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JONESVILLE, MI -- Breakfast on the Farm wrapped up its seventh program year Aug. 29 at Pleasant View Dairy in Hillsdale County.

The 34th event of its kind since Michigan State University Extension (MSUE) began the program in 2009, this year's final Breakfast on the Farm event drew more than 2,500 visitors to the 680-head dairy run by Jennifer and Bruce Lewis just west of Jonesville.

Most attendees began their visit with a hearty pancake-and-sausage breakfast, prepared by a crew of volunteers from local fire departments. After donning disposable booties to respect the farm's biosecurity protocols, they then streamed across the road by the hundreds to meet the Lewis family and tour the heart of the farm.

Kevin and Rose Chapman made the 45-minute drive from Albion to attend the event. It was their second Breakfast on the Farm in as many years, but their first time visiting a working dairy operation.

"We went last year to one of these and really liked it," said Kevin Chapman. "Everybody enjoyed it and we're all amazed at what goes into a dairy farm."

"This year we brought 27 other family members with us, from California, Florida, all over—it's a great learning experience," Rose Chapman said, adding that she was particularly impressed by the lengths farmers go to ensure their animals are happy and comfortable.

"I was kind of amazed with how they take care of the animals, with the waterbeds," she said. "They take a lot of pride in this place. I learned a lot about dairy farming I never knew before."

Jennifer and Bruce represent the third generation of Lewises to operate the farm; his grandparents started the venture in 1941.

"In 1957 Bruce's father took over and it became more of a dairy farm at that point," Lewis said. "Today, our three children are involved—Adam, Brittany and Connor. We stay busy!"

That fourth generation is already holding its own maintaining the farm's high standards; Adam and his wife Kayla were recently named among the top 10 Outstanding Young Dairy Cooperators by the Michigan Milk Producers Association. The recognition spotlights outstanding young leaders in Michigan's dairy industry, and encourages them to embrace active roles in dairy marketing and promotion.

"Community outreach is something I don't think farmers do enough of," said Jennifer Lewis, who represents a five-county region of southern Michigan on the Michigan Farm Bureau Board of Directors. "An event like this gives you the opportunity to invite the public in, show them what we do, show them how well we take care of the animals, how well we take care of the environment. We really enjoy hosting people here at the farm and giving them a chance to see how we do it."

Nancy Thelen was enjoying the luxury of serving as a mere volunteer Saturday. The recent MSUE retiree has been at the helm of Breakfast on the Farm since its inception.

"Breakfast on the Farm started in 2009 with one event. This is the 34th event since that time, with over 70,000 participants and visitors," Thelen said. "It was designed to bring consumers out on the farm to give them a real learning experience—for them to really see where their food comes from and what farmers do to take care of their animals, protect the environment and produce high-quality food."

Michigan-made products dominated the breakfast menu. Thousands of sausage patties were donated by Bob Evans, which operates a plant in nearby Hillsdale. Pancake mix from Chelsea Milling and Frankenmuth-based Star of the West was laden with fresh Michigan blueberries. Lansing's Quality Dairy donated milk for up to 3,000 attendees.

All five Breakfast on the Farm events this year featured dairy farms, beginning July 11 with Stakenas Farms, near Free Soil in Mason County. Subsequent events were hosted by Roto-Z Dairy Farm in Sanilac County, Hood Farms Family Dairy in Van Buren County, and Wheeler Dairy in Gratiot County.

For more information, visit the Breakfast on the Farm website, www.breakfastonthefarm.com.

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