Most hours of the day, it’s a good bet that she can be found promoting the agricultural industry in her own fun and informative way. She leads dozens of tours of their farm each year for school groups, families and others, providing information to meet the audience’s knowledge level.
“I really enjoy giving tours — I think everyone can get that vibe when they are here,” Tina said.
Tina and several part-time employees have been giving farm tours since 1997. Her husband, Duane, generally tends to the farm work unless extra tour guides are needed.
They have hosted as many as 10,000 school children in a year, although with school budget cuts that number has declined slightly the past couple of years.
People from all across the country visit the farm — all tours are by reservation only.
“We’ve found that many families are staying closer to home, and we’ve also noticed that people from the southern part of the U.S. are coming to Wisconsin,” Tina said. “When they think of Wisconsin they think of the dairy industry and the Packers.”
Most people find the farm on the Internet — if they do a search for “dairy farm tours,” Hinchley’s Dairy Farm’s www.dairyfarmtours.com is the first website that pops up on the screen.
Tina’s energy and the way she communicates with school children never cease to amaze Duane, who recently nominated his wife for “Farm Mom of the Year.” He saw a call for nominations in the Monsanto-sponsored contest and wrote the 300-word essay that was required.
She finished as the Midwest Region winner.
“She has a strong voice for agriculture and is an amazing example of a woman farmer,” Duane wrote in the essay. “I could not imagine a better partner. Tina is my Farm Mom of the Year.”
Besides serving on the WMMB, Tina is a 4-H leader, involved in the local FFA alumni chapter and has been active in the Wisconsin Beef Council and Wisconsin Farmers Union.
The Hinchleys hosted the Dane County dairy breakfast in 2009.
On a recent Tuesday morning, Tina and three other tour guides hosted 90 children involved in a Middleton-Cross Plains School District summer program. It was the first time children from the school had visited the farm.
While most tours last an hour-and-a-half to two hours, this one lasted from 9:15 a.m. until 2 p.m. Tina had no problem finding things for the youngsters to do.
First, she laid out the ground rules in the farm’s activity center, reminding the youngsters to use their “walking feet, walking feet, walking feet” during their time on the farm.
“What kind of feet?” she asked.
“Walking feet,” the youngsters replied.
“Are those the same as kicking feet, or rock-climbing feet, or drag your feet so a whole bunch of dust comes up behind you feet?”
“No,” the children chanted.
She warned them of the dangers of the farm, including working machinery that might be moving about, and urged them to sanitize their hands after each time they touched an animal or something that might give them germs.
While on the tour, she provided details about what the farm’s crops are used for and dozens of facts about the animals they encountered on the farm, from dairy calves and cows to goats, sheep, chickens, rabbits, ducks and geese.
She explained that in the dairy world, an animal must have a baby to be a cow. Before it has its first calf, it’s a heifer.
“Some of the heifers have a collar, and that helps us know the time for them to get married,” she explained. “If we find the perfect husband for the heifers, our herd will improve every time we have a baby on the farm.
“If you’re a little girl that has not had a baby, what are you?” she asked the students.
“A heifer,” they chimed in.
“Put your hands down you little heifers,” Tina said.
“If you are a woman that has had a baby and is making milk, you would be a cow. If you are a cow that has had a baby and is not making milk, you’d be a dry cow. Cows have to have a baby and make milk; otherwise they don’t have a job on our farm.
“On dairy farms, girls rule because they make milk. On a beef farm, boys rule, because they have more muscle.”
She asked the youngsters if they recalled the vaccinations they had before kindergarten. When they said they did, she said their animals similarly get shots to prevent them from getting sick.
On a hayride through their farm fields, Tina told the children that they plant “as many plants per acre as possible” to get maximum yields to feed their animals and sell for cash.
“There isn’t any more farmland out there and there are more people all the time,” she said. “We have to get as much food as possible off of it.”
While viewing the farm’s turkeys and chickens, Tina noted that the “boys are more handsome so they can get as many girls as they can get.”
She interspersed mathematics into the conversation when explaining how much milk their cows give, and noted the nutritional benefits of consuming dairy products.
Many of the stops on the tour include hands-on experiences, such as petting a calf, milking a cow and holding a chicken.
Tina also provides information about modern agriculture to adults that visit the farm.
“We recently had a farm family from the Philippines, and when I explained sexed semen to them, they thought that would really be the way to go on their farm,” she said.
Tina has been getting lots of questions about whether raw milk is safe, and she has a simple explanation.
“You sanitize your hands all the time; you throw out your outdated food,” she said. “Why would you pour something down your children’s throats that could possibly harm them? Why risk it?”
Joan Hustad, a third-grade teacher in the Middleton-Cross Plains School District, said she was “totally engaged” during the farm tour with her students.
“This is so cool,” she said. “I’m a very happy camper right now.”
While it was the first time the students had visited the Hinchley farm, Hustad assured Tina that farm visits would be included in the school’s future curriculum.
“We had a fabulous day, Hustad said. “Some of our teachers said this was the best field trip they had ever taken. I concur. Tina was great.”
The Hinchleys said there is money to be made by hosting tours — they charge between $7 and $15 for a visit, depending on the age and number of visitors — but liability insurance and labor costs chew up some of the profits.
“Not all of these animals would be what we would have here otherwise,” Tina said. “We have 4-H projects gone wild.
“When we have a group of 90 kids like we have here today, you can’t have four goats — you have to have a dozen or more.”
The Hinchleys run a 2,300-acre crop farm and milk about 100 registered Holsteins. Duane took over the farm from his parents, who purchased it in 1958.
“I still love plowing — I love turning that dirt and smelling it,” Duane said. “And I love the smell of hay.”
Most of their crops are sold as grain to two nearby ethanol plants.
Duane said he had trouble capturing all of Tina’s attributes in a 300-word essay for the contest.
“The girls helped me cut it down,” he said of their twin daughters, Anna and Catherine. “This woman pushes ag to everybody. She will correct people about the bovine growth hormone, insecticides, pesticides and GMO crops. And she’s so good with the kids.”
Besides their twins, the Hinchleys have two sons — Curtis, 22, and Spencer, 21.
Tina said she doesn’t expect tour traffic to slow down, as more people want to learn about how their food is made and where it comes from.
“We had several families last year that were trying to hit every state with their kids before the kids head out of the house,” she said. “They say they can take their kids to something like the Wisconsin Dells anywhere — they want to see something different when they come here.”