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home : news : print edition (click here) July 25, 2017

5/15/2017 3:26:00 PM
Stegers stepping up to host their fifth dairy breakfast
Crawford County family busy preparing for June 3 event
The Stegers  (from left) Terry, Emily, Jessica, Tim and Char  will host their fifth Crawford County June Dairy Breakfast on their dairy near Prairie du Chien, Wis.PHOTO BY RON JOHNSON
The Stegers (from left) Terry, Emily, Jessica, Tim and Char will host their fifth Crawford County June Dairy Breakfast on their dairy near Prairie du Chien, Wis.
Terry Steger hangs a sign by Highway 27 and Irish Ridge Road, just north of Prairie du Chien, Wis., directing passersby of the upcoming breakfast of the farm.PHOTO BY RON JOHNSON
Terry Steger hangs a sign by Highway 27 and Irish Ridge Road, just north of Prairie du Chien, Wis., directing passersby of the upcoming breakfast of the farm.
PRAIRIE DU CHIEN, Wis. - June 3 will bring a flood of memories to the people of Steger Farms near Prairie du Chien, Wis. That's when the Stegers will host the Crawford County June Dairy Breakfast for the fifth time.
The Steger family includes Terry; his brother, Tim; Tim's wife, Char; and their daughters, Jessica and Emily.
The older generation of Stegers hosted the breakfast on their 480-acre farm for the first time 24 years ago, in 1993. The second hosting was in 2002, with the third in 2009, and the fourth time in 2013.
The Stegers decided to offer their ridgetop farm just three miles north of Prairie du Chien once again because the dairy breakfast committee needed a site. And, a spot was needed that's fairly easy to find and with plenty of room for parking, Tim said. Those two criteria rule out many farms in the rugged, southwest Wisconsin county.
The Stegers have found good reasons to open their 60-cow farm for the June event every few years.
"In 1993, we just thought it was a good thing to do. I was young and foolish then," Tim said.
Said Char, "It's nice to give people the opportunity to see how a farm works."
The 2001 breakfast was canceled, due to concerns about hoof-and-mouth disease caused by an outbreak in Great Britain. So instead of holding the event on a farm, the breakfast committee decided to move it to St. Feriole Island, at Prairie du Chien, Tim said. Flooding by the Mississippi River washed away that plan, and the 2001 breakfast did not take place.
But the next year, the Stegers volunteered to take on the 2002 breakfast.
"We wanted to help make sure it kept going," Tim said.
One tidbit of the 2002 breakfast that the Stegers remember is the container of boot disinfectant by the barn door, what with memories of hoof-and-mouth still fresh in people's minds.
"Just about everybody walked around it (the disinfectant), except for the little kids," said Tim, chuckling.
Seven years later in 2009, the Stegers stepped forward again. That time they hosted the breakfast so their children, who were quite young in 2002, could experience the event and remember it, Char said.
Their 2013 hosting centered around keeping the breakfast going and letting Emily and Jessica become involved with the work.
This year, the family is holding a high school graduation party for Emily, and will spruce up the place for that. So, having the dairy breakfast at the farm won't entail much extra work, Tim said.
There are things to do before June 3 rolls around. However, the load will be carried by many hands. Besides breakfast committee members, the Crawford County Dairy Promoters will pitch in, as will volunteers from area businesses.
An afternoon in late April found the Stegers already preparing the farm. Terry lives at his own place just one-tenth of a mile from Tim and Char, and milks 40 registered Holsteins in his barn. Terry was in a hay field by Highway 27 and Irish Ridge Road, setting up a dairy breakfast sign.
Other tasks that will soon commence include touching up the white paint on Tim and Char's set of buildings, where breakfast activities will take place and visitors will park. Tim and Char milk 20 registered Holsteins in their small barn.
Terry and Tim crop the 300 tillable acres in an informal partnership, growing corn, oats and alfalfa. They manage 30 crossbred beef cows, too. Char works at the prison in Prairie du Chien. But even with plenty of other work to do, all three Stegers are confident the breakfast can come off without a hitch.
Char's father, Bob Ross from Oconomowoc, Wis., will visit for two weeks to help paint the buildings and spruce up the place. There's mowing, trimming, planting and raking to do, along with planting flowers.
"Half the stuff on the list won't get done," said Tim, even though they will have extra help.
By the Friday night before the breakfast, the Steger farm will look as though a circus has arrived. The big tent will go up in front of the machine shed, with several smaller tents being set up near it.
The largest tent - 40-by-60 feet - along with the machine shed, will house approximately 50 picnic tables. Registration and ice cream serving will take place in the smaller tents.
By Friday, the electric company will have two additional service panels installed, Terry said. That will let volunteers cook breakfast in the garage without worrying about the five roasters and six coffee pots overloading the circuits.
The day before the breakfast will also see temporary fencing erected, to help guide the crowd to various areas. Volunteers will slice nearly 300 pounds of Wisconsin cheese on Friday night, too.
Friday will bring people driving past the farm, at 60724 Irish Ridge Rd., curious about where to park the next day, Tim said. The Stegers have set aside four acres of a hay field for all the cars and trucks.
Approximately 2,500 people who like a hearty breakfast are expected to show up, Tim said. Serving starts at 6 a.m. and runs until 10 a.m.
Many breakfast-goers are from the surrounding area. But over the years, folks from as far away as Texas, New York and California have registered, Tim said. The committee puts up handbills promoting the breakfast and flyers are placed in motels.
Some people attend the breakfast because the price is right, Tim said. Adults eat for $2 each, while the cost is $1 for children ages 6 to 12. Kids younger than 6 eat free.
This year's meal includes pancakes, sausage links, cheese, cheese curds, cottage cheese, apple sauce, pudding, and Culver's shakes and custard.
Some of the food, such as the cheese and milk, is donated, along with such necessities as napkins and plates. The breakfast committee uses the previous year's proceeds to buy the rest.
Tim's copy of the grocery list calls for the meal using 320 pounds of sausage, 225 pounds of squeaky curds, 180 pounds of cottage cheese, 40 gallons of pudding, 30 gallons of shake mix, 280 to 300 pounds of cheese, and 3,200 pats of butter. As for the milk, 2,500 cartons will be served.
One star of the meal will be the chocolate milk.
"Little kids going through the breakfast line, their eyes light up when they find out they can have chocolate milk for breakfast," Tim said.
Besides breakfast itself, the event offers other attractions. The Stegers will have some of their farm machinery out for people to see and for kids to climb on. A neighbor will bring a few vintage Minneapolis-Moline tractors.
Emily and Jessica Steger will have a few of their show cattle tied outside for viewing and petting. Tim will have the barn open so guests can watch him milk, starting at 6:30 a.m. Young calves will be fed their bottles of milk at about 8 a.m.
"The smaller kids are amazed at how they drink that milk," Terry said.
The dairy breakfast is a good way to bring non-farm folks back to their roots.
"People are not touching the farm anymore," Tim said. "Everybody's grandparents or uncles had farms, at one time. But now, there are fewer of them."
Asked what information breakfast guests take home with them, Terry said, "That the food is safe."
Said Char, "And that milk does not come from a grocery store."
By noon on June 3, everybody will be gone, said Char, speaking from experience.
"If it wasn't for the tents and garbage, you wouldn't know anything happened here," she said.
A nap will be Terry's top priority around noon.

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