June 27, 2022 at 9:33 p.m.
“We need to teach the public about agriculture to ensure a deeper understanding of its importance for current and future generations,” Michael said. “If we don’t start doing this, the situation will be even worse than it is now for our grandkids and great-grandkids.”
Located on the property the Butlers call home, 40 head of youngstock from calves to bred heifers, as well as goats, pigs, chickens, rabbits and ducks reside at Diamond Vu Agricultural Education Center. Michael, a passionate breeder of registered Holsteins, also has 45 milk cows that are currently housed at other farms.
“The goal is to bring the cows here,” he said. “I’m hoping to bring them home within the next year, but I wish they’d been here yesterday already.”
In addition, Michael is a herdsman at a 400-cow dairy, and Nicole is a teacher. The Butlers and their son, Austin, enjoy welcoming the public to their place. Since the fall of 2020, they have been hosting educational events that attract thousands of people. The Butlers were inspired to start the center after seeing a growing need to educate individuals about the why and how of agriculture.
“As we were looking for a property to buy, we kept that in mind, and location was critical,” Michael said. “We wanted to find a place that would be accessible to many people.”
Located just off Highway 23 near Kohler, the farm they decided on turned out to be exactly what the Butlers had in mind.
“We’re in a great location,” Michael said. “People from all over the country come to this area. It’s a tourist spot.”
Sundae on the Farm is the Butlers’ primary educational event. Featuring 25 stations manned by experts on everything from nutrition and bees to herbs and composting, the event, Nicole said, also includes experiences with animals of all kinds – from dairy calves and heifers to goats, pigs and more.
“People want to interact with the animals, and Diamond Vu Agricultural Education Center is an attraction that allows them to get close to farm animals,” Nicole said.
Sundae on the Farm guests can also enjoy free milk and ice cream, courtesy of Kwik Trip and Culvers, while listening to live music. Gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches are also available for purchase.
“This year, Sundae on the Farm will be much bigger,” Nicole said. “We’re trying to hit all different aspects of agriculture and will have some new vendors in attendance.”
The Christmas Tree Association is coming as well as the Spudmobile and Antique Tractor and Steam Engine Club. Hands-on activities for kids include rope making, corn shucking, pumpkin painting and more. The third annual Sundae on the Farm will take place Sept. 25 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Michael said the event can be eye-opening for people who do not realize what goes into agriculture and all the products the industry produces.
“Sometimes it’s things they don’t expect, like beer,” Michael said. “Or they might not realize that field corn goes into making chips and corn flakes, for example. Not all grain goes into animal consumption.”
It is these types of encounters the Butlers like to provide. Nicole is a proponent of hands-on opportunities for the kids.
“I believe that’s the best way for them to learn,” Nicole said.
In May 2021, the Butlers held their first brat fry and plant sale during Mother’s Day weekend – an event that raises money for the Harvest Box Program community garden. It is also an opportunity for the public to get close to animals while spending time on the farm. In addition to events, the Butlers are also hoping to do school tours this fall.
The Butlers have also partnered with Artists for the Humanities as well as the Center for Veterans Issues which helps homeless veterans in Milwaukee. In addition, they are working with community groups such as the Eagle Scouts, Howards Grove FFA, Campbellsport FFA and Sheboygan/Manitowoc County Big Brothers Big Sisters. Through avid community outreach, the Butlers are committed to sharing agriculture with as many people as possible.
The Butlers have a 2-acre garden and 125 raised beds for growing vegetables which they sell at local farmers markets or at a roadside stand. They also grow 6 acres of fresh-cut flowers and plan to put up another greenhouse this summer. Nicole worked on a cut flower farm in Hartford during high school and college, which is where her love for flowers began.
“That’s how I got involved with ag,” she said. “I was a city kid prior.”
The Butlers like to feed the community and also sell beef, pork, chicken and eggs.
“It’s important to help people form healthy eating habits, which is another thing we’re trying to do here,” Michael said.
The family also takes its show on the road, bringing a cow, heifer and calf to Ducktona – a Fourth of July celebration in Sheboygan Falls. At this event, the Butlers also give away milk and cookies and hand out promotional materials from Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin, the pork association and beef council. Nicole said they also participate in various parades and the Mill Street Days festival to promote agriculture. They have sponsored youth in the Dairy Showcase of Champions at the Sheboygan County Fair.
“We try to promote different parts of agriculture, and we also like to push local products,” Nicole said. “Our motto is, ‘Know your farmer. Know where your food comes from.’”
The Butlers belong to the Sheboygan Falls and Plymouth Chambers of Commerce and won the educational award from the Sheboygan Falls Chamber of Commerce this year.
“We were shocked and honored to win,” Nicole said. “We were standing up there in tears.”
Diamond Vu Agricultural Education Center is young, but the Butlers have a big vision for its future. Passionately pouring their hearts and souls into this endeavor, the Butlers received three grants this year and are applying for two more this summer. The couple also has approval from the mayor of Sheboygan Falls to launch a capital campaign to raise funds for adding onto the center.
Blueprints are drawn for a handicapped-accessible addition to the barn that would include a milking parlor equipped with a glass pipeline to allow people to see milk flowing into the cooler. A local Boumatic dealer is planning to donate the milking system.
The plans also include an educational building featuring classrooms, a store and commercial kitchen. In the building’s hands-on learning lab, visitors would learn aspects of horticulture and animal husbandry and could make beef jerky, among other things. With no steps for kids or elderly people, the Butlers are hoping that nearby nursing homes could bring residents to watch the animals graze and look at the flowers blooming.
“We like to promote local, and people from the community would have the opportunity to sell products at our shop,” Nicole said.
Aspiring to make the center attainable for all to enjoy while providing an unparalleled education in agriculture, the Butlers feel the expansion will allow them to connect even more people to the dairy industry.
“Some people think this is a big dream, but how I look at agriculture, to me it’s reality,” Michael said.
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