heard online. They try to steal the conversation to say that what we do with our cows is cruel and inhumane. It makes the others in the group uncomfortable as they challenge me. I try to not feed into their conversation, and I have asked a couple to leave. One disrespectful group of summer campers will not be welcomed back to our farm.
    This past Saturday, I had to cancel a tour. I had a heifer do the splits, and it was not a pretty sight. As farmers, we know it is not an easy situation. How to get this heifer out of the freestall barn and into a comfortable spot is not something I want to show anyone. It is hard and emotional on all of us as we try to help her so she might have a chance to recuperate with hobbles. Bloody knees and hocks are not the image to share, and I definitely do not want anyone to take photos.
    As it turned out, when I called to cancel, I felt that the woman on the phone was one who could have made me ask why I do this. She was upset that I needed to cancel the tour, and she didn’t understand why she could not come. She listened to me as I gave her the scenario. When I stopped speaking, she was dead silent on the phone except for her slurping on her drink through her straw. I offered to give her a free tour the next day. Silence again. I told her I was not comfortable and would do what I could to reschedule. More slurping, but she didn’t say anything. It was clear she was gathering her thoughts to argue with me, insisting she should be able to come for a tour.    In the end, she did not come for a tour, and we were both better off to care for our priorities for the day. So, while I enjoy tours immensely, they do not occur without challenges. I will, however, continue to educate consumers about the dairy industry and what we do on our farm. For that, after all, is why I do it.
    Tina Hinchley, and her husband,  Duane, daughter Anna, milk 240 registered Holsteins with robots.  They also farm 2300 acres of crops near Cambridge, Wisconsin.  The Hinchley’s have been hosting farm tour for over 25 years.