JANESVILLE, Wis. – Daluge Farm was host to its first group of campers for a five-day camp in early August. The group of 13 children ranged in age from 6 to 11. The Daluge family hosted a second group of campers later that month. And the reason?
Daluge Farm recently became Daluge Farm Camp for Rock County youngsters in order to generate a new income stream for the 140-cow Janesville-area dairy farm.
Sisters Erin Grawe, née Daluge, and Megan Daluge, along with their father, Peter Daluge, had long discussed ways to earn more income on their family farm. They discussed the possibility of bottling and selling milk direct, selling locally produced foods at their farm, packaging manure for garden soil and other ideas. But those ventures would require a significant amount of capital – capital they didn’t have, given an extended period of depressed milk prices.
Then the sisters had another idea – why not start a camp where kids could learn about farming? Grawe had already worked six years as an agriculture ambassador for the Ag Business Council of Rock County. Her job was visiting elementary school classrooms throughout Rock County, talking to fourth-graders about farming and agriculture. She created lesson plans and shared her farming experiences with children. Each year for the past six years, Grawe said she made 45-minute presentations to a total of about 1,500 students.
Megan Daluge then also went to work as an ambassador for the Rock County organization in November 2018. During the 2018-2019 school year the sisters visited about 80 classrooms.
“Visiting schools has worked nicely with our farm schedule,” Daluge said. “We can make visits between milkings.”
The sisters had teaching experience. So launching a farm camp for kids seemed a natural fit.
“We’re passionate about teaching kids about farming,” Daluge said. "I’m also passionate about talking with millennials about farming and dairy nutrition.”
The sisters now offer student-group tours and camp sessions in addition to offering personal farm tours for adults. Daluge is producing videos for social media, hoping to connect with more millennials. She also guest hosts the “Ag Matters” radio show featured on Rock County’s radio station, WCLO.
Peter Daluge said of his daughters, “I’m so proud of them. We should have thought of this years ago. Dairy farming has been difficult the past three years, and we’ve been operating at a loss. It’s not as much fun anymore.”
Between the loss of hundreds of Wisconsin dairy farms and the associated mental-health struggles of dairy farmers, he wanted to see something positive, he said.
Offering farm camps for curious kids would be positive. It would be fun. And it wouldn’t require too much of an investment, he said.
The family markets the camp using social media while also distributing brochures and flyers. Hannah Barthels, a marketing communications specialist, also helped connect the family with various media outlets.
As for the children’s opinions, fun has made a long-awaited return to Daluge farm. Cooper Davis, 8, son of Dan and Meghan Davis of Janesville, said he liked camp so much he wanted to attend the second camp. One of his favorite activities was the daily feeding of calves. He was invited to name the calf he cared for during the week.
“Her name is Roxy," he said. "I like her because she’s friendly and playful."
Cooper’s mother said, “This is a fantastic program for kids interested in farm life but not knowing where to go until now. The Daluge girls are great role models for the kids and our community. They’re teaching about the hard work and dedication it takes to be a farmer. Cooper wants to be a farmer someday. He’s so excited that he can live his dream at the Daluge Farm."
Aiden Hodge, 7, son of Jeff and Melissa Hodge of Janesville, said his favorite activities were washing and walking calves. At the end of the camp session, Hodge would be recognized by the Daluges as the camp’s “Best Showman.” They created several other individual awards for the campers.
Aiden’s mother said, “He loved camp and wanted to go to the second session, but we already had plans that week. He hopes to attend next year. The camp is a great way to share the dairy industry with kids. With fewer farms many kids may not have other opportunities to visit a farm and see firsthand how they function.”
Kenzie Duthie, 8, daughter of Dan and Katie Duthie of Theresa, Wisconsin, said she enjoyed feeding the cows and learning about corn and soybeans.
Kenzie’s mother said, “One of the highlights for Kenzie was helping to pressure wash the milking parlor. She loved to be part of the cleanup. She also liked making butter and ice cream and was so proud to be able to make both. I was impressed with the camp and the variety of things she did and learned. I liked that the kids kept busy without needing television, tablets or video games. And they made so many friends.”