Brad Till, an employee at Hingtgen Dairy, observes freshly bedded animals at the farm in Bellevue, Iowa.
Brad Till, an employee at Hingtgen Dairy, observes freshly bedded animals at the farm in Bellevue, Iowa. PHOTO BY SHERRY NEWELL
    BELLEVUE, Iowa – In 2012, the Hingtgen family hosted nearly 2,000 people for lunch on their dairy during June, and they are about to do it again.
    Hingtgen Dairy is the location for this year’s Jackson and Clinton counties Lunch on the Farm. The event will take place from 1-4 p.m. June 23 at the farm near Bellevue, Iowa.
    According to Scott Hingtgen, the family volunteered their dairy this year when another farm was not quite ready to host the annual event. He and his wife, Jessica, are active on the Jackson/Clinton County Dairy Promotion Board.
    “We all need to promote,” Scott said. “I remember this guy told me he wanted his boys to know food didn’t just come from the grocery store. Some people came from two hours away, but even people from a small town like Bellevue may have never been to a dairy, and they’re afraid to ask to come visit any other time.”
    Visitors to the farm will get a slightly different experience than the Hingtgens gave them the first time around. According to the couple, the promotion board has learned a lot since 2012.  
    “Every year it gets better; it makes me feel good,” Jessica said. “Our board really works well together, and we are really lucky because our sponsors, like the dairy co-ops, all help.”
    The free lunch menu includes plenty of dairy products, as well as hot dogs and hamburgers. A petting zoo and a close-up look at the dairy will also be offered.
    In 2012, the Hingtgens’ two milking robots were new, and because the cows were intimidated by people observing in the robot room, this year’s plans include a video feed from the robots rather than having people inside the room. They also plan a more organized tour and food serving effort.                                                                                                                                     
    “The line was all the way out to the road (last time),” Jessica said.
    New facilities on the farm since the previous event include a hoop barn housing heifers ages 2 months to 14 months, and Scott plans to replace feed bunks on a fence line before the lunch. The Hingtgens’ former home, an older farmhouse, is also gone, leaving a perfect green space for guests to enjoy this time around.
    The Hingtgens’ children – Cameron, 14, Grace, 13, and Gabby, 11 – are ready to pitch in where they are needed. Cameron remembers the 2012 event.
    “There was a lot of stuff going on,” he said.
    Cameron’s role that year was to sit in a chair and run the robot arm. His sisters helped in the kids tent.
    The family is fitting in the Lunch on the Farm between their regular roles milking 120 cows, feeding out 100 steers annually and raising their heifers. They farm about 1,300 acres and do another 500 acres of custom work. A full-time employee, Brad Till, helps on the farm, and Jessica is a third grade teacher in Bellevue.  
    For both Scott and Jessica, opening their farm to the public is important because it gives people a chance to ask questions.
    “The best part is just talking to people about what we do,” Jessica said.