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Vikings pride meets dairy pride: Hastings family won visit from Vikings' Toby Gerhart

The Bremers are pictured in their calf barn with Toby Gerhart after the Vikings player learned how to feed calves. Pictured from left to right are John Bremer, Sara Bremer, Michael Bremer, Gerhart and Janet Bremer. Star Gazette photo by Katrina Styx

It’s been a remarkable year for the Bremer family. While most families are lucky to meet an NFL player once, the Bremers have rubbed elbows with Vikings players three times this year.

In January, Michael won a superfan contest, a random drawing that gave him and his mother, Janet, a weekend package to attend a Vikings game, watch a practice and have a private meet and greet with Chris Kluwe. Then in May, the Bremers gave a short speech when Vikings players volunteered to build a playground as part of the Fuel Up to Play 60 campaign. They met several players that day.

The most recent visit was just last week. On Tuesday, Dec. 17, Vikings running back Toby Gerhart traveled to Hastings to visit the Bremers on their farm.

“It doesn’t get any better than this,” Janet said during the visit.

The visit was the prize for the Show Your Pride contest, hosted by the National Dairy Council and the NFL. The contest encourages dairy farmers to show their pride for their farm while also showing their pride for their favorite NFL team.

The Bremers learned of the contest back in September from an email update sent by the Midwest Dairy Association. Midwest Dairy works to promote dairy farming in the 10-state Midwest area, and urged farmers here to send in their photos. Green Bay Packers fans had won the last two years.

“So that was the big incentive for us to come out guns blazing,” Janet said.

It was Sara Bremer, