John Peterson has plenty on his mind these days with a wet spring pushing back the start of planting season.
But the northeast Wisconsin dairy farmer said it’s important to find a balance as he and his family prepare to host the Oconto County Breakfast on the Farm for the first time.
“This event is very important for us and for the dairy industry to help represent dairies big or small,” Peterson said. “It’s important to get people on the farm and be able to see and talk with them.
“There’s a disconnect, and it’s important we do our part to help reduce that disconnect. Even in our small town, when we realize the number of people who don’t understand what we do here — it’s a real eye opener. Farmers and other people have to be more approachable to open their doors to tell the story of dairy.”
The Oconto County Breakfast on the Farm is scheduled for Sunday, June 9, at Peterson’s Dairy, 6370 Goatsville Road, in the town of Lena, about two miles northwest of the village of Lena. Organizers expect between 4,000 and 5,000 attendees. Parking will be one-half mile east of the dairy; signs will provide directions.
A sunrise service starts at 7 a.m., with breakfast served from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. The menu features scrambled eggs with cheese and ham, pancakes, sausage, yogurt, apple slices, milk, orange juice and ice cream sundaes. Homemade ice cream will be made on site.
Attendees also may tour the farm, see animals at the petting zoo, participate in children’s games and activities, and listen to live music.
Peterson, who describes farming as “a very rewarding experience,” said he’s looking forward to welcoming thousands of people.
“Our neighbors hosted (a Breakfast on the Farm) when I was a teenager and I thought it was fun,” he said. “I recall being able to walk around and take tours and see neighbors and friends. It doesn’t matter if you have your own farm — it’s always nice to be able to tour other places. There’s always something you can take home from the experience.”
Peterson’s Dairy began in 1973 when Arne and Judy Peterson purchased the Ernie Frye Farm. They started milking in an old Chore-Boy swing-six parlor and bought 55 cows. Arne grew up on a dairy farm in the northwest Wisconsin village of Frederic, while Judy was raised in the southeast Wisconsin city of Burlington.
The Petersons pride themselves on staying up-to-date in the dairy industry. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s they converted to free-stall, sand-bedded housing in new barns that included a maternity area, treatment pens and holding areas.
In 2002, Peterson’s Dairy LLC was formed when Arne and Judy’s son, John, joined the operation as part owner. Over the years the farm continued to expand.
Three years ago, the Petersons updated the operation with a 482-stall, four-row free-stall with specific lactation group pens for fresh cows, heifers, dry cows, close-up cows, transition cow area, vet room and newborn calf area.
The farm’s double-16 GEA 90i parlor milks more than 1,000 registered or identification verified Holsteins.
“We’ve gotten where we are through slow, sustained growth,” said Peterson, noting the farm also prides itself on quality breeding and health management systems.
The Petersons manage 2,000 acres of corn, alfalfa and soybeans. Additional corn silage acres are grown by contract with neighboring growers.
John and his wife, Jessica, are primary owners of the farm. They receive help from their pre-teen sons, Sam, Isaac and Matthew. Arne and Judy are semi-retired but still active on the farm. In addition, the family has a team of 15 full-time employees and five high school students who also assist.
“Our success is attributed not only to our hard work and dedication to the business but also that of our current and former employees,” Peterson said. “It takes a team effort.
“We’re proud of the workforce we have employed here and the quality of employees and quality of cattle. Being in this industry is a long-term investment. You have to ride out the lows. But you can’t do anything without good quality, and we have good quality people and cattle.”
Breakfast is $8 for adults and children ages 11 and older, $4 for children ages 4 to 10, and free for children 3 and younger. Tickets may be purchased on site, or presale tickets are available at Peshtigo National Bank (Coleman, Gillett and Oconto Falls branches), N.E.W. Credit Union (Oconto, Oconto Falls and Suring branches), and the Lena Fast Stop.