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A few questions:

A. When is the last time you visited a family dairy farm?

B. Have your children ever seen a cow close-up?

C. Have you ever eaten a big breakfast in a tent with hundreds of other people?

D. When was the last time you had an ice cream sundae for breakfast?

If your answers are: “Decades ago”, "No", "No” and “Never,” you are in need of urgent care to cure your “behind the curve” dairy knowledge. The cure is easy, readily available and inexpensive. It consists of attending a June Dairy Breakfast on the Farm and having a great learning session and lots of fun with your family. And the time is now during June Dairy Month.

 

Answers

Question A  “Decades ago” This means that the modern farming world has passed you by. You will be surprised to see the dairy barn of today. Perhaps it is a free stall type where cows are never locked up and wander freely to eat, drink and rest. They may be milked in a parlor, 12 to perhaps 72 at a time with the milk going into a big stainless steel tank or directly into a semitrailer. Yes, there are many traditional dairy barns still in use but they have been updated with comfort stalls and modern ventilation.

Question B  A “No” answer means your children have been deprived of the opportunity to meet a cow or calf one on one and understand where milk, cheese, yogurt and ice cream comes from. Your children will thank you for the opportunity to gain an understanding of food animals.

A common question on the minds of many city folks is "how can I teach my children about dairy farming and milking cows?" Chances are the parents were raised on a dairy farm or visited dairy farms while growing up and would like their children to experience some aspects of dairying or at least know something about milking cows.

My first suggestion always is to attend a June Dairy Breakfast on the Farm (most every county hosts one) where one can eat a big breakfast, tour an operating farm, ask questions, see cows close up, learn what cows eat and even more important, talk to actual dairy farmers.

Question C  “No” shows you’ve not had a hearty breakfast after standing in a long line to get to the food table making you hungry, and eating won’t be just routine. There will be more scrambled eggs than you normally eat, along with maybe pancakes, sausage and cheese, And, you’ll have a chance to meet new friends sitting next to you or across the table. Your youngsters will eat like they’ve never eaten before and maybe even ask for more.

Question D  Chances are you never, ever had an ice cream sundae for breakfast (mothers often don’t serve such) but most Dairy Breakfasts have them on the menu. What could be better than looking at the farmstead, petting calves, talking to friends and eating ice cream. (With no worries about dripping on the carpeting.)

I counted over 50 June Dairy Breakfasts scheduled across the state beginning May 20 in Green county and ending in Sevastapol on July 2. Visit dairydaysofsummer.com for complete details.

 

Started in 1970

June dairy breakfasts on the farm go back to 1970 in Jefferson county when the Clever Clovers 4-H Club was looking for a project for the annual Pure Milk Association (PMA) dairy promotion contest. (The PMA later merged into AMPI, also long merged out of business.)

Somehow the idea of inviting a few city folks from nearby Fort Atkinson to a breakfast on the farm took hold and Craig and Laura Beane and children Tom and Marcia, offered their Holwis Farm near Fort Atkinson as a possible site.

The Fort Atkinson Camber of Commerce sent invitations “to visit a dairy farm and have a free breakfast — limited to the first 100 people that call.”

A success

The event was a booming success as 155 people actually attended and were fed scrambled eggs, Jones Farm sausage, Tuesday morning cake (Laura Beane's specialty), milk and strawberry sundaes. And,the Clever Clovers 4-H won the dairy promotion contest.

Thanks to the success of the farm-city gathering, the next year it became a statewide event as the Beanes again were hosts. The ADA of Wisconsin sent out invitations, the Department of Agriculture brought a huge fry pan and Lt. Governor Marty Schreiber attended and the idea spread across the state.

 

Biosecurity

It’s also easy to remember June Dairy Month in 2001. That’s the year the “hoof and mouth” panic hit dairyland and many of the traditional and popular June Dairy Breakfast on The Farm events were canceled or moved to public buildings or parks.

“Biosecurity” was the word of the times and dairy farmers and county dairy promotion committees pretty much closed down the farms and barns to visitors.

At the time I wrote about how only 15 or so of the normal 40 on farm breakfasts were going to be held. And, how I also expected that the biosecurity issue would change the time-honored farm breakfast forever. "Once you don’t do it, it will be hard to get the breakfasts back next year.”

How wrong I was!

The next year in 2002, I attended the Brown county Breakfast on the Farm at Gold Dust Dairy at which some 8,000 folks were fed — maybe one of the biggest crowds in the history of these events. Popularity of the breakfasts continues with 4,000 - 6,000 crowds not uncommon.

 

My first

I attended my first dairy breakfast in 1979 at the Maurice and Gerry Cooper farm at DeForest in Dane county. I’ll never forget shaking hands with Kansas Senator Bob Dole and remembering my son John asking why Dole shook hands-left handed and I explained that he was seriously wounded in World War II and couldn’t use his right hand.

Dane county is holding its 39th annual Dairy Breakfast on the Farm Saturday June 10 at the Blue Star Dairy in Middleton, hosted by the Meinholz family who also hosted the event in 2002 at their DeForest farm.

Take a day off, slow down, see how food is produced on Wisconsin family farms. Take the family and visit a farm, have a big breakfast, make new memories as it’s June Dairy Month! See you there.

John Oncken is owner of Oncken Communications. He can be reached at 608-222-0624, or email him at jfodairy2@gmail.com.

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