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BELOIT TOWNSHIP -- Two years ago, F.J. Turner High’s softball program took three sets of sisters with it to the WIAA state softball tournament.

The older siblings were all seniors, the younger siblings all freshmen.

And when the Trojans’ run ended in a Division 2 semifinal loss, many believed Turner would be back when the young sisters, themselves, reached their senior seasons.

There was only one problem. The Trojans weren’t all that interested in waiting that long.

STATELINE NEWS -- Life has come full circle for Dana and Matt Brandl, at least when it comes to their families and dairy breakfasts.

Their parents were in the spotlight in 2007 as the Karlens hosted the Green County affair while the Brandls entertained at the Rock County event.

However, Dana and Matt are doing the honors for the latter gathering this year.

The Rock County Dairy Promotion Council’s annual celebration is scheduled for Saturday, June 10, 2017,  from 6:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. on the farm at 10817 E. Lake Shore Road in Clinton. Cost is $6 for adults and $2 for children 10 and younger.

Several thousand people are expected to visit the property located on East Lake Shore Road just southeast of Clinton, which his parents, Dave and Anne, bought in 1985.

“They came to us last fall about hosting, which is kind of neat because it’s 10 years since our families did it,” Dana said. “The council has been unbelievable to work with. They have experience and have an outline of everything that’s scheduled. They do all of the set-up, and they are in charge of lining up the specialists, like a nutritionist and a veterinarian. But they’re flexible and open to other ideas.”

Meanwhile, Matt and Dana, who have been married for three years, remain in partnership with his folks but took over daily operation of the farm last year.

They have about 315 acres, 300 of them planted in corn and hay, which stays on the farm to feed a herd of 250 milking cows. They produce nearly 650,000 pounds -- 75,500 gallons -- of milk every month.

They spend about 12 hours daily milking, including cleanup, with shifts starting at 4 a.m., noon and 8 p.m.

“The people who get here early enough (for the dairy breakfast) should get to see us finish up our first milking that day,” Matt said of their parallel parlor that features eight cows on each side and involves three people, one on each side and one to move the animals in and out and clean barns.

Every ounce of that milk is accounted for, and technology has helped tremendously.

“Dad used to keep track of everything in paper notebooks,” Matt said, remembering how tough it was to find the right information sometimes. “Now, everything is computerized and much faster.”

The Brandls’ operation features a crew of about 10 full- and part-time workers, mostly family members and a couple of good friends. However, Dave endured open-heart surgery on Easter Day and isn’t back to 100 percent yet, a situation that doesn’t suit someone who enjoys the rigors of farm life.

Families like the Brandls know nothing else other than working and farming. That even applies to Matt and Dana’s 2-year-old son, Max, who takes his job seriously, hauling feed for the cows back and forth in his Little Tikes red wagon.

“I can’t imagine Matt doing anything else,” Dana said. “In farming, you need experience in so many areas … crop production, the veterinary field, fixing equipment.”

Matt responds: “When we’ve got a sick cow, I call Dana and ask her what I should do.”

That’s because she does lab work at Stateline Veterinary Service in Darien on a part-time basis.

Dana is from near Monticello, about 10 miles north of Monroe, where she and her siblings were the fourth generation to live on the land that has been in the family of Swiss ancestry since 1926.

“I helped feed calves pretty much since I started to walk,” she said.

They met at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where Matt was taking a short course in agriculture after studying business at UW-Whitewater for a year.

His yearning to return to the farm had proven to be too strong, so he followed his heart.

“It involves long days, but I love farming,” Matt said. “And I love working for myself.”

And that means, among many factors, keeping abreast of changing technology and the sometimes-volatile financial markets.

The Brandls were not affected by the recent drama involving Wisconsin milk producers and trade issues with Canada.

“Anytime you have so much milk on the market, it can affect the whole system more long term or indirectly,” he said.

They belong to the Rolling Hills Dairy Cooperative, which started in 2006 with 13 members, including Dave Brandl. Today it includes 170 farmers throughout southern Wisconsin.

And some of them no doubt were among the estimated 3,800 people who attended the previous event at the Brandl farm despite the fact Janesville and other parts of the county received rain that morning in June 2007.

“We’re anticipating around 4,500 to attend, but we’re preparing for 5,000,” Matt said.

But he and Dana are looking forward to playing host again.

“Many people still don’t know a lot about how a family farm works or where their milk comes from,” Dana said. “We treat these 300 (calves) like they’re our babies. It’s good for people to see that these families are committed to farming.”

The dairy promotions council will have a large tent and tables set up in a green space adjacent to the house, and parking will be in the field to the west. The Rock County event is one of the more than 72 breakfasts across Wisconsin promoting June Dairy Month.

The all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast includes ham patties, yogurt, cheese sticks, applesauce, ice cream, milk and coffee. Activities include tours, a crafty cow contest, music from the band Heatwave and the Rock County 4-H choir, a small animal display, tractor wagon rides and the Rock County ag ambassador leading an educational game area for children.

But the event is about much more than that.

“I like hosting the dairy breakfast because it means cleaning up some things you normally don’t get to,” Dana said, to which her husband responded, jokingly, of course, “I don’t like it because you have to clean up things you normally don’t get to.”

STATELINE NEWS -- It’s Memorial Day weekend, and summer already seems to be in full swing in the Stateline area.

