||Alice in Dairyland Travel Journal by Teyanna Loether
Alice in Dairyland Travel Journal by
2811 Agriculture Dr. PO Box 8911
Madison WI 53708-8911
Phone (608) 224-5115
Farm Technology Days
Sep. 03, 2015
I closed out August with a three-day salute to the future of agriculture at Farm Technology Days. This year's Farm Tech Days were hosted in Dane County at the Statz Brother's farm, located just outside of Sun Prairie. With 6,000 acres and 4,000 cows to milk in their brand new double-50 parlor, their 3rd generation family farm was the perfect location to host a celebration of the most up and coming technology in farming.
Over the course of those three days, I was able to spend some time with the host family. I had the honor of hosting the opening ceremonies and interviewing family members in the Family Living Tent on a daily basis. This family is what warms the heart and soul of Wisconsin agriculture. The founding Stats Brothers, Donnie and Richard, purchased 80 acres of land in 1966. Through the generations the farm expanded from a stanchion barn to parlors of assorted sizes, all the way to the facility they have today which was completed this past April.
Another unique aspect of their farm is that they have two manure digesters on site. By digesting the manure in a captive tank, they are able to capture the methane produced and use the biogas to power their farm and homes through the local power company. They also have a robotic feed pusher than keeps a constant supply of feed in front of their cows, which are all microchipped and can be monitored on an individual basis through a computer system. The age of 21st century dairy was everywhere on this farm, as well as in Tent City of Farm Tech Days where high-flying drones used for crop scouting were being demonstrated.
At the end of the day though, what struck me most about this event was the support from within the family and community that could be felt surrounding Farm Tech Days. In many of my interviews with the family on stage, Joe Statz encouraged farmers to welcome change and new ideas in order to keep Wisconsin agriculture progressing sustainably into the future. It wasn't always easy, he said, because it required them weather through tough times and encouragement from their friends. But, it was all worth it because at the end of the day, they still had their family and the family of Wisconsin dairy behind them. It seems to be a common theme with many farmers I meet!
Harvest time for Hops
Sep. 01, 2015
The changing of the seasons brings harvest time for many farmers, including hops growers. Hops are native to Wisconsin, and in the late 1800's it was one of the main agricultural specialty crops that was grown. At the turn of the century hops disappeared for quite a while, due to disease of the plants and non-sustainable growing practices. It's certainly exciting to see the current hops industry back with a sustainable focus and growing in Wisconsin!
To learn more about this unique specialty crop, I toured Gorst Valley Hops while they were harvesting. Hops take some patience at the very beginning: it is a perennial plant and takes three years to reach full maturity. The bines of the hop plant grow around coconut twine which is attached to wire high above in the air. Coconut twine is used because it is biodegradable, and the leaves and twine left over after harvesting the hops at Gorst Valley are used for compost.
The female plants are what hops growers want, as they produce cone flowers on their bines. Bracts and bracteoles (small bracts) are leaf like structures that surround the entire cone, attaching to a central axis. Underneath the bracteoles are the lupulin glands, which create the magic of the hop plant. These glands contain compounds that brewers seek out, as they are what affect the flavor of beer. Gorst Valley Hops grows 17 different varieties of hops, all of which have their own unique flavor and aroma profiles. Some of them had hints of mango, lemon, or fresh cut grass!
Each variety of hops has its own special harvesting season, typically with a matter of just days where the prime window of opportunity is. Growing different varieties of hops with varying growing seasons allows growers to spread out their workload during harvesting. Just like other crops such as corn, a grower will determine the prime time to harvest based on moisture content of the cones. And, of course, the smell of the cone upon being crushed.
Once they are set to be harvested, the bines will be cut and fed through a machine similar to a combine. This separates the cones from the bines, and the cones are taken into a dehumidification system. Gorst Valley uses this method of drying the hops because it preserves the flavor profile as much as possible. The compounds within the lupulin glands are highly volatile, meaning that high heat will destroy a majority of what makes the hops so special. After drying, the cones are made into pellets for brewing.
With a new brewery being added every 17 minutes in the U.S., it's no wonder this specialty crop area is growing interest. I learned there are other interesting uses for hops as well though. Because they are high in phytoestrogens, hops can be used as alternative hormone treatment. They also make you sleepy-- some people swear by placing a rope of hops in their pillows at night!
