Santa Claus greets attendees at Iowa Dairy Center’s Santa on the Farm event Dec. 10 in Calmar, Iowa. Attendees saw cows being milked, met Santa, received milk and cookies, and went home with a dairy goodie bag.
PHOTO SUBMITTED
Santa Claus greets attendees at Iowa Dairy Center’s Santa on the Farm event Dec. 10 in Calmar, Iowa. Attendees saw cows being milked, met Santa, received milk and cookies, and went home with a dairy goodie bag. PHOTO SUBMITTED
CALMAR, Iowa − Despite the freezing rain and snowing conditions, Iowa’s Dairy Center hosted its second annual Santa on the Farm event Dec. 10 in Calmar.
“Anytime we can connect dairy with a positive experience, it’s great,” said Mariah Busta about Santa on the farm. “The attendees are going to go home and tell their family, and they’re going to feel good about purchasing milk and dairy products because they know that milk is local.”
Busta, coordinator at the Northeast Iowa Dairy and Agriculture Foundation, partnered with Farm Bureau to put on the event at Iowa’s Dairy Center.
Iowa’s Dairy Center milks about 220 cows in Winneshiek County. On the farm, half of the herd is milked in a double-8 herringbone parallel parlor three times a day by two full-time and some part-time employees; the other half of the herd is milked with two robots.
“We have one robot for Jerseys and one for Holsteins,” Busta said. “I’m the only non-farm employee, so I do all of the education, marketing and outreach.”
This was the second annual wintertime event, which welcomed 200 people.
“People know to come to breakfast on the farm and look forward to it every year,” Busta said. “However, due to COVID-19 numbers increasing last year and limited options to see Santa Claus, we were looking for a way to bring the holidays to the farm.”
In December 2020, Iowa’s Dairy Center hosted its first drive-thru Santa on the Farm.
“We set up lights and a route, Santa and Mrs. Claus came, and we had some milk and cookies. We decided to advertise it,” Busta said. “We were blown away by the attendance.”
All 800 people who came to the farm drove through the freestall barn which allowed attendees to see how the cows lived, see the cows being milked, meet Santa Claus and get goodie bags to take home.
“We had Santa and Mrs. Claus by the Jerseys, and if anyone knows Jerseys, they know they are really curious,” Busta said. “The Jerseys were just fantastic about being up by Santa Claus and in the background for pictures. It was super fun.”
They also partnered with Midwest Dairy and were able to have the county and state dairy princesses at the event handing out milk and cookies.
“People loved seeing the cows, the names on their ear tags and the cleanliness of our barn,” Busta said. Blown away by the success of the event, Busta and her team decided to have Santa on the Farm again this year. However, this year they were faced with the challenge of weather and only had 50 cars.
“We had not so great of weather, so the attendance was definitely impacted,” Busta said. “But the response we got from the community wanting to come and be there, not only from the local towns but also from a couple hours away, was just incredible.”
Growing up on a dairy farm herself, Busta knows how busy dairy farmers can be.
“When we can come together as a community and pull these things off, it’s a huge win for everybody,” Busta said. “Because everybody benefits when consumers know, feel good and are confident about dairy practices and dairy products.”
Busta’s favorite part was when people showed up to the event to support the dairy community.
“Just seeing people’s smiles makes everything worth it,” Busta said. “The most rewarding part is knowing that you’re making a difference. Especially with less people growing up on a dairy farm, you realize how important of a story (dairy farmers) have to tell.”
Busta looks forward to planning other events similar to this one.
“I’ll have a communications intern this summer who will be able to help put these things together,” Busta said. “So, I’m really looking forward to that and coming up with more ideas like Santa on the Farm, because the more we can get the community involved, the better it is for the entire dairy community in general.”
Busta looks forward to having Santa visit the farm in years to come as a way to connect with consumers.
“Anytime you can connect really good experiences and inject dairy in that, people will have good feelings about the way farmers care for their cows and the way their milk and dairy products are produced,” Busta said. “A positive experience with dairy is always a win for us.”