VERNON COUNTY - The Vernon County Dairy Breakfast will take place on Saturday, June 9, 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Wall-Stone Holsteins, Fortner Road, DeSoto – two miles west of West Prairie along Highway 82.
Wall-Stone Holsteins is a 1,600-acre, 400-head dairy operation with beef and grain operations as well. The farm is owned and operated by Kevin Walleser, Anne Marie Elwing DVM, and their two sons, William and Emil Walleser.
The two sons plan to follow in their parents’ footsteps, taking over the dairy operation when their parents retire. William is a cooperator with the county’s Land and Water Conservation Department’s cover crop initiative, and is enthusiastic about combining ‘science and conservation’ on their farm.
“Emil and I are incredibly fortunate in having parents who support us in achieving our dreams,” William said. “Now, it is our turn to step up and do our part to do what is best for the land, best for the family, and best for the team.”
Not a petting zoo
With recent hard times in the dairy industry, based on an oversupply of milk and depressed prices, the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board has recently re-branded as ‘Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin.’ The name change arrives just in time to roll out a reinvigorated campaign to promote Wisconsin’s dairy industry.
“Changing our name to Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin makes it easier for us when we are on the phone to clearly communicate who we are and what we have to offer,” said Kevin Walleser, who sits on the WMMB. “Part of what our family is trying to do with the dairy breakfast being held on our farm is to reinvigorate an old Wisconsin tradition and offer new ways for citizens to engage with the dairy industry, understand the taste and health benefits of dairy, and understand what dairy farmers do.”
Dr. Elwing was very proud of the effort her family was putting into this year’s event.
“We started planning early, reaching out to various partners in our county, and we want to make this event more than the traditional breakfast and petting zoo,” Elwing explained.
The veterinarian plans to have not just the Holstein cows that are the backbone of their family’s dairy operation, but also Jersey, Guernsey and Ayrshire breeds.
“Dairy isn’t all just black and white cows,” Elwing said. “We want to present a more complete picture of the dairy industry to our participants.”
The schedule for the dairy breakfast offers an exciting lineup of events in addition to a mouthwatering breakfast, with a special steak breakfast option.
Ticket prices for the breakfast will be $6 for adults, $2 for kids, and $10 for the ‘Udderly Hungry’ steak breakfast.
“The Beef Council is supporting the event, and the steak breakfast will feature a spice bar so participants can create their own personalized rub for their steak,” Elwing noted. “The beef industry is an incredibly important partner for the dairy industry because it gives dairy farmers a market for their dairy steers.”
The event will also feature kids activities, rides, bands, a mercantile store run by the Ferryville Cheese Store, cooking demonstrations, a grilled cheese cook-off competition, an on-farm history museum, a chance to meet members of the LaCrosse Loggers baseball team and walking tours of the farm.
Schedule of events
7 a.m. Blessing of the food – Father Eugene Wolf, breakfast service begins
8 a.m. Program – Main Stage – welcome from Dona Goede, invocation by Father Eugene Wolf, singing of the national anthem by Brittany Styles, introduction of dairy royalty and special guests, and introduction of the Walleser-Elwing family.
8:45 a.m. Music begins – ‘Under Paris Skies’ – main stage
9 a.m. Cooking demonstrations begin – ‘Beef, It’s What’s for Dinner’ – White Stage, and Elizabeth Reynolds, “Queso Fresco’ – Green Stage; 9:45 a.m. Bjorn Bergman, ‘Caprese Salad’ – White Stage, and Elizabeth Reynolds, “Queso Fresco’ – Green Stage; 10:30 a.m. Viroqua Food Co-Op – White Stage, and ‘Beef, It’s What’s for Dinner’ – Green Stage
11 a.m. Coronation of the Vernon County Dairy Princess – Main Stage
11:15 a.m. Grilled Cheese Cook-Off
Parking and busing are available at the Town of Sterling Hall, Prairie View School, and Northwest Prairie Church.
Caprese and queso fresco
One of the community partners that is supporting the event this year is the Viroqua Food Cooperative that is currently undergoing an extensive expansion of their facility with support from the community.
“We are very excited to be invited to participate in the dairy breakfast for the first time,” said Bjorn Bergman, Outreach Coordinator for the Co-op. “We support our local farmers, and dairy is a very important part of our local farming community.”
Bergman says that he plans to demonstrate making a ‘Caprese’ salad using locally grown cherry tomatoes, basil, and a fresh mozzarella cheese produced in Southeast Wisconsin.
“We love to go out into the community and support our local farmers,” Bergman said. “We plan to take the opportunity to talk about local food and join with others in our community in celebrating our local dairy farms.”
In addition, Elizabeth Reynolds, the farm’s calf feeder, and graduate of Chicago Culinary Art Institute, will prepare and sample a ‘Queso Fresco’ with Mango chutney. Queso fresco — ‘fresh cheese’ — is a cheese, traditionally made from raw cow milk or a combination of cow and goat milk. The flavor is fresh, bright, milky, and mild — a perfect complement to a variety of dishes.
4-H grilled cheese
Vernon County 4-H members will treat participants to a variety of ‘secret recipe’ grilled cheese concoctions made with Wisconsin and imported specialty cheeses.
“It is really fun to see the kids experimenting with the different cheeses their team has been issued, trying to come up with the ultimate secret winning recipe,” Elwing said. “While most of the cheeses featured in the competition will be Wisconsin cheeses, I also wanted to select one specialty imported variety to give participants a taste of a delicious cheese produced in another country, such as the Edam from Denmark.”
Organic Valley has donated their Ghee, a clarified butter prized for its rich buttery taste, enticing aroma, and its high smoke point, which makes it ideal for high-heat cooking.
Participants will be able to sample the various grilled cheese creations, and vote for their favorites. The competition will be judged by State Senator Jennifer Shilling, and the Driftless Café, among others.
Fun for the family
The event will offer fun for the whole family. Children can enjoy learning about different breeds of dairy cows, educational games, rides and walking tours of the farm.
There will be three musical acts performing at the event, including ‘Under the Paris Skies,’ a musical trio that performs Parisian-style music, Euro swing and gypsy jazz.
The farm also features a history museum, which highlights the history of Dr. Christian Christensen, MD, who was a partner to Adolf Gundersen, MD, founder of what later became Gundersen Health System. Dr. Christensen, who fancied himself a gentleman farmer, purchased the land in 1906 with a vision to build a modern farm featuring an imported herd of Guernsey cows. Dr. Christensen built many of the buildings on the farm using bricks made on the farm and incorporating innovative ideas from his native Norway.
Ferryville Cheese will partner with the Wall-Stone Holsteins in the dairy breakfast event, with a mercantile store sharing a delicious variety of cheese, curd and other dairy products. In addition, they will have homemade fudge, chocolate sea salt caramels, homemade jams and jellies, and New York style cheesecake by the slice.
The store’s Facebook page, which has enthusiastically promoted the event, reports they will be raffling off several unique items, including one raffle item specific for June Dairy month - an antique milk box loaded with yummy dairy products.
Sponsors of the event include Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin, Westby Cooperative Creamery, Organic Valley, Olson Feed Service of Seneca, Nelson’s Agri-Center, Johnson’s One Stop, Gundersen Health System, Sleepy Hollow Motors, Vernon Electric Cooperative, Vernon County Cattleman’s Association, Vernon County Dairy Promotion Committee, Western Technical College, People’s State Bank, River Bank, Vesbach Oil, Village Farm and Home of Waukon, Ronald Townsend Trucking, CCC, ASA, Compeer, Croell, Inc., Culvers, Huber Construction, and Oneida Maple Farms.