The dairy industry drives the economy in America’s Dairyland, contributing more than $26 billion each year in economic activity and providing nearly five percent of Wisconsin’s jobs. Wisconsin leads the nation in cheese production and wins more awards for its cheeses than any other state or nation. Because dairy is so important to the state, the Badger NAMA chapter recently gave members and young professionals with the opportunity to see the industry up-close.
On July 24, about 30 participants attended the Badger NAMA Fond du Lac Farm Tour in eastern Wisconsin. The day started at Vir-Clar Farm, where the Boyke family milks about 1,300 dairy cows and produces electricity via a methane digester. Katie (Boyke) Grinstead said the family places immense focus on building good relationships with the local community and educating consumers about modern dairy farming. Next, the group headed just north of Fond du Lac to visit LaClare Farms, which is owned by Larry and Clara Hedrich. The farm milks 375 dairy goats and produces national and international award-winning cheeses on site. In recent years, the Hedrichs added a retail store and restaurant to the farm so guests can “follow their food” from the milking parlor to the locally sourced gourmet meals prepared at the restaurant. For a sweet end to the day, the group traveled to Kelley Country Creamery. Karen and Tim Kelley milk 65 cows on their 200-acre farmstead. Karen always dreamed of opening her own ice cream parlor because the treat is enjoyed by all ages. Today, the Kelley family greets thousands of guests daily as they choose from a long list of premium ice cream flavors.
After visiting three diverse farms, attendees appreciated a better perspective of what it takes to produce and marketing quality dairy products. One attendee commented, “For those of us that don’t get to a farm very often, it was a great opportunity to learn more about technology, operations and the innovative spirit that is keeping the farming industry alive and prosperous.”
To view more pictures from the dairy tours, visit Facebook.com/BadgerNAMA.