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Dairy helps generate goodwill, business in Wisconsin town

There are 36 employees whose families rely on Katie Grinstead’s Wisconsin dairy farm and its 2,000 cows.

That number doesn’t account for Grinstead and her husband, Grant, who are in a business partnership with her parents, Gary and Rose Boyke, and her brother J.R. Boyke.

It adds up to Grinstead taking much pride knowing Vir-Clar Farm in Fond du Lac does more than provide nutritious milk from its Holstein cows every day. Their dairy is an economic engine. Grinstead said she figured their farm alone contributes more than $3.5 million annually to Wisconsin’s economy. 

“We are a family farm, but it’s not just our family,” she said. “The farm definitely contributes to the economy and the numbers are pretty staggering when you multiply it out.

“We buy lunches at the local cafes, we support the gas station in town … if it wasn’t for the local dairies, several of those mom-and-pop businesses around here would be in trouble. We also hire professionals like a tax accountant, financial adviser, veterinarian, agronomist and others who help us be successful.”

The Grinsteads also are civically involved in their community. Katie is a member of the Fond du Lac Charity Club, whose mission is to raise funds to purchase milk for children and charities in need. And Grant, she said, is “totally out of his comfort zone” with his primary civic duty as a board member for the Thelma Sadoff Center for the Arts.

“It’s great for him to be on that board and it gets him in front of a whole new group of people who he can talk to about our farm,” she said. 

Operating such an important and visible business means the family is often asked to host visitors or fill requests. Some can take them by complete surprise. 

Last year, the farm hosted a family whose 11-year-old daughter was dying from cancer. The family toured the dairy and captured memorable moments with their daughter, who loved animals. The little girl passed away not long after visiting the farm.

“I have a son that age and it cuts to the heart,” Grinstead said. “She was real shy and quiet at first but by the end she had named one of the calves and the calf got up and stood for the first time when she was here. There weren’t a lot of dry eyes on that visit.”

The farm also filled a request from Wish of a Lifetime, an organization dedicated to fulfilling wishes for senior citizens. The family gave a tour to a 90-year-old man who had milked cows by hand in his younger days.

“To see the look in his eye when he saw how a modern dairy operates compared to how he did it when he was younger was something we’ll never forget,” Grinstead said.

Giving back any way they can will remain an ongoing commitment for the family, Grinstead said. 

“We are members of this community and we want to be good neighbors,” she said. “We’re very passionate about sharing our story and opening our farm to people. This is something that is very high on my priority list of things to do.”