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Malone — When people talk about Wisconsin as “America’s Dairyland,” the first thing that comes to mind is cows.

Goats? Not so much.

The fact that my parents, my siblings and I operate a successful goat dairy farm and cheese making plant, LaClare Farms, in this bovine-centric landscape certainly has helped us grab our share of appearances on news, travel and public interest TV shows.

But nothing could have prepared us for our latest (and, by far, biggest) broadcast appearance: A 10-lb. wheel of our world-renowned Evalon Cheese plays a key role in Monday night’s (Jan. 23) episode of ABC’s “The Bachelor.” It’s not every day that you get a spotlight in front of 7 million viewers.

Our participation in the show happened very suddenly, actually. Anyone familiar with this season’s tempestuous run of the wild “dating” show knows that leading man Nick Viall is from Wisconsin. The producers were looking for a way to bring him back to his home state and have a little bit of fun with our state’s  “cheesehead” reputation.

When we got the call from the producers, I initially thought it was a prank. At first, they were vague, asking general questions just to see if we would be a good fit. Once we came to an agreement about how we could contribute in a fun way, things started moving with a kind of crazy energy as we pulled everything together in a very short time. (Apparently, they were filming in the Carolinas, but a hurricane forced them to quickly pull up stakes and head to the great Midwest. Thus, Mother Nature had a hand in our stroke of good luck.)

Filming took place at the Knigge Farm in Omro (it’s great to see another family farm benefiting from the exposure too!). There’s definitely a different spin to this type of “reality” television — the production team goes with the flow, making last-minute adjustments as events, circumstances and personalities dictate. There’s a general plan, but it can go out the window quickly, and you can’t predict how the bachelor or bachelorettes will behave. That unpredictability is half the fun.

I can’t give away too much — the producers have strict confidentiality requirements — but I can say that our “scenes” involved rolling a 10-lb. wheel of cheese. While we are usually obsessive about our cheese’s flavor, appearance and texture, you never imagine the day will come when your biggest concern is how good it is at “rolling.”

Fortunately, our family cheesemaker, Katie, just happens to be an accomplished cheese roller, too. She’s actually competed in some events, and she knows it’s one part art, one part science and one part good cheese “design” (shorter, fatter cheese wheels, for instance, are better at rolling.)

While we didn’t have a lot of time to meet the cast — they keep the bachelorettes fairly well sequestered — Katie and I did have time to talk with Bachelor Nick in between filming. He seemed like a nice guy.

I have no idea what role (or roll, more accurately) we’ll have in the show. Regardless, it’s an honor to represent Wisconsin and our $44 billion-a-year dairy industry. Growing up in the state, it’s easy to forget how much of a reputation we have: “America’s Dairyland” is just normal for us. Now that I’m older — and deeply involved in the family trade — that reputation is something we strive to uphold. We are always focused on making the cheese better and finding new techniques to improve what we do.

In the end, we don’t know if The Bachelor will find true love with his bevy of beauties, but hopefully he’ll find a passion for goat cheese along the way.

Greg Hedrich is business manager for LaClare Farms in Malone. 

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