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Agriculture

Minn. farm offers holiday agri-tourism experience

Kaitlyn Riley

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Photo Credit: Metz's Hart-Land Creamery

The dairy industry is always innovating, and the same is true for the Metz Family’s farm near Rushford, Minn.

Jeff Metz starting dairy farming in 1983 with a herd of 24 cows. He and his wife, Mariann, were married in 1985 and moved to their present location in Hart where they continued to grow their farm with their four children, Alicia, Courtney, Brittany, and Nathan.

Through the years, the farm expanded to a 220-cow herd, and with many members of the family involved, they made the decision to start their own cheese plant on the farm by August 2014 which uses about 35 percent of the herd’s milk.

Jeff said they started out by making cheese curds as their main product and then went into cheddar cheese blocks. Today, they sell dozens of varieties and recently added gelato to their list of products available.

The farm sees many tour groups from elementary schools to college groups, 4-H Clubs, FFA students, and antique tractor clubs.

“They get to take a tour of the farm and then from there see the cheese,” Jeff said. “We will have cheese samples there for them all. We do have some regular customers who know what days we are making cheese curds and what time we have them fresh, and they will be coming in to try our cheese curds and pick up our fresh ones.”

For the third time, the Metz Family will host a Christmas on the Farm Saturday from 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. and Sunday from 12:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. with hayrides, campfires, cheese and gelato samples. Santa Cow will be joined by calves dressed as elves for photos.

In addition to the fun, some of the activities are set to get to the heart of the season.

“We will let people write a letter or Christmas card for people overseas,” Jeff said. “We have a contact. That person will get those letters and cards sent overseas in time for Christmas.”

The Metz Family will also be collecting monetary donations to buy milk for local food shelves with matching funds coming from the local dairy association.

Beyond the opportunity to purchase products directly from cow to creamery, agri-tourism events like Christmas on the Farm help create an agriculture connection.

“Probably the biggest thing is they can get the story from us firsthand,” Jeff said. “They are not going on the internet and getting it from a third party. There are a lot of misconceptions about what is being done on the farm there. They can see what we do and how we take care of our animals. They will see the calves are going to be jacketed up for winter now and how we keep them warm. It is nice we are able to tell our story from how we care not only in the milk production but also just making sure our cows are healthy.”

The creamery is continuing to increase its product line. Jeff said they recently started making Colby cheese, which will be available in samples for the first time at Christmas on the Farm.

Kaitlyn Riley’s passion for communications started on her family’s dairy farm in Gays Mills, Wis. Wanting to share agriculture’s story, she studied strategic communications and broadcast journalism at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In college, she held officer positions with the Association of Women in Agriculture and Badger Dairy Club while volunteering as a news reporter for the college radio station. She also founded the university’s first agricultural radio talk show, AgChat. In her professional career, Kaitlyn has worked in both radio, print and television news doing everything from covering local events to interviewing presidential candidates, and putting back on her barn boots to chat with farmers in the field. Today, Kaitlyn can be seen covering local stories that matter to you in the La Crosse area.