Josh Steiner talks about his dairy during a tour at his farm near Monroe, Wis. The tour was a part of Green County Cheese Days.
Josh Steiner talks about his dairy during a tour at his farm near Monroe, Wis. The tour was a part of Green County Cheese Days. PHOTO SUBMITTED
    MONROE, Wis. – Monroe, Wis., was bursting at the seams last weekend during its most famed festival devoted to one of the state’s favorite foods.
    Green County Cheese Days attracted a crowd of nearly 100,000 people from all over the United States who came to celebrate one of America’s most beloved dairy products.
    Started more than one century ago, the three-day event is held every other year, and this year’s festivities took place Sept. 14-16.
    Heaven View Dairy, owned by Josh and Liz Steiner of Monroe, Wis., was one of two farms featured on the farm tour a part of the celebration. This was the Steiner’s second time hosting, as they also opened their farm up to cheese lovers in 2016.
    “We had so much fun hosting the first time around that we decided to do it again,” said Josh, who along with Liz and daughters Natalie, 13, and Breann, 11, welcomed around 200 visitors throughout the day.
    “They come from all walks of life, giving us the opportunity to chat with a lot of interesting folks,” Josh said.
    Josh helped with the tours during his FFA days nearly 25 years ago and now is proud to have been a host.
    “There are so many misconceptions about dairy farming, which is one of the main reasons we like to do this,” Josh said.
    One visitor to Heaven View Dairy said, “When I drive by farms, I see all these calves in cages. That’s inhumane, isn’t it?”
    Liz proceeded to show the visitor the hutches up close, describing how the calves get plenty of fresh, clean air and stay clean in this environment.
    “We want to be as transparent as possible,” Josh said. “We follow the rules and do a good job. We have nothing to hide. If we let people visit our farm to hear and see for themselves what really goes on each day, they’ll probably walk away with an appreciation and respect for the industry. We try to plant a seed, hoping people spread the word and tell others, kind of like a domino effect.”
    Another guest believed that unless you buy organic milk, you are drinking milk filled with antibiotics. Josh explained how farmers are not allowed to ship milk containing antibiotics and informed her how the hauler tests the milk, and, if antibiotics are found, the load has to be dumped.
    “That’s our income,” Josh said. “We’re not going to take a chance. We care for these animals like you would care for your own family, giving them vaccinations and medications only when necessary.”
    Heaven View Dairy is a small family farm milking 80 cows in a stanchion barn. Visitors to the farm received an overview of the dairy followed by a barn visit where they could see and pet some of the cows and calves. Kids also enjoyed playing with the farm’s many cats.
    Josh’s love for farming began as a child spending every free minute at his grandparents’ farm. Josh and his brother, Jeremy, later bought the milking herd, farming together for five years before Josh and Liz married and went out on their own.
    “Jeremy farms just to the east of here, and we still help each other out a lot,” Josh said. “We’re die-hard farmers. My other brother, Jason, works at a machinery dealer, but stops in every night to help wherever we need him.”
    The Steiners’ 20-year-old son, Jonathon, works off the farm in Madison, Wis.
    Liz is a city girl turned dairy farmer who milks cows, feeds calves and drives tractors. She is also co-leader for the local 4-H club, while Josh serves as vice president of Midwest Dairy Farms, the cooperative where they ship their milk.
    Josh and Liz are also part of the FFA alumni and put on an annual farm toy show fundraiser every March.
    “It’s a passion of mine,” said Josh, who collects toy combines and is also the alumni vice president. “It’s a lot of work but generates a good deal of income for the FFA.”
    Heaven View Dairy is named in memory of Josh and Liz’s daughter, Nicole, who passed away before birth. Nicole was Natalie’s twin sister, and her name is written in one of the clouds that appear on the farm sign.
    “That happened during our second year here,” Liz said. “It was pretty traumatic.”
    Josh agreed.
    “We had a rough go of it when we first started,” Josh said. “We had also bought some cows that were supposedly pregnant, but then we found out they weren’t. That just about put us under, but we fought and fought and got through it. Then, Liz was in a bad car accident with all three kids. And later, I had back surgery and was out of commission for six months. We’ve definitely had a few bumps in the road, but we made it this far. We just keep plugging away day by day.”
    Josh and Liz rented the farm for 13 years before purchasing the buildings and 14 acres earlier this year. The Steiners’ landlord, Joe Dry, and his wife, Shirley, helped them get going, allowing the young couple to establish equity and get a line of machinery built up.
    “We’re still renting the crop land and will buy that in the future,” Josh said.
    The Steiners have made upgrades, installing a new bulk tank and new ventilation system, as well as making improvements to cow comfort. They are also in the process of converting the stanchions to tiestalls.
    In addition to the daily grind, creating a positive image for the dairy industry and dispelling some of the myths about farming is important to the Steiners.
    “Being a part of the Green County Cheese Days tour is a great way to set the record straight,” Josh said.
    Green County Cheese Days also featured cheese tastings, cheesemaking demonstrations, a parade, carnival, music and more.