Recipes from Alice: Blueberry French Toast Bake
Aug. 28, 2015
Little did I know that when I attended the Wisconsin State Fair Cheese and Butter Contest grading held in June I would be tasting one of the cheeses that belonged to the Grand Master Cheesemaker. Everyone was eagerly anticipating the result of the contest, as it is kept a secret until the auction held at the State Fair. The cheese that led to the award this year happens to be a goat cheese: Blueberry Vanilla Goat Cheese made by Jean Rossard and his team at Montchevré-Betin.
Our 1200 licensed cheesemakers have a unique opportunity to partner with the fact that Wisconsin is leading the nation in the number of dairy goats. This creamy, delectable chevré inspired me to put a twist on a classic dish my family makes for brunch. Including Blueberry Vanilla Goat Cheese created a unique flavor profile that had my taste testers coming back for more!
12 slices day-old bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
16 oz. Montchevre Blueberry Vanilla Goat Cheese, cubed
1 pint fresh blueberries
12 eggs, beaten
2 c. milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 c. Wisconsin maple syrup
3/4 c. white sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 1/4 c. water
1 pint fresh blueberries
1 tablespoon butter
•Lightly grease a 9x13 in. baking dish. Arrange half the bread cubes into the dish, and top with 8 oz of goat cheese cubes. Sprinkle half of a pint of blueberries. Top with remaining bread cubes, goat cheese, and blueberries.
•In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, milk, vanilla extract, and Wisconsin maple syrup. Pour over the bread cubes and refrigerate overnight.
•Remove the bread cube pan from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before baking. Preheat oven to 350°F.
•Cover, and bake 30 minutes. Uncover, and bake for 25 to 30 minutes more, until the center is firm and surface is lightly browned.
•In a medium saucepan, mix the sugar, cornstarch, and water. Bring to a boil. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring constantly. Mix in the pint of blueberries. Reduce the heat, simmer for 10 minutes until the blueberries burst. Stir in the butter and pour over the French toast bake.
Wisconsin State Fair: Day Eleven
Aug. 16, 2015
Here we are: the final, bittersweet day of the 2015 Wisconsin State Fair. What a journey it has been!
Today we broke the mark of one million fairgoers. That means more than one million people connected to agriculture in new and exciting ways. From meeting cows up close and personal in the House of Moo, watching a daily milking demonstration, trying new Wisconsin foods in the Products Pavilion, to witnessing history at the draft horse shows, people of all backgrounds were able to learn and experience agriculture in bright, living, vivid color at the Wisconsin State Fair.
I couldn't leave without stopping in to visit "Puff Daddy" at the Cream Puff Pavilion, a dairy treat that is famous to the State Fair. The Fairest of the Fairs, Deanna Schlies, and I took our final countdown picture as the afternoon sun was setting on the grounds. As I said goodbye to exhibitors in the animal barns, I couldn't help but feel a pang of sadness. There isn't a place quite like the State Fair, where such a variety of Wisconsin's $88.3 billion agriculture impact can be seen, felt, and heard. But, luckily my journey continues, and it's onward and upward to more exciting adventures during my year as Alice!
Wisconsin State Fair: Day Ten
Aug. 15, 2015
As we narrow down the days in the countdown, we wouldn't be able to complete the Wisconsin State Fair without an elegant evening at the annual Holstein Futurity. If you're ever able to attend a futurity, you will see very clearly why Wisconsin exports more bovine genetics than any other state in the nation.
The purpose of a futurity is to look to the future of the ideal dairy cow. When a calf is born from lines of superior genetics, an exhibitor can enter her into the futurity, with the goal of taking her the ring once she is mature and has reached her genetic potential. Futurities will often have two, three, or sometimes even five-year-old classes, but each cow will be entered years prior when she is first born with the hopes of showcasing the genetics that she has grown into. As the cows make their way around the shavings, the judge will select his top pick based on udder, sound feet and legs, and overall "dairy character." The qualities they search for are reflective of the ideal dairy cow that will be high producing, but also sound in their movement and legs so they can live a long, comfortable life on our nearly 10,000 Wisconsin dairy farms.
The Wisconsin State Fair Holstein Futurity was truly a showstopper. With exhibitors and dignitaries dressed in ball gowns, suits, and ties, we highlighted the beauty of our $43.4 billion dairy industry in Wisconsin!
