The prospect of tantalizing food, a chance to test your dairy trivia knowledge, the opportunity to meet dairy farmers and an occasion to take a peek at farm animals may seem like status quo for a dairy breakfast in America’s Dairyland in June.
But this year is anything but status quo. With most dairy breakfasts in the state postponed or canceled, options for providing that dairy breakfast atmosphere in social-distancing aware world seemed limited, but with as resilient an industry as dairy is, where there was a will, there was bound to be a way to bring each of those items to the table, even if only metaphorically.
But even as a couple of breakfasts found new ways to move forward with a reworked June Dairy Month event, many Wisconsinites were still faced with an empty calendar as the month drew near. That calendar wouldn’t have to stay empty for dairy breakfast fans for much longer, though.
Dairy breakfast enthusiasts statewide were finally able to pencil something in when an announcement was made near the turn of the month that an online alternative to celebrate the dairy industry with one of the most recognizable spokespersons for Wisconsin agriculture would be offered June 6, providing an opportunity to enjoy many of the most-loved things about dairy breakfasts tweaked in a suitable way for the circumstances.
Abigail Martin, the 72nd Alice in Dairyland, along with her family and other guests, would welcome thousands to the family’s Rock County farm for a virtual dairy breakfast.
While serving dairy treats through electronic screens wasn’t exactly feasible, Martin, in conjunction with Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin, was still able to present a three-hour livestream featuring a dairy-filled recipe, a farm tour, a craft, rounds of dairy trivia and Q-and-As, and more.
In announcing the event on Facebook earlier that week, Martin said that they were “really excited to bring the entire dairy breakfast experience to life virtually.”
Martin broadcast live from her family’s farm, of which she and her brother are the fourth generation. Martin’s family joined in on the live portions of the event, as did other locals who stopped by to show viewers a pig, sheep, chickens and ducks as well as to answer any questions viewers had.
The live broadcast was interspersed with pre-recorded segments and messages from others, including Gov. Tony Evers, Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection Secretary-designee Randy Romanski, and 2020 Fairest of the Fairs Cayley Vande Berg.
Farm tour segments took viewers to or through places on the farm, including the farm’s free-stall barn, feed bunker, calf hutches, fields and milking parlor with narration on what purpose each area of the farm served and how farmers maintained or cared for each part of the farm.
The Martins’ farm is comprised of 600 acres and 200 cows. Martin’s father and uncle are the farm’s primary operators.
While the actual cooking had to be left to viewers, an in-the-kitchen segment with Martin and her mother walked viewers through an aged cheddar rhubarb upside-down cake recipe, which can also be found on wisconsincheese.com among other dairy recipes. Martin also walked viewers live through the art of crafting a cheeseboard.
The live segments encouraged audience participation through live comments on the Facebook stream that were monitored from the farm. Viewers could inquire about the farm itself, the dairy industry, the history of Alice in Dairyland, or other topics. They could comment where they were watching from, which dairy items could be found as part of their at-home breakfasts or guesses of the answers to trivia.
A popular contest that ran throughout the livestream was the opportunity to submit an entry for the name of one of the farm’s calves. Martin and her father introduced the initially nameless calf to viewers and asked the audience to submit their suggestions in the comments, noting that the calf’s mother’s name was Fresco if viewers wanted to pick another F name but that suggestions related to dairy or other topics would also be welcome.
The winning name for the calf, which was born on June 1, World Milk Day, was chosen for honoring another segment of Wisconsin agriculture: the potato industry. As the livestream began to wind down, Martin and her father announced that the calf was to be named French Fry.
Even though the dairy breakfast experience had to be modified to fit the circumstances, the response to the livestream version appeared overwhelmingly positive among those commenting.
While the live event has concluded, anyone still interested in viewing the breakfast to get into the Dairy Month spirit can do so on the Alice in Dairyland Facebook page.
This year’s Alice in Dairyland finals, to be broadcast virtually, are scheduled for this Friday and Saturday, June 19-20.