Winners of the award have a desire to continually improve Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) on their operations while successfully encouraging others around them to implement BQA. A desire evident this week as two producers were honored with the annual national Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) award, created to recognize outstanding beef and dairy producers from across the country that incorporate BQA principles as part of the day-to-day activities on their operations. The winners were selected based on their commitment to beef quality assurance while operating sustainable cattle operations. The dairy farm winner was, Phoebe Bitler, Vista Grande Farm from Fleetwood, Berks County, Pennsylvania.
Vista Grande Farm
Vista Grande Farm was founded in 1937 by Phoebe’s parents. Phoebe grew up on the registered Holstein farm, and her 4-H project cows paid for her college degree and also helped to build the foundation for the dairy herd that she and her husband, Dave, began in 1977. On Jan. 1, 2010, they began a partnership with their son, Jesse, operating as Vista Grande Farms, LLC and Vista Grande Cattle Co., LLC.
The dairy farm currently consists of 100 milking registered Holstein cows; 23 owned by the Bitlers, and the balance owned by two young men developing their individual herds, they have placed 30 more milking Holsteins in other young farmers herds, have a dairy replacement business with 150 females, and farm 600 acres, producing feed crops for the livestock. In addition, the family also performs a variety of custom farming operations, facilitates farm-to-farm dairy cattle sales, and Phoebe conducts educational agriculture tours that showcase what family farms have done to remain viable in the industry.
Vista Grande Farm is located in a densely populated county in southeastern Pennsylvania and one of their ‘next door’ neighbors is an industry that employs 5,000 persons. The road that travels between the farm buildings is heavily traveled. This creates challenges for cattle and equipment movement, but also provides the opportunity to showcase a tidy farmstead, along with clean and well cared for animals to the consuming public.
Phoebe and her family have hosted many “Ag in the Classroom” type events for schools, scouts, seniors and farm-city tours. They have also hosted “Breakfast on the Farm” for the Berks County Chamber of Commerce Executive Board. These types of events provide opportunities to share the truth about modern animal production, dispelling popular animal rights myths. Vista Grande Farm coexists with their community by offering a transparent view of their dairy practices.
Phoebe believes firmly that they and their cattle are a team; they work in partnership. They also manage their dairy for increased returns on market cows at harvest by reconditioning prior to selling as ‘white cows.’ Currently they are researching the costs and benefits of selling custom bulk freezer packs utilizing BQA labels and the farm logo to accommodate the changing consumer needs and wants. She also provides extensive training to hired labor. She is very deserving of this award.
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