Time to enjoy Breakfast on the Farm
The month of June is just around corner and with it comes June Dairy Month, a time for the celebration of cows, cheese and all dairy products. The whole thing started in the late 1930’s when a national drug store initiated “National Milk Month” as a way to increase their dairy counter business in light of the annual spring milk surplus.
80 years ago
In 1940, Wisconsin Governor Julius P. Heil officially proclaimed “June Dairy Month". While June Dairy Month has received some token recognition nationally, it remains mainly a Wisconsin tradition and event with dairy breakfasts on the farm (some fifty or so) as a key ingredient.
Wisconsin’s June Dairy Breakfast on the Farm tradition dates back to 1970 when the Clever Clovers 4-H Club in Jefferson County Wisconsin was looking for a project for the annual Pure Milk Association (PMA) dairy promotion contest. 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 at Fort Atkinson as a possible site. The Fort Atkinson Chamber of Commerce sent their members invitations “to visit a dairy farm and have a free breakfast...limited to the first 100 people that call.”
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 recipe), milk and strawberry sundaes. And...the Clever Clovers 4-H won the dairy promotion contest.
The idea spread across the state and except for a slowdown a couple of times when fears of Foot and Mouth disease and the recent pandemic caused many counties to cancel their events, they are back on the schedule again this year.
The Green County June Dairy Breakfast has become what one might call the “kickoff breakfast” as it is usually the first Breakfast held each year (Saturday, May 28 this year). It's almost a county festival, with the farm animals, (not always a dairy farm), the big craft show, exhibitor tent and machinery (old and new) display and food – lots of it!
Credit the Green County Ag Chest and the hundreds of volunteers and donors they assemble to stage the event. The date this year is Saturday, May 28, the location is Duane and Jeanne Meier Farm, W3095 Oliver Road, Monticello, WI,
The Green County Ag Chest was organized in 1958 when the Green County Dairy Promotion Committee and the Green County Agricultural Foundation merged. Their purpose is to promote Green County, its products, its resources, and its people, especially youth and youth activities involved with home economics and agriculture.
The Green County Ag Chest sponsors many projects including: Dairy Queens Program, Breakfast on the Farm, Dairy Days, Green County Tourism, 4-H Club & FFA chapter trips, State Fair transportation and scholarships.
The first dairy breakfast was held at a Juda Church in 1961 with June Dairy Month kickoff breakfasts held every year from 1961 through 1979 at various churches and schools.
Transition to farms in 1980
Breakfasts held on a farm in Green County started as an idea of Green County Ag Chest enthusiasts at a meeting on November 12, 1979. The idea was to move the breakfasts away from schools and churches to a direct "on-the-farm site" where visitors could get firsthand knowledge of what makes up a modern dairy farm today.
Without any doubt, the idea was a hit and became popular statewide with most counties holding their own June Dairy Breakfasts (except for the pandemic years). The annual breakfasts held over the years show the consumer's continued interest in visiting a farm with many thousands of attendees each year. At the same time the sponsorship, in terms of finances and volunteers, has brought the agriculture community together.
How many eaters?
I'm often asked how many people attend a June Dairy Breakfast. It depends on the weather and location. Some years ago the Green county breakfast suffered a heavy rain in the early morning which cut the crowd size from a normal 5,000 to maybe 2,000. Many years ago over 8,000 eaters came to the Brown County Breakfast.
My guess is that the crowds generally range from 2,500 to 6,000. How do people dress is another first time question. Jeans and walking shoes is my answer. And the price? About $3 to $5 for kids and $6 to $10 for adults. That includes ice cream sundaes –a dessert alone worth at least.$5.
Why do it?
The county dairy committees spend much time and effort to hold the breakfast events. Why?
“To promote the dairy industry,” is the common answer. But, I’ve long felt it really centered on dairy agriculture’s pride in their profession and the desire to share it with others. They do it by telling the story of great products, a lifestyle and an industry that is in a constant state of change. It’s an expression of pride and sharing it with others. See your local farm newspaper or call Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin (608-203-7234) or visit their website https://www.wisconsindairy.org/dairymonth for times & locations.
John Oncken may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org