How many volunteers does it take to serve breakfast on a farm? When you’re planning to feed over 2,000 visitors, it turns out it takes quite a few.
It also takes a great deal of advance planning, cooperation and a bit of money. All those factors began to come together Monday evening at the Douglass Township Hall in Entrican, where Michigan State Extension Officer Nancy Thelen presented the first in a series of meetings that will end with this year’s area Breakfast on the Farm event.
Begun in 2009, Breakfast on the Farm is part of MSU’s agriculture outreach program, designed to bring life on the farm to visitors who might not otherwise be able to have a “rural experience.”
Each year an area farm is chosen to host the event; this year that honor goes to the Black Locust Farm in Stanton, owned by Tom and Pamela Jeppesen and Tom’s brother, Jack Jeppesen.
“The purpose of Breakfast on the Farm is to acquaint consumers with modern agriculture and what goes on on farms,” Thelen said. “We want to show how we produce in a way that’s caring of the land and animals, to show our stewardship of those things as we produce a great product.”
Thelen added that the event is not meant to showcase a single farm, but rather the overall Michigan farming community. Even so, Pam Jeppesen admitted she was excited to be hosting this year’s Breakfast on the Farm.
“It’s really kind of exciting,” said Jeppesen.
Much of Monday’s meeting was given over to sharing with those gathered the history of the event, as well as the way it has evolved over the years.
Thelen noted that the first event drew a surprising 1,300 visitors; that number has grown to over 2,000 in recent years. Last year, eight Michigan counties hosted a Breakfast on the Farm event, drawing over 18,293 visitors.
Of those, Thelen estimates more than 40 percent have never been on a modern farm.
“About 45 percent live in urban areas,” Thelen said. “We’re reaching folks who know very little about agriculture.”
Getting the message of modern farming out to that demographic is important, Thelen added. A real misunderstanding exists among “city folks” regarding what life is really like on a farm. Anything the Breakfast on the Farm event can do to mitigate that problem is a good thing, she said.
Though each Breakfast on the Farm is unique, similarities exist between them all. For one thing, there’s the breakfast; the Jeppesens are tentatively planning a pancake type breakfast, though the details have yet to be ironed out.
The event also will feature several educational and fun “stations” around the farm, each detailing some aspect of farm life.
Most of the particulars are still tentative; at this point, the various committees that will oversee activities are still being formed. In fact, the date of the event — Sept. 7 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. — was only decided on Monday.
From this point on, the various committees will seek sponsors, enlist volunteers and plan, plan, plan. Thelen said she hopes things will be far more firmed up by the time the group meets next in early March.
According to Thelen, visitors to these events often drive in from as many as 70 communities from surrounding counties. Breakfast on the Farm is a big deal, not only for the local farming community, but for those who make the trip in with kids and grandkids to experience, up close and personal, what life on the farm is really like.