Clara Hedrich retired three years ago after serving as an agriculture teacher for 39 years. But that hasn’t stopped her from continuing to provide meaningful lessons about Wisconsin’s agricultural industries.
Hedrich played a lead role in organizing Meet Your Local Farmer: A Farm to Table Tour, an event held April 28 that enabled the public to visit six farms in Calumet and Fond du Lac counties. She founded the event last year in conjunction with the Calumet County Farm Bureau.
This year’s tour concluded at LaClare Family Creamery near Pipe with a wine and cheese reception and a buffet dinner. The meal featured products from each of the six farms for a true farm-to-table experience.
Meet Your Local Farmer is especially meaningful to Hedrich, who grew up on a small dairy farm and returned to her rural roots in 1978 when she and her husband, Larry, purchased a 22-acre farm near Chilton. They raised five children and started LaClare Family Creamery, a dairy goat operation that has developed into one of the best in the world.
“These days, there are so many people who are so far removed from generations that were on the farm before us,” she said. “To me, we just don’t have much of that anymore. There are less and less people who have those opportunities.”
Meet Your Local Farmer presented the community with precisely that opportunity. Each of the six farms on the free, self-guided tour featured a different specialty. Farm owners were on hand to talk about their operations and answer questions.
Darren Sattler, owner of Sattler Farm Lamb near Chilton, said people may see lamb on a restaurant menu or in a store but sometimes they’re afraid to try it. But the dozens of people who toured the farm as part of Meet Your Local Farmer were encouraged to taste samples and learn more about lamb.
“So many kids nowadays don’t have the experiences to know where food comes from,” Sattler said. “This gives them a chance to see for themselves and ask questions and see what’s going on inside the barn instead of just driving by.”
Larry Meyer, owner of Jenlar Holsteins and Brown Swiss near Chilton, echoed similar sentiments, saying, “Opening our doors helps people get a better understanding of a dairy farm and everything that happens behind the scenes. That’s why I think something like this is so important.”
This year’s event featured two more farms than last year. LaClare Family Creamery and Sattler Farm Lamb participated both years.
Here’s a look at the six farms included on this year’s tour:
LaClare Family Creamery: Established in 1978, the farm allows guests to view dairy goat milking, on-site milk processing and cheese affinage. The retail shop carries many local products. An on-site café uses locally sourced produce. Larry and Clara Hedrich and four of their five children own and operate the business.
Sattler Farm Lamb: The fifth-generation farm offers lamb in 13 different cuts, and half and whole carcass sales are available in the fall. Sheep are fed with locally produced feed, and ewes have hay produced on the farm as well.
Jenlar Holsteins and Brown Swiss: Larry and Jennifer Meyer’s herd is comprised of 135 cows along with 120 head of youngstock. The farm installed two Lely milking robots last spring. Andy and Joan Meyer are involved with the daily chores along with cropping on the farm’s 450 acres. Jenlar exhibits show cattle at various local and state events, as well as World Dairy Expo.
Ledgeview Farms: Established in 2008, Ledgeview Farms is a hydroponic greenhouse that produces tomatoes and English cucumbers. It’s operated by the Deborah and Leonard Opsteen family. Seeds are started in late December, and nearly 3,000 plants are selected to be grown in the 12,000-square-foot facility. Horticulturist Heather Guelig cares for the plants throughout the season. Produce is marketed to local farm-to-school programs, restaurants, supper clubs, grocery stores and farmers’ markets.
Moehn Acres and Sunrise Valley Organics: The 260-acre, certified organic farm raises 100 percent grass-fed beef and organic/pastured chicken, turkey and pork. The farm store features a variety of meat products, soaps and other natural health items.
Kesler Family Farm: Kesler specializes in beef cattle raised solely on the farm’s own crops.
Hedrich said she’s planning for a third annual Meet Your Local Farmer and hopes other communities throughout Wisconsin hold similar events.
“It’s an opportunity to showcase what we have in Calumet and Fond du Lac counties,” Hedrich said. “Farmers work very hard to produce food for other people, so it’s great that those people can see that for themselves and interact with their local farmers.”