I think the dairy gods are trying to tell me something.

I need to visit Wisconsin.

Here's what I know about Wisconsin. In Wisconsin they have beer and cheese and cows.

Three of my most favorite things on the planet. 

Why am I waiting? I should book my trip now!

In real life, I'm working on a trip to Wisconsin ASAP. As soon as I can find space between kids activities and other responsibilities, I'm on the next flight to Green Bay. I'm even a Packers fan.

Over the past year, I've meet a number of people both in real life and online from Wisconsin. I really like these people, like my fellow bloggers Christina Winch and Carrie Mess. And remember last spring when the Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin called and asked if they could come visit? They did come to visit and now I have 30 new friends I can't wait to see again.

Originally, my new friends from Wisconsin were going to visit our dairy. When that was the case, I thought, "What the heck? Let's have everyone over for dinner!" I have a big back yard and I thought a big BBQ would be a fun way to welcome our guests to Idaho. My husband and his brothers eventually decided they didn't want to host the tour, but I still felt like someone should host a dinner. These fellow dairymen are our guests, after all.

So I picked up the phone and made a few calls. First, I called my friend Shawn Barigar. He and I went to college at the University of Idaho together and he's now the director of the regional Chamber of Commerce. He'd already been working with PDPW on some sightseeing options, but I told him about my  dinner idea. He agreed. We needed to have these folks over for dinner. Somewhere.

Now that this event wasn't in my backyard, we had to find a place and some sponsors to help cover costs. Shawn had a few ideas, so we put our thinking caps on and went to work. In Idaho hospitality fashion, area businesses went out of their way to welcome our guests to our home.

First, Shawn and his staff got on the phone and got all of the food donated. My cousin, caterer Mike Burkhart, agreed to donate his time to do the cooking using cash and food donated by Independent Meat Company (they use the label Falls Brand Meats or Salmon Creek Farms -- it's the best bacon outside the stuff my son grows!) Clear Springs Foods (80 percent of the farm raised trout in the country comes from our valley and this company is always very generous with their support) Amalgamated Sugar (White Satin label), Fred Meyer, Smiths Food, Kelley's Canyon Orchard and Proost Family Farms all chipped in. United Dairymen of Idaho chipped in with all the dairy products we'd need. It was awesome. 

Then, larger companies like Wow Logistics, Standard Nutrition, AllTechMilk Producers of Idaho and the Idaho Dairymen's Association as well as PDPW came through with the cash donations we would need to buy incidentals and pay for other costs. We were fully funded for the dinner. The only thing I didn't have funded was the bar, but I figured if people wanted to buy a drink they could. That's when Mike Roth, one of the owners of Si-Ellen Farms in Jerome, Idaho. He got on the phone the day of the event and found four sponsors to cover the bar costs. Local representatives from DeLaval, Elanco, Arnold Machinery and Rabo Agri-Finance all stepped in at the last minute. All our guests would have to do is enjoy the evening.

That wasn't all, the owners at The Risk, a restored barn at Si-Ellen, donated the use of the facility and helped tremendously to make sure the event went well. Steve and Stacie Ballard at Ballard Family Cheese came in with appetizers and were a great hit. Kimberly, Idaho's High School FFA chapter sent eight kids, an advisor and a parent to help. We could not have done the event without them! As a surprise, the folks from Wisconsin even chipped in to donate to the kids' "trip to nationals" fund. I was honored to see the support for the kids.

When PDPW members walked off the bus, I got a hug or handshake from each one of them. They were so generous in spirit, I immediately felt connected to everyone. I didn't get to talk to everyone as much as I would have liked, but they all appreciated how much everyone on their tour had been open about their operations and businesses.

They were surprised by the expanse of our dairies and we had more Jerseys than they'd expected. 

I did get to talk with one man, although I didn't get his name. I as spoke with him, it was fun to learn we lived a very similar life. My husband got stuck on our dairy and wasn't able to come to the dinner but I wish he would have been able to. Both he and the man sitting next to me farmed with their brothers and based on the descriptions, I'd swear they had the same brothers!

My friend, Stacy Madsen, a local artist, did all the decorations and gift bags as well as designing a beautiful menu and thank you to our sponsors. I tried to make sure we had local food. The musicians were local and I brought in a cowboy poet to tell a few stories and celebrate our western heritage. It was nice to show off our southern Idaho, but it was more than that.

I'd been hearing rumblings about political differences between Wisconsin and Idaho and hard feelings about pricing between the two states. I opted to ignore all of that and so did everyone else. For one Thursday night in September we were all just members of one big dairy family. To me, that's worth sitting down to dinner anytime. 

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Comment by Christina Winch on October 1, 2013 at 2:05pm

Sounds like a great time.  So sad I wasn't able to go. 


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