A Pumpkin Patch and a Call to Action from the Last of the Dairy Farmers
My name is Kylie Konyn, I’m currently in the 10th grade and I am a third-generation dairy farmer here in San Diego County. Did you know that San Diego was once home to over 200 dairy farms? Now, that number has decreased to only two remaining dairy farms, one of them is my family’s.
When asked how we have survived, I always say that the keys have been embracing sustainability, and raw determination. If you have never visited a dairy farm, let me tell you more about ours.
We incorporate sustainable practices into the everyday workings of the Frank Konyn Dairy. We have trucks out on the road daily collecting spent brewery grains from over 16 breweries throughout San Diego County. We also collect pressed fruit and vegetable waste from juice manufacturers, as well as excess bakery products from bakeries and bread factories throughout the County. With the assistance of our on staff nutritionist, these byproducts discarded by humans, are mixed with other ingredients and turned into high quality rations for our animals. These animals in turn produce high protein dairy products for human consumption.
We also take what comes out of the other end of the cow and mix that with ground up landscaping trimmings at our other sister business, San Pasqual Valley Soils. Here we co-compost the greens waste diverted from local landfills with the cow manure and create a variety of soil building products and moisture retention products for your yard. Our OMRI certified “Valley’s Best Compost” is used by many local organic farmers. We even use some of it on our own alfalfa fields. Cows love fresh grass and alfalfa and we try to grow as much of it as we can. You might have seen some of our alfalfa fields as you drive to Ramona, Julian or the Safari Park.
I started out in dairy farming at the age of four helping the calf raiser feed the calves. Now I work alongside my father assisting with everything related to caring for our herd of over 800 milk cows in the San Pasqual Valley. I assist the herdsman and my father in activities like veterinary health checks and pasture rotation management of the "dry cows". Dry cows are cows who are expected to calve in the next three months. Cows in the third trimester of their pregnancy are given a break from milking, so that the nutrients that they receive goes to the health and development of their calf and allows them a rest period.
I also assist with monthly genomic testing of calves. Who would have ever thought that individual hair follicles would be able to give us a prediction of how a calf would grow and develop and what her likely production and confirmation would be? I have even been able to help assist the vet with embryo transfers on some of my own cows. It’s made me very excited about science and what I hope to do in the future.
My brother, sister and I are also members of 4H, which has helped us learn more about farming as well as developing communication, business and leadership skills, and participating in community service. 4-H is a global network of youth organizations whose mission is "engaging youth to reach their fullest potential while advancing the field of youth development". The 4-H’s stand for heart, head, health, and hands which are utilized by 4-H’ers around the world to “Make the Best Better”. Through the 56 Ranchers 4-H Dairy Project, I was the California State Winner for my 4-H record book, an essential aspect of animal husbandry and business. I have held numerous board positions at the chapter level, as well as being a Junior and Teen Leader for a number of 4-H projects. This experience allowed me to develop, teach, and mentor other 4-H members.
I have really enjoyed allowing other 4-H members to work with some of my animals as they might not otherwise have had that opportunity. 4-H has given me the opportunity to explore so many areas of animal science, working with cows, goats, horses, rabbits, and chickens to name a few, practicing public speaking, learning about rockets, archery, cooking, home arts, as well as numerous other activities. Most communities within San Diego offer 4-H programs if you are interested in joining. In addition to 4-H I have participated in various Holstein Association speech and knowledge competitions, where I have been fortunate enough to compete and win on a national level.
While my own exposure to Agriculture has been securely rooted in my experiences at my family’s dairy and in 4-H, most San Diego residents have very little knowledge or connection with production agriculture. I want to change that.
One way that I am trying to help educate the public about agriculture, is by inviting them out to our farm where families can appreciate one of the last hidden gems, the San Pasqual Agricuture Preserve. Earlier this year, we decided to get involved with a different aspect of farming by growing a pumpkin crop. Mom thought it was a great idea. Dad is still wondering what we got ourselves into.
We pulled our "Tom Sawyer idea" together by getting some of our 4-H friends to help us plant over 1500 pumpkin plants between the hours of 8pm and 5am during the first week of July. We were showing animals during the day at the San Diego County Fairy, and we were planting pumpkins under the moonlight during the night. We now have twelve different varieties of pumpkins and some sunflowers ready to market.
The Konyn Kids Pumpkin Patch was our opportunity to explore a new area of agriculture while also creating an opportunity for “agri-tourism” that could develop into a critical part of our family business. My entire family and 4-H community would like to personally invite you to start a new autumn tradition by visiting our Konyn Kids Pumpkin Patch. There's a lot of TLC and hard work behind it, but the main reason to come out is to celebrate the fall harvest time and all that we have to be thankful for.
The Pumpkin Patch and dairy farm are located in the San Pasqual Valley Agriculture Preserve just east of Escondido, across from the San Diego Safari Park on the appropriately named Old Milky Way road. We will be open the weekends of October 13th, 14th, & 20th, 21st from the hours of 10am-4pm daily.
Besides pumpkin picking, Activities at our farm will include a dairy farm hayride, hay maze, cow milking station, ice cream, and a farm animal exhibit.
Relax, and enjoy a picnic overlooking the pumpkin patch and sunflower field, then go on our hay ride to explore the farm while 4-H members answer your questions about our dairy and cows. Local 4-H clubs will also be hosting a fundraiser "farm animal encounter" experience so you and your family can get up close and personal with some of our furry friends.
I am proud of my family’s determination and the fact that our dairy has survived the test of time, but I don’t want us to be the exception. The future of agriculture in San Diego County is in the hands of our local community, and the first step in joining forces could be as simple as a visit to a pumpkin patch.