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Down to earth tour for MPPs
Donal O’Connor, August 18th, 2010

About a dozen MPPs and Ontario Federation of Agriculture president Bette Jean Crews were given a close-up of Perth County farming Thursday during a tour of three area farms.

“This is where we get what we eat. It’s very important information,” said Brampton West-Mississauga MPP Vic Dhillon, one of the urban based politicians taking the tour.

Dhillon’s comment came during a tour of a water buffalo and Holstein farm southwest of Stratford operated by Fred and Irene Koskamp and Henry and Inge Koskamp.

Focusing on the water buffalo part of the business, the Koskamps outlined development of their Tenderbuff Water Buffalo operation that numbers about 200 animals.

By the end of next month, said Fred Koskamp, the farm should be milking 50 water buffalo.

The milk is all shipped by Quality Cheese in Vaughan to make mozzarella cheese. The beef — marketed as leaner than skinless chicken or turkey — is processed at Meidema Country Meats near Exeter.

Native to India, the water buffalo herd developed by the Koskamps was started back in 2007 with animals imported from Florida.

Fred noted the animals produce only about five litres of milk per day per animal compared with about 26 litres produced by their Holsteins.

The farm would like to improve water buffalo output to 10 litres per day, he said.

In Italy, as many as 300,000 water buffalo are milked for the production of cheese, he said.

Visitors, including tour hosts from the Perth County Federation of Agriculture, learned the Koskamps plan to revive a methane digester project they considered three years ago.

The digester, which will have capacity to accept urban food waste, is to supply electricity for the farm.

The project “wasn’t ready to fly in Ontario” Fred said, but conditions look better for it now.

His brother Henry pointedly informed visiting MPPs and their families that provincial slaughterhouses such as the one the farm relies on in the Exeter area need to be supported by government.

The Koskamp farm employs 10 people in addition to the owners. About 400 Holsteins are milked on the 1,000-acre farm.

Yesterday’s farm tour included visits to Antony John’s Soiled Reputation organic farm near Sebringville and Ken and Barb Levy’s sheep and lamb farm in the St. Marys area.

Ag 101, as the annual Perth farm tour is dubbed, is a co-operative between Perth-Wellington MPP John Wilkinson and the Perth County Federation of Agriculture and is aimed at keeping urban MPPs in touch with rural life.