Wilke's continue legacy of farming in Door Co.

Liz Welter

SEVASTOPOL - Family photos aren't simple — a younger sibling grimaces instead of grins, or there is a mutiny about attire. This time it was the uninvited cows.

Rachel, left, and Ruth Wilke get the giggles playing with their 1-week-old calf.

But these photo-bombing bovines, nearly 50 in the herd, contributed to make the Wilke family photo an accurate portrait of a dairy farm family.

Kevin and Tricia Wilke with their children, Rebecca, 16, Rachel, 1,3 and Ruth, 10, are continuing a legacy of farming the family homestead that began 130 years ago.

The friendly and curious cows are the lifeblood of this dairy farm and will be one of the highlights of the 36th annual Door County Dairy Breakfast from 6 to 11:30 a.m. July 2 at Wilke R Organic Farm, 5238 Wisconsin 42.

Besides the opportunity for a selfie with a backdrop of happy cows, the event at the Wilke farm will include wagon ride tours, live music, a petting zoo, and, of course, an all-you-can-eat breakfast.

Unlike most dairy breakfasts around the state, this one will feature scrambled eggs produced by the farm's 57 free-range chickens, Tricia said.

"We're getting 900 dozen eggs for this breakfast," she said. That number may need to be supplemented with eggs donated by Waseda Farms, another certified organic Door County farm.  

The breakfast also includes locally produced Lautenbach Orchard apple juice, Cherry De-Lite cherry juice, Hyline Orchards cherry sauce, Renard's cheese curds, Henschel's maple syrup, Door County coffee and Schopf's homemade ice cream with DeBaker Acres II strawberries.

The Wilke R Organic Farm is a producer for Organic Valley, which also will provide cheese samples. Children and adults can try their hands at milking a cow named Addie, who is made of fiberglass and moos.

Kevin and Tricia Wilke, right, along with their children Rachel, from left, Ruth and Rebecca will host the Sevastopol FFA Dairy Breakfast on their organic farm located just south of Carlsville on Wisconsin 42 on Sunday, July 2, 2017. Tina M. Gohr/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin

"Since we are right on the highway we're expecting a good turnout for this, and it's an opportunity to show everyone an organic farm," Kevin said.

Kevin and Tricia Wilke completed the transition to an organic dairy farm March 1, 2012. After more than 100 years as a traditional dairy farm, there were three reasons to go organic, the couple said.

"Our three daughters — we need to make sure we are taking care of our land and our animals the best way that we can to give our girls the best possible future," Kevin said.

Transitioning to a certified organic dairy farm is no small feat.

"It takes 36 months to transition the land, which includes the year to transition the cows," he said. Besides the 50 milking cows, a separate herd includes about 50 young stock. They own 100 acres and rent 200 acres from friends and family. 

Organic farming includes feeding the livestock unprocessed feed that is produced entirely on the Wilke farm, and using natural techniques to fertilize and control pests.

"There's no synthetic medications for the cows," Tricia said. She and the girls manage the herd while Kevin manages the crops that feed the livestock.

The Wilkes have 57 free-range "heritage'' chickens.

"We do it all ourselves; we don't have hired help," Kevin said.

In 2016, the farm received a silver award for milk quality and a third place award for organic dry hay at the World Forage Analysis Superbowl, Kevin said.

Their daughters are proud of their family's accomplishments and life on an organic dairy farm.  

"Our cows are outside on pasture, they aren't confined to a barn, and it makes them healthier with better quality milk," said Rebecca, who envisions a career as a veterinarian or a similar line of work that is agriculture focused.

Adhering to the organic standards also protects the land because chemical sprays aren't used on the crops, Rebecca said.

"It's good for the cows and good for the land," she said.

The Wilkes have a lot of help hosting the annual Door County Dairy Breakfast. The event is organized and sponsored by the Sevastopol FFA Alumni Association and the Sevastopol High School FFA Club. Many community businesses also support the event.

The family is hoping visitors learn a bit about their organic farm while enjoying good food and entertainment.

Ruth Wilke feeds cows inside their rural Carlsville barn. The Wilkes will be hosting Dairy Breakfast on July 2.

"This is the first time the county has featured an organic farm so we really want to give everyone that comes for the breakfast the organic farm experience," Kevin said.


» What: 36th annual Door County Dairy Breakfast

» When: 6 to 11:30 a.m. July 2

» Where: Wilke R Organic Farm, 5238 Wisconsin 42

» Cost: Tickets are $9 for children age 7 and older and free for children age 6 and younger. The profit from the breakfast supports scholarships for FFA students