Wisconsin State Fair: Day Nine
Aug. 14, 2015
One of the things I love most about the State Fair is that it brings agriculture to an urban setting, and allows the opportunity to learn something new each day. My part at the fair surrounds educating fairgoers on the strength and diversity of Wisconsin agriculture. One of the main ways I do this each day is through my "Mapping Out a Healthy Wisconsin" presentation in the Wisconsin Products Pavilion. This is a version of my 4th grade classroom presentation that I will do in the coming months with the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board; it's very interactive and full of fun Wisconsin agriculture facts. My willing volunteers today were eager to help me find the products grown in our state that fit onto a healthy, balanced plate. Let's see if you know the answers to a few too:
What is our state fruit that grows in bogs? We produce 67% of the nations supply of this fruit!
This vegetable is high in Vitamin A and Wisconsin ranks #1 in the nation for production of it. Any guesses what this root might be?
This protein swims in the water and is high in omega fatty acids. Wisconsin has 2,800 farms that produce this protein!
I ended the day at the ever-exciting draft horse show. It was the last night of the six horse hitches, which are a magnificent sight to see. A slight hiccup in the night made for a memorable time-- with the storms rolling through the power went out in the coliseum in the middle of a class.. But, the horses remained cool as cucumbers and soon we were back on track. The Fairest, Deanna, and I were even able to take a victory lap on the hitch of one of the class winners!
Wisconsin State Fair: Day Eight
Aug. 13, 2015
It's the moment of the State Fair that cheesemakers and cheeselovers have been waiting for.. Your Grand Master Cheesemaker is.. Jean Rossard of Montechevré-Betin for his award-winning Blueberry Vanilla Goat Cheese! I had the pleasure of joining in on the grading of a few cheese classes in June, when the State Fair cheese and butter contest is held. There were 372 total entries in 27 different cheese categories and one butter class. However, we waited two long months for the reveal of the Grand Master! This particular goat cheese was certainly one of my favorites that I taste tested-- you can't go wrong with this creamy and smooth goat cheese wrapped in sweet blueberries.
Not only was this evening a true showcase of Wisconsin's 1200 licensed cheesemakers and 600 varieties, types, and styles of cheese they make, the heart of this auction was raising funds for a great cause. The Wisconsin State Fair Dairy Promotion Board utilizes the funds raised to build the future of educating fairgoers on Wisconsin's $43.4 billion dairy industry. While at the fair, I narrate one of four daily milking demonstrations and spend time each day in the House of Moo, both of which are organized by the State Fair Dairy Promotion Board. Plans are currently in place to expand the milking parlor at the State Fair into a comprehensive education center by 2017. The financial support from the cheese and butter auction will certainly make this dream come true. With the new center, we can continue to allow more than 1 million fairgoers experience Wisconsin dairy first-hand each year!
Wisconsin State Fair: Day Seven
Aug. 12, 2015
As the junior livestock shows wrapped up in the early afternoon, excitement was building in the barns. The Supreme Champion Drive would soon take place in the Case IH Coliseum. When I was showing at the Sauk County fair, I vividly remember these drives. As an exhibitor, your heart is pounding, your nerves are at an all time high, you have one eye on your hog and one eye on the judge. You've spent an entire year with your animal, working towards this moment your whole show career. The parents are in the stands sitting on the edge of their seats. The judge always takes a moment to give his or her selection reasoning, draws out the anticipation, hands back the microphone, and slowly saunters out to shake the hand of the Grand Champ. The Supreme Champion Drive of our hogs, beef cattle, and sheep at the Wisconsin State Fair was really something to see-- all of these emotions and moments were heightened ten-fold. The excitement was electric and palpable in the arena.
One special moment stood out to me though: immediately following the selection of the Supreme Champion market lamb, the very first thing the juniors in the show ring did was congratulate each other by shaking hands and offering a celebratory hug. Even before they collected their ribbons and awards, they were supporting each other and their accomplishments. This seemingly small moment in time is a perfect representation of what the fair is all about for our youth. It's not about the color of their ribbons or where they place in the class; these details won't be what they remember 20 years from now. They will remember how they felt spending the week with their friends and family, supporting each other through good times and bad, and the dedication it took to get there.
As the Supreme Champion Drive wrapped up, we moved right in to the Governor's Blue Ribbon Livestock Auction. We were once again breaking records right off the bat, as the Supreme Champion market steer sold for $65,000 and the Supreme Champion market barrow for $35,000. The evening raised an astounding grand total of $420,000 to support the youth at the fair!
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Contact the Alice In Dairyland Program at:
2811 Agriculture Dr. PO Box 8911
Madison WI 53708-8911
Phone (608) 224-5115