Kids in Outagamie County, Wisconsin, got a special treat when they got to meet Santa Claus at the MilkSource Genetics show barn for the “Santa Comes to the Farm” event sponsored by the Outagamie County Farm Bureau and the Outagamie Dairy Promotion. Bill Harke, director of public affairs for MilkSource Genetics, tells us all about it.
Q. What was MilkSource’s involvement in the event?
A. We were approached two years ago. The Outagamie County Farm Bureau was looking to do something to get younger kids to come out and see a dairy farm, since it’s a huge dairy county in Wisconsin. They approached us with the idea of doing a “Santa Comes to the Farm” event. We agreed to do it at our show barn because it was more of a controlled environment and allowed us to open the barn up for people as well as have Santa Claus come to the farm and greet the kids.
Q. Besides the Outagamie County Farm Bureau and MilkSource, who else was involved in putting on the event?
A. Last year, it was pretty much the Farm Bureau and us, and we had a whole bunch of kids involved from the Freedom FFA. Freedom is the local town here. Probably a dozen of those kids were just rock stars with what they did because it was so bitter cold. This year, we also had the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board – they came on board to help – and this year, we also added the Dairy Business Association and Elanco, which was great, because they heard about it and joined and put together a deal with coming up with matching funds to give food to a local food pantry for all the kids who sat on Santa’s lap, and the Milk Marketing Board helped us get Alice in Dairyland to come up this year, so she actually got to introduce Santa Claus to the kids.
Q. Where else has Santa visited?
A. We have a number of dairy farms that we run in Wisconsin. Not so much as part of the event, but as part of our social media outreach on our Facebook page, we’ve had Santa Claus go visit several of our farms, so for the next couple of days, we’ll be featuring Santa out there with the cows.
Q. Where did all the volunteers come from?
A. Most of the elves are members of the MilkSource staff, who are probably still 12 years old at heart. One was our HR director. One was a senior accountant. And we had one of our community liaisons, which is one of the people who comes and does our tours for us at one of our farms. And then, Elanco found somebody who had reindeer, so he brought a reindeer and had a couple of people from Elanco dress up as elves to be with the reindeer.
That was a challenge, too, because the original plan was to have them outside to greet the people when they come in, but it was so cold that we ended up putting them in the barn. It created a challenge, but we made it work. We had world champion cows like Martha [supreme champion, World Dairy Expo 2016] right next to a reindeer. Not everybody can see something like that all the time.
Q. How many people came?
A. It was so bitterly cold that we thought people wouldn’t want to show up. Last year, we had a total of about 300 visitors, but we didn’t think we’d reach that, but we ended up having about 450 come through this year. It was pretty spectacular. We tried to readjust some of the inside area so that people got out of the cold a little bit quicker.
Q. Do you plan on continuing this event in the future?
A. Originally, we were asked to do this for one year. Then we said we’d do it again, so now we’ll see what happens next year. I think that the idea of the Farm Bureau, which is a good one, is something that can go around from different areas; we’re just well-equipped to have it at our genetics farm. We’ve actually looked at how it works and concluded that this might be something that we can, somewhere down the road, look at moving from farm to farm. I can’t say whether we will or won’t do it next year. We’re already committed to doing the Winnebago County Breakfast at the Farm and the Omro Dairy, so that’s going to take a lot of our resources for next year, so we’ll have to take a look and see.
Members of the Outagamie County Farm Bureau, the Outagamie County Dairy Promotion and Freedom FFA chapter also provided volunteers that helped run the event, handed out cookies and milk, and goody bags, and helped monitor and direct guest traffic through the barns.
View the full slideshow from the event below.
PHOTO: Santa greeted 450 guests at the Outagamie County Farm Bureau-sponsored “Santa Comes to the Farm” event. Photo courtesy of MilkSource Genetics.