Still spread the good dairy word, despite dairy breakfast cancellation

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In addition to milk, cheese, cottage cheese and pudding, Culver’s Custard is always a favorite at the Crawford County Dairy Breakfast. (Courier Press file photo)

By Correne Martin


The purpose of having a dairy breakfast in Crawford County is always to encourage the community to eat more dairy products. 

But, with this year’s coronavirus pandemic shutting  down many summer highlights, the Crawford County Dairy Promoters had to sacrifice their event and that chance to easily spread the good dairy word the first Saturday in June. The 2020 breakfast was supposed to be on the Alan and Melissa Manning robotic milking farm in Steuben June 6.

“A lot of counties do their dairy breakfasts as a fundraiser,” noted Mary Jo Johnsrude, one of the dairy promoters and and breakfast organizers. Costing just $2 per plate for years, Crawford County’s focus is more about boosting the industry and increasing people’s awareness to support local farmers. 

The dairy promoters have been able to keep the costs so low because of all the businesses who step forward with in-kind or financial contributions toward each year’s big event. 

“A lot of those businesses are impacted economically due to COVID-19, and we didn’t feel right asking for donations,” Johnsrude said, sharing one of the organization’s reasons behind canceling the dairy breakfast. 

Also, given the county regulations requiring gatherings to be smaller than 100, making the decision to cancel became more clear. Usually, 250 to 300 patrons pass through the dairy breakfast tents at one time. Another great consideration came when committee members learned its usual bulk food service would have to change to more prepackaged goods, with additional expense and extra garbage. That would’ve included everything from packets of syrup on the tables, to sliced and packaged cheese singles and small cottage cheese containers typically found at convenience stores. 

With the coronavirus concerning consumers, Johnsrude said it would have been difficult to gauge this year’s attendance numbers as well. “How can you plan the right quantity of food when you don’t know how many to expect,” she added. 

The domino effect of COVID-19 is devastating in many ways, Johnsrude recognized. 

Yet, she was quick to share her optimism:

“This time of year, when people are having burgers on the grill, make them cheeseburgers. When making salads, add some shredded cheese. Eat some ice cream or yogurt with strawberries. If you’re traveling, grab a string cheese snack for the kids. Take some cheese curds if you go visit someone.”

These are all ways community members can still support dairy. She encouraged readers to watch for delicious recipes from the Crawford County Dairy Promoters, available later this month. 

The Crawford County Dairy Breakfast has been a staple of local summers since it was originally organized in 1981, and held on the Gale Beneker farm outside of Prairie du Chien. The price then was just $1, for a heaping plate filled with pancakes, sausage, pudding, cottage cheese, cheese slices, applesauce and a carton of milk.

But, believe it or not, there was another year since that the breakfast couldn’t be held.

In 2001, there was a hoof and mouth disease scare. Though Crawford County didn’t have it, organizers feared attendees could bring into the dairy barn if attending the breakfast. So that event was also canceled. 

Otherwise, the breakfast has been a success—especially considering the number of dairy farmers in the county has gone down over the years. 

The largest dairy breakfast in Crawford County happened in 1993, when 3,000 patrons attended. The last few years, Johnsrude said there’s been about 2,300 to 2,400. 

“A lot of neighbors across the river and from other counties like to come over to ours. It’s a popular one,” she stated.

The 2021 Crawford County Dairy Breakfast is planned again on the Manning farm for the first Saturday in June. 

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