Eighty degrees with a light breeze made for a perfect night at the picturesque verdant Rumpus Ridge Farms of rural Preston June 18th. The Fillmore County Dairy Association expertly presented an event with activities for everyone.
The younger attendees took full advantage of a plethora of kid-friendly activities. Inflatables — both a bounce house and a slide/obstacle course — were a hit. Tappy’s Face Painting and Balloons by Keith provided free face painting and balloon art to very appreciative kids.
A sand table complete with circulating water and toy earthmoving equipment gave kids a chance to create roads, ponds, rivers, and islands. Nearby, a wooden cow let kids experience hand milking as they pulled rubber teats to fill their buckets with “milk.” Kids were walking around shaking medicine bottle sized vials; the vials were filled with cream. Once they’d shaken their vials long enough, they opened them to discover fresh butter to enjoy on the provided crackers.
Of course on a dairy farm, you need animals. The pen with the baby calves drew young and old alike. Guests were able to visit the barns and barnyards which held the older dry and milking cows as well. Barns, tractors, and equipment were all labeled to help visitors as they toured the farm.
Dairy Princess Kristina Biel offered and made Holstein cow hats for all the kids. Her table also offered crayons, coloring books, “Got Milk” magnets and pizza cutters/bottle openers for everyone.
Nick Ruen, Ross Cooper, and Jim Earley from the Fillmore County Cattlemen’s Association took care of grilling the multitude of burgers for the event. They estimated they had 850 or so 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 stock watering tanks held generous bottles of chocolate and white milk. A short stroll away, the Hanson Girls’ concession trailer handed out free cheese curds.
A bit further down 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 assignment very seriously as they belted out, “I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream!” They made sure no one missed the creamy treat!
Just past the tractors and bulk milk trucks on display were representatives from the USDA. They were there to let farmers know the July 15 deadline to certify acreage for CRP, annual seeded crops and pasture. They also were reminding farmers about the upcoming county committee elections in LAA1 — the townships of Spring Valley, Bloomfield, Sumner, Jordan, Fillmore, Forrestville, Beaver, York and the west third of Fillmore County. The nomination period runs through August 1.
The hosts for Dairy Night on the Farm were the Gartners. Jerry and Nancy Gartner began farming with Jerry’s parents, Frank and Ella, in 1964 with 11 cows. At one time, they were milking up to 100 cows in stanchions. In 1994, they built their milking parlor and a freestall barn; in 1998 they added a second freestall barn.
Nancy shared that they had hosted the very first dairy night on the farm on June 18, 2005. Previous to that, a breakfast on the farm had been presented. The committee from the American Dairy Association Board had decided they would try an evening event. The pleasant result was that people stayed longer and socialized more. That year had been the 50th year of selecting a dairy princess. Nancy shared that she had a picture 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 as well as their parents once again hosted the event at Rumpus Ridge Farm. They and their families spent the last couple weeks painting, adding flowers and freshening up the farm in preparation for the event — something like having company over, 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 operate the dairy now 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 acres total of owned and leased land. The hardworking farmers have the perfect attitude. Larry commented that he tries to have fun everyday 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 chatting about the event was overheard to say, “I think this is bigger than the county fair!” While that might be an exaggeration, it was indeed a fabulous opportunity for Fillmore County residents to enjoy a very pleasant evening socializing with each other and enjoying local dairy products!