Head towards the Viola direction this Sunday, June 14, and enjoy the 35th annual Richland County Dairy Breakfast, hosted by Sylvan-T Farms/Turgasen Family.
Breakfast will be served from 7 a.m.-1 p.m. at the farm, located at 19811 County Hwy. EE. Event organizers urge attendees to park in the Richland Center High School parking lot and take the free shuttle bus to the farm.
The menu consists of pancakes, sausage, yogurt, cottage cheese, cheese curds, applesauce, sliced cheese, string cheese, yogurt tubes, chocolate and white milk, and hand-dipped ice cream. The cost is $7 for adults and $3 for children age 10 and under.
Nestled into the rolling countryside of Richland County, lies the farmstead of Sylvan-T Farms. Sylvan-T Farms has been operated for three generations by the Turgasen family and is home to John and Connie, along with their son Mark and daughter-in-law Rachel.
John’s parents, Frank and Mary Turgasen got the family started into registered Holsteins when they bought half of a purebred herd from the Buch brothers. John’s father always had an interest in registered cattle and had even worked with two other registered herds before buying his own. “The cattle on the farm have always been 100 percent,” noted John. In fact, the farm has made few purchases, thus most of the bloodlines can be traced back to the original 20-cow purchase.
Fred and Mary started renting the original farm in 1951 and purchased it in 1958. They then purchased a neighboring farm in 1959. With seven children, John being the oldest boy, there were always plenty of hands to help on the farm. John enjoyed the farm and was involved with FFA and 4-H. Because of his enjoyment of the youth programs, John attended UW-Platteville, where he majored in agricultural education. John’s wife Connie also grew up on a dairy farm. John and Connie dated through high school together and they both showed at state and county fairs.
Although John intended to teach at Darlington after graduation, his plans were changed when he drew the number three in the draft and was ordered to serve in Vietnam. With a turn for the worse, John’s brother, Paul, was killed in an automobile accident while John was in the service. At the time John received a deferment so that he could help his parents with the farm. That fall John returned home for good.
John and Connie got married in 1969 and started their involvement in what was then the Frank Turgasen Farm. In the early 1970s Frank and John established Sylvan-T Farms, Inc. a family farm that would be transferred on through the generations. Although Connie taught home economics in Darlington, she became a full-time mother after the birth of their children. John and Connie’s children, Paul, Shelly and Mark, all grew up involved on the farm and showed at the county fair and were active in FFA, 4-H and Junior Holsteins.
While Paul and Shelly pursued careers in other fields, Mark pursued an interest in dairy and the farm. After graduating from Richland Center High School, he attended UW-Richland and then UW-Platteville with Rachel. Mark and Rachel dated all through high school and college. Also, during college Rachel participated in an international student exchange program and attended the agricultural Hogeschool located in Dronten in the Netherlands during the spring 2001 semester. During this exchange, her studies paid particular attention to dairy genetics, health and nutrition.
Mark traveled to the Netherlands while Rachel was studying there. Both Rachel and Mark have a degree in Animal and Dairy Science from UW-Platteville. Upon graduation, Mark returned back to the farm to become a partner in the family business. Rachel, who is active on the farm, has a full-time position off the farm with Foremost Farms.
The farm has grown in size since its original 120 acres. The farm currently consists of 470 acres, with 300 tillable. They grow all their feed except for a protein supplement that they purchase. In addition, the herd has grown in size from the original 20 to the current 75. The farm’s current rolling herd is 27,883 pounds milk with 1,000 pounds of fat and 857 pounds protein. The herd’s BAA is 107.7; additionally the farm has been awarded a Progressive Breeder Registry for 22 years.
Since John, Connie, Mark and Rachel all grew up in Richland County, it is no surprise to see they are incredibly active in their county’s dairy industry. Both Mark and John have been involved with the Richland County Holstein Association, with Mark currently serving as treasurer. In addition, John has served as Richland County Fair Dairy Superintendent for the past 35-plus years and has also been a 4-H leader for 30 years. Sylvan-T Farms has also been the host to two Richland County Twilight meetings and the 2002 Richland County Dairy Breakfast. In 2004, Sylvan-T Farms was even a campaign stop for President George Bush and First Lady Laura Bush.