REEDSBURG -- Five-year-old Katherine Long didn’t waste any time Saturday picking up her fork and eating her eggs and cheese curds.

“I’m hungry,” said the young Hillpoint girl at the Sauk County Dairy Breakfast held at Brian and Dena Bender’s family farm in Reedsburg.

Long was joined by her parents, Mike and Dawn, and the couple’s two other children, Vivian, 3 and Jenavev, 8.

“We wanted to come out and show our support to our local farmers in Sauk County,” Mike said.

He said his family easily downs between two to three gallons of milk each week.

“They love milk, cheese and eggs so this was much more than a breakfast for our children,” he said. “It was a learning experience.”

That’s what Dena Bender enjoys hearing.

“Some people think all of this just comes from the grocery store,” she said. “That’s the end point. We want to show folks who come here today where it all begins.”

Dawn Long said she is using the county dairy breakfast in her home schooling lesson plans with her children.

“This is a good experience not only for my children, but for the others here to learn how important the dairy industry is in this state,” she said. “Some kids may see the gallon of milk in the store, but not know how it gets there. I want my children to know.”

The Benders have 400 acres of land upon which they plant corn, soybeans and hay. The couple also has 120 milk cows.

“Dairy is a big part of the state’s economy,” Brian Bender said. “There are a lot of people out there that don’t realize it.”

Wisconsin’s dairy industry generates $20.6 billion a year for the state’s economy and accounts for more than 40 percent of the 420,000 jobs in the agricultural sector, according to the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board.

While dairy is an important factor in the state budget, the number of U.S. farms have been dropping during the past century.

In the early 1900s, there were nearly six million farms in the U.S., according to the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board. Today, the Board states there are just over two million.

“Dairy is a very important part of our culture here in the county and the state,” Dena Bender said. “It’s a huge commitment to run a farm. You are running your farm seven days a week — 365 days a year. It’s non-stop.”

Even before hosting Saturday’s breakfast, the Benders were out milking their cows.

“We’re always working out here,” she said. “Some people may not have the time to run a farm like their grandfathers once did. It takes a lot of work.”

And the hard work didn’t go unnoticed Saturday.

Dan Koenig, who, along with Troy Phelps, worked to shuttle visitors to the dairy breakfast said about 2,000 people had come to the farm by 9:30 a.m.

“We’ve been busy since 6 this morning and people just keep on coming,” Koenig said.

The long lines didn’t seem to bother Dennis Haut and his mother, Mary Lou, who both live in Sextonville.

“We always try to make the Sauk County Dairy Breakfast — wherever it is,” he said.

Haut said he and his mother have eggs for breakfast about two to three times a week.

“Plus, we always have cheese — cheddar or swiss — in the house to nibble on when we’re hungry,” he said.

Haut said he and his mother go through a gallon of milk each week.

“My mom raised me on milk,” Dennis said. “I love it.”

Send email to ezagorski@capitalnewspapers.com

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