For Rick Adams and his wife, Marleen, who chair the dairy committee of the Walworth County Farm Bureau, the dairy breakfast isn’t only a good time, it has an important function for the community.
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"It’s a big positive for the community," Rick Adams said. "It brings agriculture and the consumer together and that’s always a good thing. A lot of people don’t know how farms operate anymore. There are fewer people working on farms these days. The demographics are changing, and it’s good to reconnect."
Although the dairy breakfast is the committee’s biggest event, it makes other efforts to promote dairy products throughout the county, such as bringing agricultural presentations to local classrooms and holding other events.
The Adams family starts working with the committee in December to get the dairy breakfast set up. It’s always a lot of work, but Adams said that they have great help.
"We have our meetings starting in December, then work through to June," he said. "We all work together and we’ve been doing it for a long time so it’s almost automatic. But without all the helpers and volunteers, we couldn’t accomplish this."
There also will be several contests held at the event to keep things lively, including the third year of the coffeecake contest. Entries must be prepared using at least two dairy products (no mixes). Participants must bring a piece of their coffeecake on a 6-inch paper plate along with their recipe (with the dairy products highlighted, and name, address and phone number clearly printed on the back) to the contest booth at the breakfast. Entries must be at the booth by 8:30 a.m. There are no age requirements.
There also will be hay bale tossing and milk chugging contests.
"The milk chugging contest is always fun to watch," Adams said. "I usually try to see that contest, and I can actually win it sometimes. It’s a lot of fun."
Tour a local farm
As usual, one of the big benefits of attending the dairy breakfast is the opportunity to visit a local dairy farm and spend some time understanding exactly how a large dairy operation is run. For many years the county dairy breakfast was held on location at local farms, but during the past few years they’ve made their way to the fairgrounds for safety and convenience.
"We’ve been having them at the fairgrounds for about 10 years now because of the foot and mouth disease outbreak," Adams said. "It was moved to the fair because no one wanted to host it at the time in case of any risk. A few years ago we did have it back out on a farm, because that disease scare never materialized in to anything because it ended up being an isolated case.
"But once we got to the fairgrounds we realized it was nice to have electricity, parking, paved lots and buildings. We do like the convenience of having it at the fairgrounds; everyone knows where it is."
This year’s host family is the Keizer Family Farm, located near Delavan. Anyone who has attended the dairy breakfast for any length of time may recognize the family farm this year, because they have hosted the event on their farm three times before, including in 1981, one year after purchasing the farm and building the barn and parlor.
Today the Keizer farm is owned and operated by Jack Sr. and three of his sons -- Henry, Jack Jr. and David.
"We’re happy to do it," David Keizer said. "We think it’s great for the dairy industry to be able to promote our product and actually show people what goes on at the farm."
The Keizer farm is the perfect example of a family-run farm that has been operating locally for decades. Jack Sr. serves as the farm’s general manager, David takes primary responsibility for the dairy herd, Henry works primarily with the crops and Jack Jr. keeps the farm machinery running. The Keizer farm is also a great example of what a modern dairy is like in terms of operating procedure. They’ve been holding tours for a long time, and Keizer said that people often are surprised by what they learn on a visit.
"It always surprises people just how much milk these cows give and how much they eat," David Keizer said. "An average cow can give anywhere from 60 to 100 pounds of milk a day. Some folks milk three times a day and will get 90 to 100 pounds. We average about 75 pounds of milk per cow because we only milk twice a day.
"When it comes to eating, they’ll eat anywhere from 80 to 100 pounds of feed per day depending on the moisture of the feed."
Raise a glass
There are a lot of great reasons to stop by and enjoy the dairy breakfast, but one inescapable one is the authenticity.
"It’s important for people to visit the farm because food doesn’t truly come from the grocery store," Adams said. "Everyone should connect with and see where the food is really made."
Of course, the authenticity goes a step beyond understanding the food; it also can be about the taste. Like Keizer will tell you, nothing beats a glass of fresh milk -- and you won’t know until you try it.
"I’m a tall glass of milk kind of guy," Keizer said. "I’ve got to have some milk every day. I know when I go on vacation sometimes I miss it.
"I myself drink it fresh right from the tank, and in there you run anywhere from 3 to 4 percent fat. I won’t drink that 1 percent from the store; I’ll just as soon drink a glass of water."