Random Lake: Jeff-Leen Farm sesquicentennial celebration set for Aug. 18 - 19

Ray Mueller
A Farm to Table Dinner with Kyle Cherek of “Wisconsin Foodie” serving as the master of ceremonies will be served during a sesquicentennial celebration at Jeff-Leen farm.

RANDOM LAKE – Shortly after receiving Wisconsin State Fair recognition on Aug. 7 for having a farm that's been in the family for 150 consecutive years, Jeff and Kathy Preder will be celebrating the occasion with special on-farm events on Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 18 and 19.

A Farm to Table Dinner with Kyle Cherek of “Wisconsin Foodie” serving as the master of ceremonies will be served from 5 to 7:30 pm on Saturday. Wisconsin Foodie is a weekly program on Wisconsin Public Television.

The menu for the dinner has been prepared by six chefs from the Milwaukee area. Five of them are buyers of the eggs or the beef produced on the Preders' Jeff-Leen farm.

Thi Cao of Buckley's Bar and Restaurant organized the group of chefs. Others who are customers of Jeff-Leen farm are Peter Sandroni of La Merenda and Engine Co. #3, Karen Bell of Bavette, Dave Swanson of Braise, and John Reese of the Milwaukee Area Technical College culinary school. Also in the group is Nell Benton of The National Cafe.

Meal menu

Cao's portion of the menu includes grilled beef, lemongrass-coconut broth, glass noodles, summer squash, peanuts, herbs, and fried onions. Swanson will prepare a Spanish tortilla with charred green beans and smoked tomato mayonesa while Reiss will make fried chicken sandwiches.

Sandroni will provide beef tostadas with cilantro-avocado crema and pickled jalapeno and radishes. Bell will prepare a blueberry barbeque brisket and radish salad. Benton will be serving an elderberry flower soaked saverin, passion curd, fruits, and mascarpone cream.

Registration for the Farm to Table Dinner begins at 3 pm. Through, advance tickets are available for $60. At the farm gate, they will cost $70.

Other attractions that day will be hay wagon rides that start at 3:30 pm and country music from 8 to 11 pm by the Cowboy Up, a multi award winning band based at Waukesha. The public is invited to the band's performance at no cost.

A primitive camping site will be available on Saturday night. Arrangements can be made by calling Preder at 920-948-9508.

Sunday celebration

The celebration continues on Sunday with an open house from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Hay wagon rides, face painting, a Bounce House, music chosen by disk jockey Jerry Laskin from Port Washington, and farm tours will be offered during those five hours.

Hamburgers, brats, homemade cookies, and beverages will be on the menu. Visitors can purchase farm-raised products on both days.

More information about the farm can found on a video “On the Farm with Jeff Preder, Jeff-Leen Farm” through the website. Contrary to a popular belief, the Preders created the farm name from a combination of their first names before obtaining their Piedmontese cattle, which are touted for their low cholesterol and low fat (or lean) meat.

Preder says his wife Kathleen has been an indispensable partner on the farm during their nearly 46 years of marriage. “It would not be possible” to have the farm and its related business operations without her, he remarks.

Farm transitions

The Preders have operated the farm since January of 1977, starting with a milking herd of Holstein cows, the growing of cash grain crops, and the raising of Holstein steers. Jeff Preder acknowledges that the Holstein steer enterprise did not fare well.

When the dairy cows were sold in 1997, Preder took a full-time job at an area steel mill – a job he still holds. At that time, the beef business was transformed with the purchase of seven head of Piedmontese breed beef cattle, which are traced to the mountains of northern Italy.

By 2001, the Preders began selling their beef cuts at farmer's markets, followed by direct sales to a restaurant in 2002. At the same time, the growing of pasture-raised meat chickens and the raising of egg layer chickens were added to the activities on the farm. A transition to entirely grass-fed beef occurred in 2006 and a conversion to certified organic production was completed in 2008.

The current Piedmontese cattle herd of about 100 head is fed with alfalfa and grasses grown on the farm. No antibiotics, steroids, growth hormones, or animal byproducts are used in raising the animals. Preder explains that reliance on grass feeding of the cattle results in health benefits for consumers due to the higher level of conjugated linoleic acid in the beef.

In addition to the Milwaukee area restaurant outlets, Jeff-Leen Farm sells its meats and eggs at farmer's markets at the Mitchell Park Domes in Milwaukee and in Fox Point and Wauwatosa. Turkeys can be pre-ordered for the late-year holiday season.

Family details

The Preders have four children and five grandchildren. In addition to overseeing the farm, Jeff still works at the steel mill. Son Mike, who helps on the farm, also is engaged in custom crop planting, combining, and farm machinery repair.

Now in its sixth generation of ownership and operation within the same family, the farm at N254 County I southwest of Random Lake, dates to Feb. 19, 1868, when it was purchased by John Pannier and his wife Chris.

Henry Pannier Sr. and his wife Mary were the owners from October 1872 to October 1918, when Otto Pannier and his wife Elizabeth took over the farm. Harold O. Pannier and his wife Geraldine were the owners briefly (January 1952 to December 1953) before the transition to the Preder surname.

That took place on Dec. 28, 1953, when Harold A. Pannier and his wife Verna (Pannier), who had married in November of 1946, became the owners. Jeffrey Preder and his wife Kathleen (Mohr) took over the farm from his parents on Jan. 3, 1977.