MALONE, Wis. — When people talk about Wisconsin as “America’s Dairyland,” the first thing that comes to mind is cows.
Goats? Not so much.
The fact that my parents, my siblings and I operate a successful goat dairy, LaClare Farms, in this bovine-centric landscape certainly has helped us grab our share of appearances on news, travel and public interest TV shows.
But nothing could have prepared us for our latest (and, by far, biggest) broadcast appearance: A 10-lb. wheel of our world-renowned Evalon Cheese was featured in the Jan. 23 episode of ABC’s “The Bachelor.”
If that sounds too good to be true, keep in mind one important caveat: After the producers and director did their editing thing, our product only appeared on the screen for about 5 seconds. But still, what a five seconds! It’s not every day that you get even that much of the spotlight in front of 7 million viewers.
(Left on the cutting room floor was an extended sequence which involved the “bachelorettes” competing in a cheese-rolling competition with that wheel. America’s viewers will never know the silliness that ensued.)
When we got the call from the producers, I initially thought it was a prank. At first, they were vague, asking general questions just to see if we would be a good fit. Once we came to an agreement about how we could contribute in a fun way, things started moving with a kind of crazy energy as we pulled everything together in a very short time. (Apparently, they were filming in the Carolinas, but a hurricane forced them to quickly pull up stakes and head to the great Midwest. Thus, Mother Nature had a hand in our stroke of good luck.)
Filming took place at the Knigge Farm in Omro (it’s great to see another family farm benefiting from the exposure too!). There’s definitely a different spin to this type of “reality” television — the production team goes with the flow, making last-minute adjustments as events, circumstances and personalities dictate. There’s a general plan, but it can go out the window quickly, and you can’t predict how the bachelor or bachelorettes will behave. That unpredictability is half the fun.
While we didn’t have a lot of time to meet the cast — they keep the bachelorettes fairly well sequestered — Katie and I did have time to talk with Bachelor Nick in between filming. He seemed like a nice guy.
Looking back on the whole affair, there are ups and downs in this type of programming:
On the one hand, the Knigge Farm in Omro, Wis., is an extremely impressive-and-progressive operation, including a state-of-the-art robotic milking parlor. However, you wouldn’t know that watching “The Bachelor,” where — perhaps bowing to the lowest common denominator — the show reinforced some of the outdated “Little Red Barnhouse” stereotypes, including making the bachelorettes manually shovel a pile of manure … and highlighting their complaints about the smell. (Yes, ladies, farm animals still create odors, even in the 21st century.)
On the plus side, it was great to find out we had friends we never knew we had. The TV critic for the Onion’s A.V. Club, for instance, had a grand ol’ time ripping apart the show, but gave us an unsolicited endorsement by openly exclaiming her passion for our cheese. That’s called publicity money can’t buy.
On the whole, I think the positives far outweighed the negatives. Even if only for a few seconds, we had the rare opportunity to represent Wisconsin and our $44 billion-a-year dairy industry on a show that perennially ranks in television’s Top 25 broadcasts. What a wonderful opportunity!
Growing up in the state, it’s easy to forget how much of a reputation we have: “America’s Dairyland” is just normal for us. Now that I’m older — and deeply involved in the family trade — that reputation is something we strive to uphold. We are always focused on making the cheese better and finding new techniques to improve what we do.
In the end, we don’t know if The Bachelor will find true love with his bevy of beauties, but hopefully he discovered a passion for goat cheese along the way.
Greg Hedrich is business manager for LaClare Farms in Malone, Wis.
Read a profile here on LeClare Dairy from the June 2016 issue of MAA.