Sweet knowledge is necessary treat

August 04, 2006|by LISA PREJEAN

The average cow produces seven gallons of milk a day.

In order to do that, the cow eats a heaping wheelbarrow full of food and drinks a bathtub full of water every day.

The cow needs to be milked twice a day, usually very early in the morning and again in the afternoon.

Betsy Herbst likes to share facts like these as she teaches about the roles farmers play in today's society.

A 4-H leader, Herbst is chairwoman of the Ag Room at Discovery Station at Hagerstown Inc. In the room, children can learn about the work that goes into growing the food we eat.

"You have to explain to them that this stuff doesn't originate from the grocery store," says Herbst, who lives on a dairy farm in Ringgold, where she works with her husband, David Herbst.


She likes to teach children by doing hands-on, fun experiments.

For example, think you need an ice-cream freezer to make ice cream? Think again. Herbst's methods are simple enough for a child to do.

She refers to one method as "kick the can," even though the makers don't really "kick" the can to make the ice cream.

She starts with a 1- or 2-pound coffee can. She places milk, cream, sugar and vanilla in the can. Then she seals the can by placing the plastic lid back on and taping it shut with duct tape or another heavy tape. That can is placed inside a larger can. Ice and rock salt are packed between the two cans. Then the larger can's lid is sealed. Children can roll the can back and forth on the floor for about a half-hour. Then the ice cream can be scooped out and enjoyed.

Herbst also has shown children how to make ice cream in resealable plastic bags. The milk, cream, sugar and vanilla are placed in a quart-sized bag, the bag is sealed and then placed in a gallon-sized bag. The ice and rock salt are placed between the two bags, and then the larger bag is sealed. The bag can be bounced back and forth between each hand until it freezes. Then the bag can be opened and the ice cream eaten with a spoon.

"It's a nice, refreshing thing to do on a hot day," Herbst says. Even though her husband's favorite ice-cream flavor is orange-pineapple, they often try to keep their homemade ice cream simple.

"We eat a lot of vanilla ice cream," Herbst says. "You can always dress it up with chocolate or chocolate chips."

In addition to making ice cream, Herbst likes to show children her butter churn. Butter is made when heavy cream is churned, or whipped. Children can make their own butter by placing heavy cream in a container and shaking it.

"Kids seem to think that is great," Herbst says.

They are somewhat surprised that their homemade butter is white. The yellow coloring and salt, for seasoning, is added by manufacturers.

Herbst was coordinator of last week's Ag Expo Agventures and Birthing Center, which was formerly known as the petting zoo. The new name reflects the additions that have been made to the exhibit, including a "Walk Through the Cow" experience. At Ag Expo, children could crawl in the "mouth" of a cow display, see how a cow's stomach is divided into compartments, and learn about the steps it takes to make milk.

Herbst will give a demonstration at the Discovery Station at Hagerstown Inc., 101 W. Washington St., Saturday, Sept. 2, as part of the Saturday Plus events. She will talk about dairy products and illustrate how to make ice cream, and she might make butter with the children.

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Lisa Tedrick Prejean writes a weekly column for The Herald-Mail's Family page. Send e-mail to her at

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