A perfect dairy night on the farm

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Myla and Maren Duxbury really enjoyed the baby calves at dairy night on the farm in Rumpus Ridge.
Photo by Wanda Hanson

Eighty degrees with a light breeze for a perfect night at the scenic, leafy Rumpus Ridge Farms in rural Preston on June 18. The Fillmore County Dairy Association expertly presented an event with activities for everyone.

The young participants took full advantage of a plethora of child-friendly activities. The inflatables – both a bouncy house and a slide / obstacle course – were a hit. Tappy’s Face Paint and Balloons by Keith provided free face paint and balloon art to very grateful children.

A sand table with water circulation and earth-moving equipment allowed children to create roads, ponds, rivers and islands. Nearby, a wooden cow allows children to experience hand milking by pulling rubber nipples to fill their buckets with ‘milk’. Children walked around shaking vials the size of medicine bottles; the bottles were filled with cream. Once they had shaken their bottles long enough, they opened them to discover fresh butter to enjoy on the crackers provided.

Mark, Larry, Nancy and Jerry Gartner worked with their families and employees to organize Dairy Night.
Photo by Wanda Hanson

Of course, on a dairy farm, you need animals. The pen with the baby calves attracted young and old. Guests were able to visit the barns and barns which also housed the old dry and dairy cows. The barns, tractors and equipment were all labeled to help visitors when touring the farm.

Dairy Princess Kristina Biel donated and made Holstein cow hats for all the children. Her table also offered crayons, coloring books, “Got Milk” magnets, and pizza cutters/bottle openers for everyone.

Nick Ruen, Ross Cooper and Jim Earley of the Fillmore County Cattlemen’s Association took care of grilling the multitude of burgers for the event. They estimated they had around 850 burgers on hand to feed the crowd.

For a donation, you could get your choice of cheeseburgers, macaroni and cheese (with real cheese!), au gratin potatoes and coleslaw, efficiently served by volunteers under the big tent. At the back of the tent, huge water tanks held generous bottles of chocolate and white milk. A few steps away, the Hanson Girls concession trailer handed out free cheese curds.

Seven-month-old Paisley Schwichtenberg befriended a baby calf. Paisley is the daughter of Cole and Bailey Schwichtenberg of Lanesboro.
Photo by Gretchen Schwichtenberg

A little further up the path was the ice cream trailer. Volunteers from the Carimona Cruisers 4-H group and Dairy Ambassadors enthusiastically served ice cream and toppings to all. Korra Biel, Sawyer Johnson, Amarissa Ladd, Claira Johnson, Cole Lacey and Klara Biel took their mission very seriously as they shouted, “I’m screaming, you’re screaming, we’re all screaming for ice cream!” They made sure no one missed the creamy treat!

Right after the tractors and bulk milk trucks on display were USDA officials. They were there to inform farmers of the July 15 deadline to certify acreage for CRP, annual sown crops and pasture. They also reminded farmers of upcoming county committee elections in LAA1 – the townships of Spring Valley, Bloomfield, Sumner, Jordan, Fillmore, Forrestville, Beaver, York and the western third of Fillmore County. The nomination period runs until August 1st.

The hosts of Dairy Night on the Farm were the Gartners. Jerry and Nancy Gartner started farming with Jerry’s parents, Frank and Ella, in 1964 with 11 cows. At one time they milked up to 100 cows in ranchers. In 1994, they built their milking parlor and a free-stall barn; in 1998 they added a second free-stall barn.

The Carimona Cruisers 4H group and a few dairy ambassadors enjoyed their mission to serve ice cream.
Photo by Wanda Hanson

Nancy shared that they hosted the first-ever farm dairy night on June 18, 2005. Prior to that, a farm breakfast was featured. The American Dairy Association Board Committee had decided to try an evening event. The pleasant result was that people stayed longer and socialized more. That year had been the 50th year of selection for a dairy princess. Nancy shared that she had a photo from that night of 25 previous princesses, all lined up on a berm in the yard.

This year on the same night, 17 years later, sons Larry and Mark and their parents hosted the event again at Rumpus Ridge Farm. They and their families have spent the past two weeks painting, adding flowers and sprucing up the farm in preparation for the event – ​​something like having company, but on a much larger scale.

Jerry and Nancy have two other children who grew up and helped on the farm as well – Theresa and her husband Mark Nunebacher now live in St. Charles; Chris and his wife Steph Gartner who live in Byron.

Larry and Mark now operate the dairy with the help of valued employees, their semi-retired father and mother, and family members. They milk about 500 cows and farm about 1,000 total acres of owned and leased land. Hardworking farmers have the perfect attitude. Larry commented that he tries to have fun everyday by working hard. Mark and Larry’s successful farm shows the results of their work ethic.

The 2022 Dairy Night on the Farm was a great success. A man discussing the event was heard saying, “I think it’s bigger than the county fair!” While this may be overkill, it was indeed a fabulous opportunity for the residents of Fillmore County to have a very enjoyable evening socializing with each other and enjoying some local dairy!

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