5,000 enjoy sun, fun and food

John Oncken


Breakfast in the big tent on the farm - a great experience!

The dark skies, sporadic rains and coolish temperatures of recent days had been replaced by bright sun and 70 degree temperatures - a great Saturday for the 39th annual Green county Breakfast on the farm.  

Just the kind of a day that encourages people to get out and “do something like attending a Dairy Breakfast on The Farm."

An estimated 5,000 plus eager eaters who did just that - made their way to Rollin’ Green Dairy, a few miles south of Brooklyn in northeast Green County, to eat a big breakfast of scrambled eggs, sausage, coffee cake, milk, cheese and strawberry sundaes.

A slow mile

I got a late start and arrived at the junction of Highways 104 and Elmer Road at about 9 a.m. and saw I was in trouble because the three quarters of a mile of Elmer Road leading to the host dairy farm was one solid lineup of cars.  Forty minutes later I arrived at the parking field, hooked a ride on a four-wheeler to the breakfast tent and noted the still long, breakfast line. Again, I noted as I have at many such breakfasts, waiting in line at a farm breakfast does not draw complaints like often happens at other such lineups, in fact it is a friendly line with people meeting new friends and lots of talking.

A half mile of cars slowly  heading to the breakfast.

After a brief tour of the nearby exhibit area and freestall barn and talking with friends I went through the food line and sat at one of the long tables next to a couple from Dousman.  

“We don’t have a farm dairy breakfast in Waukesha County any more, the man said. “The dairy farms are pretty much all gone now, but I remember when it was a big dairy area - development took over and farmers moved out - so we came up here for breakfast.”

Doing it right

I always marvel at how feeding thousands of people at a farm breakfast goes so smooth from dishing out the food to offering milk and coffee to offering refills and helping people get in and out of the picnic table seating. Thanks to the hundreds of volunteers who help at every such event.

Seeing 190 cows

Unlike at some on-farm events in recent years, visitors could walk through the dairy barn where the 190 dairy cows were eating and resting and see the cows up close and watch them eating. The Double eight milking parlor was also open to visitors - many who had never seen such equipment before.  A couple of young farm employees were standing by to answer questions which they did very well.  

Visitors toured the freestall barn at Rollin' Green Dairy Farm and saw cows close-up.

My question was: “Who did the actual milking?  Members of the McNeely family and a few part time high school students do all the milking, a young milker replied.  

“Are there Hispanics working here,” I then asked.  

“No, none,” he answered. It’s all family, two employees and us part timers.”

Since 1973

Robert and Patricia McNeely started Rollin' Green Dairy Farm in northern Illinois. In 1973, they moved to Wisconsin to begin farming on 215 acres with a 38 cow barn. The farm grew to where today, Rollin' Green Dairy involves three generations of the McNeely family  and includes 190 milk cows with over 1,600 acres dedicated to crops.

The family is very proud that they have grown their herd from within, having never purchased an animal.
Robert and Patricia passed their love and tradition of farming to their son, Jim and his wife, Jennifer, and their sons, Jeffrey and Jamison, all who are currently in the partnership. Robert and Patricia continue to be actively involved with the operation on a daily basis.

Changes made

The farm has been through many changes since 1973. In 1987 the dairy barn expanded to 69 stanchions, but cows continued to be switched each milking. 

When Jeffrey returned to the farm after graduation from UW-River Falls with a degree in Dairy Science, the family began a program to increase cow comfort. In 2011, a freestall barn was built but milking continued in the old barn. In 2014 the milking parlor was built  and milking became easier. In 2015 the stanchion barn was remodeled into a calf housing facility.

Own things

Each family member specializes in their own enterprise: Jim manages the cropland and Jennifer works as an Administrative Assistant at Albany Schools; Jeffrey  manages the dairy herd and his wife Nicole,is a Field Technician at AgSource. Jamison uses his degree earned from Blackhawk Technical College in the Diesel and Heavy Equipment Technician program to keep the machinery running and is in charge of feeding the dairy herd.  His wife Amanda, is a Marketing Associate at Filament Marketing in Madison. They welcomed daughter Adalyn earlier this year, making her the fourth generation to live on the farm. Jim and Jennifer's daughter, Jillian (fiancé Christopher Malkow), is an Agricultural Education Teacher and FFA Advisor at Janesville Craig High School.

The McNeely family includes (from left) Jeff, Nicole, Jennifer, Jillian and Christopher Malkow.

In addition to the family, the farm also employs two full-time (Michael Golz and Hunter Jensen) and five part-time employees.

The Green County Breakfast On The Farm has become what one might call almost a county festival,  with the big craft show, exhibitor tent and machinery (old and new) display.  

Credit the Green County Ag Chest and the hundreds of volunteers and donors they assemble to stage the event.

Since 1958

The Green County Ag Chest was organized in 1958 when the Green County Dairy Promotion Committee and the Green County Agricultural Foundation merged. Their purpose is to promote Green County, its products, its resources, and its people, especially youth and youth activities involved with home economics and agriculture.

The Green County Ag Chest sponsors many projects including: Dairy Queens Program, Breakfast on the Farm, Dairy Days, Green County Tourism, 4H Clubs & FFA trips, State Fair Transportation and Scholarships.

In 1961, the first Dairy Breakfast was held at a Juda Church in 1961 with June Dairy Month kickoff breakfasts held every year from 1961 through 1979 at various churches and schools. 

To farms in 1980

Breakfast On The Farm started as an idea of Green County Ag Chest enthusiasts at a meeting on November 12, 1979. The idea was to move the breakfasts away from schools and churches to a direct "on-the-farm site" where  visitors could get first -hand knowledge of what makes up a modern dairy farm today.

Without any doubt, the idea was a booming success as the 38 breakfasts held since show with may thousands of attendees each year. 

At the same time the sponsorship, in terms of finances and volunteers, has brought the agriculture community  together.

This year's farm breakfast was chaired by Craig Kamholz, Judy Gill and Sue Hellenbrand who assembled near 200 sponsors who donated products or money and a couple hundred volunteers who worked at the event.

I usually attend two to three dairy farm breakfasts each year, the Dane County event at Blue Star dairy, Middleton, will be the other one  that I’ll attend.

But, there are about 50 other choices you have to select from.  All are listed at  www.dairy days of summer.com - take your pick and make a meeting, greeting, learning, eating, fun day.
John Oncken is owner of Oncken Communications. He can be reached at 608-222-0624, or email him at jfodairy2@gmail.com.