Tim Colbenson (left) receives for the Ti-Shi Dairy the 'Milk Quality Excellence' Award from Ron Thompson. Photo by Paul J. Seeling
Tim Colbenson (left) receives for the Ti-Shi Dairy the 'Milk Quality Excellence' Award from Ron Thompson. Photo by Paul J. Seeling

ELMWOOD, WI – The Pierce County (PC) Dairy Promotion Committee held the 68th Annual Pierce County Dairy Recognition Dinner and Program on the nice weather autumn evening of Thursday, October 18, 2018. That finally arriving nice weather after too much rain of late may have had an impact on attendance for the PC Dairy Banquet this year.

“We are serving about 150 people this year, rather than the usual 200 or so who normally would attend the Dairy Banquet,” said cordial PC Dairy Promotion Committee member Mary Brand; “But it is probably better to have them in the fields for the harvest than here tonight.”

Such is the farming life:  when the weather allows, you go with it. Those absent were missed. Still it was another successful PC Dairy Banquet with a delicious buffet meal of beef and ham and sides catered by Ruth Hurtgen and her fabulous crew.

PC Dairy Promotion Chairperson Peter Kimball did a marvelous job as Toastmaster of the event and began by welcoming all to the 68th PC Dairy Banquet and gave an inspiring Invocation acknowledging that in trying times like these that it is more important than ever for dairy farmers to be together, to be positive and praying, “Thank you for the stewards of the land, lead us through these times…and give us a sense of peace.”

Following the Invocation, he welcomed to the podium the effervescent Kaitlyn Riley, 71st Alice in Dairyland as the Guest Speaker for the banquet. The upbeat Riley, Alice in Dairyland spoke of her personal history, growing up on her family's small registered Jersey dairy farm in Gays Mills, Wisconsin. It was her 4-H experience at the Wisconsin State Fair sharing her story that got her interested in public speaking.

That interest led Riley to study strategic communications and broadcast journalism at UW-Madison. There she was also involved as an officer in the Association of Women in agriculture and Badger Diary Club. After graduating with honors Riley then worked as the farm news director at a radio station in Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin and then she worked as a multimedia journalist at News 18 in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.

Her talk was inspirational for the assembled PC Dairy farmers; she spoke of putting on her pink rubber boots to go out and cover the hard work of Wisconsin farmers. And she talked about applying to be Alice in Dairyland twice, being rejected once, but not giving up and applying a second time and being chosen as the 71st Alice in Dairyland.

“Never give up!” Riley intoned to all. “You are humble folks but you’re the experts, share your story,” she suggested emphatically.

“Alice in Dairyland is the perfect way to share the farm story and that is why I applied twice, because I want to share our story,” she stated.

“After being rejected the first time I went back home to the farm and worked as the calf/steer manager. I learned how hard my parents work and I loved it!”

Riley let two years pass and reapplied to be the next Alice in Dairyland and got it. She reported how she represents all of agriculture in Wisconsin. Alice in Dairyland is a one-year, full-time public relations professional employed by the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection (WI DATCP). In her position she said she is delighted to be not only representing dairy, but cranberry farmers, mink farmers, etc. and all farmers in Wisconsin.

In closing she recounted all of the amazing stats about the Wisconsin dairy industry, such as the increase of 45,000 pounds of cheese production since 2013 and how we produce more and more specialty cheeses. In 2018 Wisconsin won 47 Gold Medals in international cheese competition. Wisconsin, we rank 4th in global cheese production and are the only state with a Master Cheese Maker program.

“I know dairy prices are tough, stay positive. You live and work on beautiful land. You are providing 79,000 jobs state wide and are $88.3 billion strong. Buy specialty cheese once a week! Thank you for inviting me to the Pierce County Dairy Banquet!”

The banquet then followed the remainder of the program with the presentation of the 4-H Dairy Judging and 4-H Club Awards. A donation check for $5,916 was then presented to Jennifer Thatcher, of the Hunger Prevention Council of PC and the PC Food Pantry from the PC dairy farms. Next, a presentation of the AgSource Awards was made to 42 Holstein milk producers and 5 Jersey and Brown Swiss Breed milk producers. The top Holstein producer was Schroeders Family Farms, with Fetzer Farms second and Son-Bow Farms third.

Ron Thompson presented the Colbenson family, owners of the Ti-Shi Dairy with the top “Milk Quality Excellence” and “Most Improved” Herd honors with Tim and Brian Colbenson receiving them for Ti-Shi Dairy.

Peter Stern of Compeer Financial then presented the Dairy Service Award to Terry Kuhn saying, “In his early days, Terry would have been called a feed salesman, and although his title has changed to Dairy Nutrition and Production Specialist, most think of him as a friend who cares.

Terry has been such an encouraging example for those around him, because of his positivity and his authenticity when trying to help dairy producers be the best they can be.

He and his wife, Susie, have two boys – Lance and his wife Kari, with two girls, and Jamey and his wife Emily with four boys…”

On behalf of the Pierce County Dairy Promotion Committee and Compeer Financial, I would like to present the 2018 Dairy Service Award to Terry Kuhn (Western Wisconsin Nutrition of Ellsworth)!”

The final item on the agenda for the banquet was for Peter Kimbell to pass the gavel to incoming 2019 Chairperson Holly Vasfaret.

Congratulations to all the winners, the Pierce County Dairy producers and the Pierce County Dairy Promotion Committee for another successful Annual Dairy Banquet.