They arrive at the farm. The aroma of breakfast and the laughter of children greet them. Everything looks perfect. Hundreds of people enjoy their meals and the tour of the farm and all of the other activities.
What most visitors don't see are the hundreds of hours of preparation necessary to make a breakfast on the farm happen.
I've been lucky enough to be a member of the Stearns County Breakfast on the Farm planning committee since the very beginning, six years ago. Here's a look at what happens behind the scenes of a breakfast on the farm.
Everything starts with our planning committee. Every member of the volunteer committee is driven by a shared desire to showcase Stearns County agriculture and give consumers an opportunity to connect with farmers.
Our planning meetings start in January. We meet monthly until the event in June. And while those six months of hard core planning are filled with communicating and coordinating and decision making, we spend the other half of the year thinking about how we can make next year's event better.
We line up our host farms 15 months in advance so that they can visit a breakfast and have a year to think about how they'll accommodate 2,000 to 3,000 people on their farm. Every year, our host farms far exceed our expectations. Even though visitors will be limited to certain areas of the farm, every inch of the farm is prepared for visitors.
Three thousand people. That's how many visitors we need to transport to the farm, feed and entertain for four hours. And while we are ecstatic to see that many people interested in having fun on a farm, planning for that many people can be a challenge. We need to pray for sunshine, but plan for rain. We have to plan to run out of food, but be prepared to make 500 extra meals.
Everything we do as a committee is done with our visitors in mind.
How can we ensure that they'll have a good time and leave the farm with a positive lasting impression of modern farming? We provide guided tours of the farm, made possible by dozens of volunteer tour guides. We incorporate the farm's nutritionist, veterinarian, crop consultant and others to make the tour as informative as possible. We organize a petting zoo, a photo booth, horse drawn wagon rides, dairy treats and more.
How can we keep visitors safe and comfortable? We need portable toilets and hand washing stations and a food line that doesn't keep them waiting. We rent coach buses so visitors have a place to put their strollers and gear for the ride out to the farm. This year, we'll have an ambulance and paramedics on site.
We also have to work with advertising and budgets and regulations.
How do we spread the word about Breakfast on the Farm? We send out press releases, put up billboards in St. Cloud, and run ads on local radio stations. We have a website and a Facebook page and a YouTube channel. We send an invitation home to every family with a child enrolled in a Stearns County elementary school. We are constantly trying to adapt to our visitors' preferred methods of communication.
How do we fund an event of this magnitude? We rely on the tremendous support of our sponsors. Breakfast on the Farm would not be possible without donations of money, supplies and services. We are incredibly conscious of using sponsors' donations as effectively as possible.
This year, because of the size of our event last year, we were required to obtain a large gathering permit from the county. Our food preparers must be also licensed.
Every year we get better and better at meeting these challenges. We learn from our mistakes and build on our successes.
And every year, when the farm fills up with visitors of all ages, we take a look around and marvel at what we've put together. Our hearts fill with pride and excitement. That pride and excitement will carry us through the next 12 months of planning for the next Breakfast on the Farm.
This year the Stearns County Breakfast on the Farm will be held on Saturday, June 1 at Groetsch Dairy near Albany. If Albany isn't in your neck of the woods, check the Dairy Star's Calendar for a Breakfast on the Farm near you.