Dairy Day at the MOOseum to host PBS Inga Witscher
FORT ATKINSON - Regional celebrity Inga Witscher will be a guest at the Hoard Historical Museum’s 4th annual Dairy Day at the MOOseum.
The event will be held from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, June 2, at the Hoard Historical Museum and National Dairy Shrine Museum, 401 Whitewater Ave, Fort Atkinson, WI . The event is free and will highlight the importance of dairy farming, past and present.
Visitors of all ages will enjoy a grilled cheese sandwich contest, dairy treats, dairy games and dairy crafts. A cow parade featuring all seven breeds of dairy cattle will be held at 1:30 p.m. on the grounds.
Witscher will be on hand to demonstrate "Dairy Good" dips at 11:30 a.m. and judge the grilled cheese sandwich contest at 12:30 p.m.
As a fourth-generation dairy farmer, Inga Witscher, of PBS’s “Around the Farm Table,” knows cows. She has raised four of the seven breeds of milking cows either as a child on her family’s farm or as an adult with her own herds.
Witscher visits small farms across the state to feature in her show, which airs on Wisconsin Public Television. She often picks up ingredients from those farms to use in the food preparation segment of the show.
Witscher grew up on a farm in Washington and helped with her parents’ Holstein and Guernsey herds. In 2006, she got her own herd of Milking Shorthorns on her 30-acre farm in Osseo. She now raises Jerseys.
The cow parade as part of Dairy Day will include the four breeds Witscher has raised, as well as Red and Whites, Ayrshires and Brown Swiss.
“It is nice to see (such) a diversity of cows,” Witscher said. “You can see the pride of the farmer and the love for that breed.”
Witscher’s family sold its farm in Washington when sprawl closed in. Today, she milks a small herd of cows and her father, Rick Witscher, who produces the show, uses the milk to make cheese. Her brother helps her with breeding. She also grows garlic, and has at times opened up her home as a bed and breakfast.
She is concerned about the loss of mid-size farms and thinks that farmers will need to be entrepreneurs in order to re-invent the family farm.
“My neighbor sold his cows,” she said. “I wonder if in a year I will be the only dairy farmer on my road. I feel terrible for people, especially those who have had generations on one farm. This situation is not their fault. It just developed.”
Witscher said now is the time for farmers to be creative and do something different with their products so they can take charge of their future.
“How can we make the product worth more? How else can we make money on the farm?” she asked, noting that agri-tourism is a possibility because people love farm experiences.
Merrilee Lee, director of the Hoard Historical Museum, said, “I think that Gov. W.D. Hoard would likely have agreed with Inga that farmers should find creative ways to thrive in a changing farm economy.”
“Hoard encouraged Wisconsin farmers to focus more on dairy and cows versus field crops such as wheat and corn,” said Lee.
It is because of Hoard’s involvement with the dairy industry that the National Dairy Shrine is connected to the Hoard Historical Museum.
“Like Inga, Hoard urged farmers to adapt to local conditions and changing times,” Lee said.
Witscher said of herself and of the people she meets when she films for her show, “No one wants to get rich. We want to pay our bills and farm."
Children will have an opportunity to have their faces painted with a cow motif, and there will be an area for children and families to take their photos with a calf or cow.
There will be dairy-related games for both children and adults, including trivia games, four-legged cow races, wheelbarrow races, egg toss, Day-in-the Life-of-a-Farmer relay races and more.
Enter the grilled cheese sandwich contest; for contest rules, visit the museum or go to wwww.hoardmuseum.org.
John Klettke, who has been featured in Toy Farmer magazine, will bring his 20-foot diorama that shows the history of farming through the decades. Visitors also can see the diorama of the Hoard’s Dairyman Farm built by Klettke that is a permanent exhibit in the National Dairy Shrine Museum.
There will be educational displays about the dairy industry, ice cream floats, and more. For more information, contact the museums at 920-563-7769 or www.hoardmuseum.org.