    The summer festival season began Friday, as it always does, with the Young at Heart Festival in Loves Park.

But there are many other events happening throughout the summer; if if they are not on your calendar yet, the should be.

As May moves into June, it’s time to think about different ways to use that most perfect fruit of summer -- strawberries.

If you really need a reason to eat strawberries, it is good to know that about eight strawberries will contain more than 100 percent of the recommended dietary allowance of vitamin C.

FONTANA -- Chalk up Jennifer Dexter’s social media career to some happy holiday memories with cookie cutters, frosting and sprinkles.

Her earliest forays into baking as a little girl were making cut-out Christmas cookies with her mother. Gradually she added more treats to her repertoire, much to the appreciation of her family.

STATELINE NEWS -- The halfway point of the 320-mile Rock River Trail is in Beloit, where a grand opening celebration will take place June 3, 2017.

Trail runs through Wisconsin and Illinois

BELOIT -- After years of planning and preparing, the Rock River Trail officially will open Saturday, June 3, at the Rotary River Center, 1160 S. Riverside Drive in Beloit.

The event coincides with National Trails Day. Beloit was selected because it is located at the halfway point of the 320-mile trail.

The trail begins in headwaters above Horicon Marsh in Wisconsin and ends where the Rock River flows into the Mississippi River at Rock Island, Illinois. The trail traveling through 11 counties and 41 communities. 

The Rock River Trail Initiative began seven years ago to create a system of recreational trails encompassing the Rock River. Today the trail is recognized as a National Water Trail by the National Park Service.

But it’s much more than a water trail and offers many ways to experience and discover the Rock River and its river communities.

The trail offers a scenic and historic road route for touring the river corridor by car or motorcycle. In addition, there are designated routes for biking, hiking and horseback riding and an air route that links 10 airports along the river. 

Recent additions to the trail include an online map of historic sites, a brochure titled The Art Route of the Rock River Trail and the Rock River Chocolate Trail, which offers a delicious way to enjoy any trip.

To encourage exploration, the initiative has established a 320-Mile Award for individuals who reach the goal of doing the whole 320 miles of the trail, whether it’s via hiking, biking, paddling or driving.

Miles can be accumulated over any period of time and can be broken up in any segments. Participants keep their own records and self-report their accomplishments to receive their award patch. Five paddlers will be awarded their patches at the grand opening.

To commemorate the grand opening , Gary Meier and Perry Folts of Beloit will launch on June 3 for a kayak journey to the Mississippi River. The 163-mile journey will take about seven days with overnight stops at camping areas that have been established along the water trail. 

The public is invited to participate in  the many activities happening before and after the ceremony. All events are free unless otherwise indicated.

For more information on all elements of the Rock River Trail, go to  RockRiverTrail.com.

 Grand opening schedule, June 3. 2017

7 a.m. to 11 a.m. -- Fly-In/Drive-In pancake breakfast at Beloit Airport hosted by EAA Chapter 60. Enjoy a pancake breakfast and view classic cars and airplanes, $7.

9 a.m. -- Community bicycle ride hosted by the Stateline Spinners and other area riding groups from Beloit Airport to Rotary River Center. 

 9 a.m. -- Community flotilla paddle to the grand opening ceremony, launching from Armstrong Eddy Park. Must provide own kayak/canoe.

9 a.m. to noon -- Fur trader re-enactor and voyager canoe exhibit

9:30 a.m. to noon -- Booths and displays by Visit Beloit, Friends of Riverfront, Sky Dive the Rock, Rock River Trail Initiative

9:30 a.m. -- Horse trail ride at Happy Hollow Park by Rock County Multi-Use Trail Group.

10 a.m. to 11 a.m. -- Grand opening ceremony and ribbon cutting with speakers.

11 a.m. -- Riverwalk stroll; Rock Trail Coalition will lead a 2.5-mile walk on Beloit’s Riverwalk 

11 a.m. -- Kayak camping and packing for an overnight trip, a seminar by Rocktown Adventures

11:30 a.m. -- Tales from the Trail: Q&A session featuring Rock River Trail 320-Mile paddlers 

1:30 p.m. -- Fur Traders River Run guided paddle trip by Rocktown Adventures

BRADFORD TOWNSHIP -- Jill Bier looked through what was left of her barn Thursday morning to see what could be salvaged after fast-moving storms rolled through Rock and Walworth counties.

Friday, 12 May 2017 11:24

Editor's blog: Intimidation is futile

You can try to stifle a person from speaking out, but you can't stifle an idea. Just like the arcade game Whac-A-Mole, ideas -- both good and bad -- persist.

Just last week, a regular contributor to our Perspectives page received an anonymous letter in the mail criticizing what the contributor had written a week earlier in the paper.

WALWORTH COUNTY SUNDAY -- Here in the Midwest we tend to take our farms for granted, surrounded as we are by the red barns of earlier generations.

Your great-grandparents knew exactly where their food came from. Even 150 years ago, 90 percent of the population grew nearly all of its food. Today, only 2 percent does.

JANESVILLE MESSENGER -- Emily Johnson couldn’t bear to hear her dad had decided to sell the Farmall 300. The tractor had been bought by her great-grandfather, who started a farm near Orfordville in 1936. It was sold to her grandpa and later her dad, who both had ridden it through those same farm fields.

So she bought it. 

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