Hosting this year’s Wisconsin Farm to Table


I thought to myself, “We are done hosting special events. Why do we do this to ourselves?”
The stress level before an event can make all of us say things we don’t really mean. My family has done events before and knows the work that is required. I can clearly remember the panic while hoping we get all of the jobs completed a day or two before. Somehow there are a few unnecessary tasks that don’t get finished. In reality, they didn’t need to be done; it was only I who noticed those silly things.
It was easy to say back in January, “Yes, we would be so honored to host the Wisconsin Farm to Table.” I looked over the website. I read the mission statement and thought, “This is fantastic. These women in the dairy industry are doing something so grand.”
I could not say no. They are a committee driven to showcase Wisconsin’s diversity in agriculture through an on-farm culinary experience for 100 people.
This time the event would take place under a tent in our hayfield.
For this to be pulled together, the gals on the committee, who all work full-time jobs, reached out through emails and phone calls to line up all the details. From the beginning, they said, “You won’t have much to do; we want you to relax and enjoy the evening surrounded by others that support what you do.” Many of the past participants follow the event from farm to farm.
My family provided the committee with a list of local farmers who pride themselves in growing the best beef, lamb, vegetables and fruit. Just down the road from us is Sprouting Acres, a small, certified organic produce and pizza farm. They supplied the herbs and some of the vegetables. The lamb was from a dear friend, Cody Hiemke, who raises Shropshire sheep. The beef, fruits and vegetables were also from family friends who have worked tirelessly to create Jelli’s Market.
The list of meats, vegetables and fruits was shared with chef Chanse Schomber to create a menu of five courses that were so spectacular that it would make the whole crowd enjoy every bite. He has many years of experience and could provide a course that the farmers would also appreciate.
Dancing Goat Distillery provided a variety of spirits to be enjoyed in mixed drinks, and Cambridge Winery supplied many delicious red and white wines that were created from locally grown grapes. Lena Brewing Company, known for brewing their own crafted recipes, participated, inspiring everyone to taste what their flavor is about. They are located in the cornfields of Lena, Illinois.
Lastly, we gave the committee a list of companies we do business with so that they could reach out to get sponsorship for the occasion. This event needed to have all the details of a top-notch, classy feel from the moment guests walked on the farm to see the white tent, tables with linens, silverware and wine glasses. It would require others to contribute to the message and the mission about the farmers behind the ingredients, showing how they are experts in the fields and pastures. The participating businesses are ones we partner with to help us farm better and create the best lives for our cows and the best products their milk goes into.
The press release went out, and tickets for the event began to be sold. Phone calls came in for interviews, asking about the details of the evening and the meal. I didn’t have a clue what Schomber was going to come up with, but I was sure to mention it would be a night to remember.
As the last week of the event approached, we were blessed with a few days of steady rain. We needed to cut the hay where the tent would be set up, needed to pull weeds and needed to make sure we had all the volunteers lined up to help. I reached out to local FFA chapters to get more hands and also asked past employees and friends.
Then, time just zoomed by. It was Friday morning and I was feeding calves, thinking about all that needed to be done yet. I wanted to add nice details around the farm, pick up and put away things that caught my eye, and help where needed.
My daughter Anna and I are always the last ones to head into the house to get showered and dressed, and after so many events, it should be expected. We laughed as we drove back to town a second time to get more ice after we had just picked up water, milk and ice.
Not long after getting dressed, I was told that a cow was calving.
That is how this always seems to go. I went into the bedding pack to check on Lucille and noticed the feet were big and upside down. I grabbed a sleeve to check her and confirmed the calf was backward. I told Phil and Brayden, my helpers, to get the cords and calf puller. The feet were already dry, and I didn’t want a dead calf to ruin this event, so we all worked together and got the huge heifer out. Lucille began to lick it off.
While this was taking place, the wagon was loading for the tour I was going to be giving. I cleaned up my arms, scraped the manure off of my shoes and went out to greet the wagonful of people wanting to know more about our farm. Duane was getting on the tractor, and he said with a big smile, “She just pulled a calf.”
As I hopped up on the steps on the back of the wagon, I looked down at my dress to see a few specks of blood and manure. Everyone on the wagon laughed with me. It truly showed the life of a farmer.
I was honored to share this moment with others at the dinner and also share the variety of other farmers’ meat, fruit, vegetables and herbs. I felt proud to give toasts with local wine, beer and spirits to cheer on the joyous evening at our farm.
Thanks to all of the ladies on the Wisconsin Farm to Table committee. Also, a special thanks to Ashley Hagenow, the 76th Alice in Dairyland, who served as emcee. The proceeds from the event went to local FFA chapters.
Tina Hinchley, her husband Duane and daughter Anna milk 240 registered Holsteins with robots. They also farm 2,300 acres of crops near Cambridge, Wisconsin. The Hinchleys have been hosting farm tours for over 25 years.


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here