Vision-Aire Farms host Dairy Fest

Colleen Kottke
Wisconsin State Farmer
Janet Clark introduces her family during Dairy Fest. Joining her from left, her husband Travis Clark, brother David Grade and parents Sandy and Roger Grade, owners of Vision-Aire Farms.

For the past five months, most farm folks have been communicating and networking online thanks to social distancing precautions amid the coronavirus pandemic. In search of a bit of normalcy, PDPW held a Dairy Fest at two Wisconsin family farms – Marti Farms in Vesper and Vision Aire Farms in Eldorado – on Aug. 12 and 19.

"It's a celebration when dairy people can get together and empower one another," said PDPW President Katy Schultz who farms with her siblings near Fox Lake.

Spread out under a white tent on the spacious lawn of Roger and Sandy Grade's home, daughter Janet Clark welcomed PDPW members and fellow dairy farmers to the family farmstead located along Highway 23 near Eldorado. She said her parent's decision to relocate from Colgate, Wis., just northwest of Milwaukee was a forward-thinking one.

"Back in 1972 they felt the urban sprawl of Milwaukee and knew they could not grow the farm into the next generation that they envisioned so they began looking at several farms before settling here in Fond du Lac County," Clark said.

Those attending PDPW's Dairy Fest at Vision-Aire Farms on Aug. 19 were treated to a panel on Risk Management and commentary from Wayne Larrivee, voice of the Green Bay Packers, and antics of comedian, Royal Boehlke.

While many farmers would make the decision to put down new roots based on the cropland or even the house and outbuildings, Clark said her parents knew this was the right place because of the spacious red barn.

"They felt it would be a good barn to serve future generations. Houses and extra buildings can be added or fixed up, but they wanted a good, solid foundation not only for the next generation of family, but for all the "girls" that would be walking through the parlor and freestall barn for years to come," Clark said. "Thanks to all the risks my parents have taken, not only in dairy but the land, they've created an amazing foundation for us to take on this business."

Vision-Aire Farm of Eldorado, Wis., was one of two locations to host PDPW's Dairy Fest in August.

Clark's brother, David and his wife, Torrie, are joined by Clark and her husband, Travis Clark. David is responsible for maintaining the equipment and running the farm's 1,100 rented/owned acreage. Travis and Janet joined the farm in 2010 as employees and later bought into the operation. Travis serves as Vision Aire Farms' herdsman of the farm's herd of 140 Holsteins that are milked twice a day in a double 8 parlor.

Outside, Janet feeds calves with help from her mother, while also tending to the operation's young stock and finances. Roger also continues to help out on a daily basis. The Grade's six grandchildren also help out on the farm.

"The beauty of our dairy is that we are all gifted in specific areas yet work together as a team and I think that's what makes our farm successful," Janet added. 

Making homemade grilled cheese sandwiches for guests.

In addition to food and fellowship and networking opportunities, attendees heard a comprehensive discussion on risk management tools amid the ever-changing landscape of milk prices led by Tim Swenson of Compeer Financial and Carl Babler of AttenBabler Commodities with facilitator Jim Moriarty. Wayne Larrivee, the voice of the Green Bay Packers also addressed the group.

"I wish that every consumer in the country had the opportunity to the farm families and people in this business that I work with every day because if they did, there would not be a brand stronger than dairy," said PDPW Executive Director Shelly Mayer. "This industry is built on the shoulders of successful families that leads to a successful dairy sector."