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Published June 09, 2014, 09:16 AM

Dairy event draws 4,500 to Hawley, Minn.

HAWLEY, Minn. — A June Dairy Month observance has turned into much more for the Minnesota town about 22 miles east of the Fargo-Moorhead area.

By: Mikkel Pates, Agweek

HAWLEY, Minn. — A June Dairy Month observance has turned into much more for the Minnesota town about 22 miles east of the Fargo-Moorhead area.

Keith Aakre of rural Hawley is a committee member for Breakfast on the Farm. He and his wife, Lori, have been instrumental in the event that has become one of the iconic efforts to welcome urban visitors throughout the region.

Aakre believes in education. He went to school at North Dakota State University and then taught school for 10 years. The couple milked cows until 1999 and since then has raised nursery pigs.

After they quit milking, the Aakres decided to start an event. The idea was to let the consuming public know more about where their food comes from, but still make it enjoyable for kids.

“We still had dairy at heart,” Aakre says. Lori had been on the dairy council. Friends Rose and Gary Bergan had quit milking about the same time and worked on the project with them.

“We wanted to promote a free breakfast to promote June Dairy Month,” Aakre says. “It happened to be the same weekend that the Hawley Lions had a breakfast fundraiser and they were kind of concerned, so we said ‘Why don’t you cook our breakfast?’”

Three inches of rain fell before the May 31 event, but the farm had a vast lawn and a large shed decked out for parties. The event ran from 7 a.m. to noon, and included a free breakfast of pancakes, eggs and sausage from the Spring Prairie Hutterite Colony.

The event this year included shuttle rides from parking areas with tractor- and horse-drawn wagons, music, commodity-based booths, as well as professional pedal-pull tractor driving.

A milk run

“We try to show that there are wholesome products out here,” Aakre says. “Products like butter are wholesome, and sausage products promote the pork industry.”

MarJenna McWilliam of Winger, Minn., who last August was named Princess Kay of the Milky Way — Minnesota’s version of a queen-ambassador for dairy — was at the Hawley event, greeting event-goers as local dairy promoters handed out flavored smoothies and cheese samples. She will start her senior year in English education at North Dakota State University.

McWilliam says this was her first Breakfast on the Farm but she’s done two weeks of classroom visits and would head to the Twin Cities for a parade on June 1.

“I’ve been to quite a few big events — banquets — but Breakfast on the Farm is one of my big things through June Dairy Month. I have one every Saturday, if not two,” she says. “It’s a great way for people to come out and see what a farm really looks like.”

She helped children operate a mechanical demonstration cow that offers an opportunity to “hand-milk” water from udders.

“It’s cool because the kids want to run up there and see how good of milkers they would be,” McWilliam says.

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