Every June, passionate dairy volunteers throughout the state invite Wisconsinites to more than 70 dairy breakfasts, many of them held at daybreak on a dairy farm.
The menus are threaded with dairy delights: waffles with fruit, whipped cream and a pat of butter. Scrambled eggs with cheese. An endless supply of white and chocolate milk. Sometimes, even ice cream sundaes at 7 a.m.
The meal often ends with a free farm tour or access to educational stations, delivering a farm-to-fork experience at its finest.
“June Dairy Month has been a celebration in Wisconsin since the late 1930s, and the first organized dairy breakfast was in Jefferson County in 1970,” says Brenda Murphy, director of farmer communications and programs for the Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin. “Wisconsin is known as America’s Dairyland and has been since 1930.
It only makes sense that we celebrate a month dedicated to dairy with numerous events and celebrations.”
Throughout Wisconsin, more than 8,000 dairy farms – 96 percent of them family owned – care for 1.28 million cows that, in 2017, produced 30.32 billion pounds of milk, second only to California. Dairy contributes $43.4 billion annually to the Wisconsin economy, contributing more to the Badger State than citrus does to Florida and potatoes to Idaho, according to the Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin.
Undoubtedly, Wisconsin has plenty of reasons to celebrate cows.
Cows Take Center Stage in Communities
Parades, community fairs, string cheese giveaways and even run/walk events fill Wisconsin’s June Dairy Month calendar. In Pierce County, locals celebrate their famous cheese curds at the Ellsworth Cheese Curd Festival.
Over on the eastern side of the state, Sheboygan County hosts the Dairy Dash and Stroll. The county is home to Addie the Cow, a life-size fiberglass cow that milks, moos, and wears bells and flowers. This self-proclaimed “kid and camera magnet” with her own trailer travels throughout the county and beyond. The Sheboygan County Dairy Promotion Association owns Addie and employs a dairy ambassador who promotes dairy and gives free presentations in classrooms throughout Sheboygan County during the year.
Meanwhile, Murphy says Sheboygan County will average 3,500 to 4,000 people at its annual dairy breakfast. Jefferson County hosts between 1,500 and 2,000 at its fairgrounds. Some breakfasts in the state top 5,000 attendees, she says.
“We understand that consumers want to know more about their food and they want to get on the farm,” she says. “It reminds them of how their parents, grandparents or great-grandparents lived 60 to 70 years ago. Nowadays, most people are several generations removed the farm.”
Dairy Products Served with a Side of Education
The Green County Agricultural Chest makes it a year-round affair to promote dairy products, which members call “Green County’s gold.” The group kicks off June Dairy Month with an annual breakfast that requires 5,000 half- pints of milk, 126 pounds of ice cream mix, 110 pounds of butter and 480 pounds of cheese for an estimated 5,000 hungry visitors.
The breakfast has been held on a Green County farm for the last 38 years of its nearly 60-year history to give visitors a firsthand experience with a modern dairy farm. Farm tours or educational stations accompany nearly every dairy breakfast around the state, Murphy says. Consumers see cows, talk to veterinarians and meet dairy nutritionists.
“These breakfasts on a farm give them a glimpse of what it’s like to live the life of a dairy farmer, get up close and personal with some of these bovine beauties and have a great breakfast with their neighbors,” Murphy says.