The 2018 Iowa Farm Bureau Young Farmer Gate to Plate Tour will give Farm Bureau members, ages 18 to 35, an opportunity to tour diverse farms on June 29 and 30 in Wisconsin, the land of cheese and a few other surprising types of agriculture.
“The ag economy is proving more challenging than ever for young farmers getting started in agriculture. The Gate to Plate Tour is designed to get participants thinking about how we can innovate on the farm by observing the ways farm families in rural Wisconsin have added value to the commodities they produce,” said Laura Cunningham, IFBF’s Young Farmer Advisory Committee chair. “I hope others will join me to see some unique farms, taste test the products produced on each farm and meet new young farmers from around the state.”
The first day will take these young farmers to Perlick Distillery, where five generations of the Perlick family have been farming since 1920. They grow corn, wheat, rye, flex, soybeans and sunflowers. In May of 2016, the family celebrated the one-year anniversary of a new endeavor—a distillery where they produce vodka made from the grain grown on their farm.
Just a 15-minute drive south of the Perlick Distillery is the tour’s second destination. Northstar Bison is owned by the Graese family who claim the title for being the largest distributors of grass-fed bison meat in the United States. The family started this operation with two young bison and grew into a vertically-integrated enterprise with 600 bison being raised in northwest Wisconsin and east central Minnesota. The bison are humanely harvested and processed at a plant owned by NorthStar.
The next day will be all about what Wisconsin is known for—dairy. The 350 cows at Marieke Gouda Dairy are milked three times per day to create cheese that is “handcrafted with passion.” Owner Marieke Penterman grew up on a dairy farm in the Netherlands. Her and her husband, Rolf, came to Wisconsin to start their dairy because of the location and farm-friendly people. Their signature cheese was named the 2013 Grand Champion of the U.S. Championship Cheese Contest and is made from an authentic Old World Gouda recipe with herbs and spices imported from Holland.
The founders of the final stop, Nelson Cheese Factory, made cheese for more than 100 years. While they no longer make cheese, the shop includes a selection of wines and cheese made locally in Wisconsin and around the world. They feature cheeses like Irish Cheddar, Danish Blue and Fromager d’Affinois and also offer unique local meats from lamb cuts to German style sausages.
The tour is $75 per person which includes overnight accommodations (double occupancy), charter bus fees and group meals. Seats are limited and preference will be given to members who have not participated in a previous IFBF young farmer tour. For more information or to register by May 25 click here.
Information provided by the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation.