Better than a baker’s dozen

Heeg family celebrates over 20 years of Christmas cookies

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MARSHFIELD, Wis. — Christmas baking has become a holiday tradition for the Heeg family of Marshfield, just as dairy farming is a family tradition.

Over 20 years ago, Judy Heeg began hosting what has become the family’s annual cookie day. Judy and her husband, Roger, owned Heeg-View Holsteins, where Roger continues to raise crops. There the couple raised their children — Scott, Jeff, Tammy, Tim, Sandy and Kim.

Both the dairying and baking traditions have continued across generations. Scott and his wife, Linda, operated Heeg Acres from 1978 until they sold the cows and farmstead to their son, Eric, and his wife, Emily, last March. Eric and Emily milk 60 cows, and Scott and Linda continue to farm 350 acres.

“Agriculture, and dairy in particular, is an important part of our family’s heritage, and our baking day includes current and past dairy farmers,” Linda said. “Besides dairy farmers, we have three ag teachers in the family too.”

Each year, generations of the family gather at Judy’s home to partake in the annual baking tradition that includes Judy, her daughters and daughters-in-law, grandchildren and grandchildren-in-law. Eric and Emily’s son, Oliver, attended his second baking event this year when the Heegs gathered Dec. 3 for their annual day of mixing and measuring.

“The bigger the family has gotten, the bigger the cookie day has gotten,” Linda said.

With so many baking enthusiasts, there is no shortage of people to take on the tasks at hand: mixing, rolling, baking, or decorating and dipping in chocolate.

“We bake from about 8 a.m. until mid-afternoon,” Linda said. “We make 10 or 12 different kinds of cookies and some candies too. Many of the batches we make are doubled or even tripled. We have one or two mixers going almost all the time.”

Not everyone in attendance is a baker at heart. This includes Emily.

“I personally hate baking, so this gives me a chance to do it with others, which makes it so much more fun,” Emily said. “It divides the work up, so it’s not so much for one person to do everything.”

The Heegs have tried-and-true favorite recipes they enjoy making each year. They have also started trying new recipes each year. The ones they like the best, they add to their annual repertoire.

True dairy farmers, the Heeg family relies on butter to perfect their recipes, and Linda said that most years they use at least 12 pounds of butter while baking.

A full day of large-group baking, Linda said, takes planning.

“Judy makes a list of the cookies and what we’ll need,” Linda said. “Then we all bring different needed ingredients.”

At the end of the day, the fruits of their labors are divided among those in attendance to be used for gifts and for entertaining.

Emily has been attending the annual Heeg family event for the past six or seven years and has come to enjoy the camaraderie and sense of family.

“I love how the women in our family can get together and have so much fun,” Emily said. “And now I love being able to bring Oliver along so that he can spend time and get to know his second cousins. Family time is the best time.”

That sense of family combined with holiday spirit is what makes the tradition special for Linda as well.

“It has definitely become a true holiday tradition for us,” Linda said. “We laugh, we chat, and we get a chance to catch up with everyone. Watching as each generation has become involved is great. Getting together like this keeps us close as a family.” 

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