Outagamie Farm Bureau honored at AFBF convention

Carol Spaeth-Bauer
Wisconsin State Farmer
Kelly Oudenhoven (front) with the Outagamie County Farm Bureau represented Wisconsin at the American Farm Bureau Federation annual convention in Nashville, Tenn. The Outagamie Milk and Cookies with Santa was honored with a County Activities of Excellence Award.

NASHVILLE, TN - Kelly Oudenhoven filled out the application for the American Farm Bureau Federation's (AFBF) County Activities of Excellence Award, to see what would happen. She never expected the Outagamie Farm Bureau Milk and Cookies with Santa event to win. 

Outagamie Farm Bureau was among 122 applicants from 24 county farm bureaus in 12 states honored by the American Farm Bureau Federation for its innovative program ideas with a County Activities of Excellence Award on Jan. 6. The winners were highlighted during AFBF’s 2018 Annual Convention & IDEAg Trade Show in Nashville, Tennessee.

"I was shocked," said Oudenhoven. "Every county does such a great job doing activities." 

The CAE program acknowledges and shares successful county Farm Bureau programs and activities. The awards are based on county Farm Bureau membership. Counties compete for recognition in five different groups. Those groups are county Farm Bureaus with membership of less than 1,000 members, 1,001-3,000 members, 3,001-5,000 members, more than 5,001 members, and for collaborative multi-county activities regardless of membership size.

Outagamie represented Wisconsin, winning in the farm bureaus with memberships of less than 1,000 members group. 

Milk and Cookies

Oudenhoven got the idea for Milk and Cookies with Santa a few years ago after attending a county dairy promotion group meeting in November. She heard people talking about Santa coming to town halls. Always looking for different ideas on how to get people to visit farms in the middle of winter instead of the sumer for June Dairy month, Oudenhoven started thinking, "Why can't Santa come out to the farm?"

With less than a month to plan, Oudenhoven's goal was to "pull off" the event that year. 

Targeting families in the Freedom School District, the farm bureau printed fliers that were sent out through the schools and daycares in the area, hung posters around town and "shared it like no other" on social media. 

The farm bureau committee decided on a two-hour time slot during the week for the event that would allow parents to feed their children, attend the event and still get home in time for kids to do homework and get to bed. Oudenhoven contacted the school district to pick a night with no school conflicts.

Contacting MilkSource Genetics she asked if they could hold the event in their show barn. With cutout cow cookies, milk from Tidy View Dairy, coloring books from the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board and additional books from Ag in the Classroom, the first event was held from 6 - 8 p.m. with hopes of having 100 people attend. Just over 300 people attended the event that first year. 

The second year, aiming for 300 attending, the Outagamie Farm Bureau got three businesses to donate money to the Freedom area food pantry for every child who sat on Santa's lap during the event. With just over 500 people attending, the more than $1,200 was donated to the food pantry. 

More than 550 people attended on Dec. 7, 2017 and over $680 was donated to the food pantry. 

While parents are invited to take their own photos of their children with Santa at the event, the farm bureau also takes its own pictures, which are posted on the Facebook page. As parents visit the site to look at pictures, they also see what else is going on with the Outagamie Farm Bureau, giving the organization additional exposure, Oudehoven pointed out. 

"It's been a great experience and we don't plan on stopping any time soon," said Oudenhoven.


State Farm Bureaus were presented awards at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s annual convention also. The awards recognized excellence in implementation of outstanding member programs and membership achievement in 2017.

Wisconsin Farm Bureau won for Engagement and Outreach and Leadership and Business Development. 

Each County Activities of Excellence award winner had a booth at the AFBF annual convention showcasing the county farm bureau's activity. 

Oudenhoven said it was an honor to attend the convention and have the Outagamie Farm Bureau event nationally recognized. 

"Lots of people at the convention were surprised at how easy it was to organize the event," said Oudenhoven.

Many people said they never would have thought to invite Santa to a farm. The activity is also very universal and can be used for any type of farming, Oudenhoven added.

"Different states can highlight it in different ways," said Oudenhoven. "There are so many ways to diversity it."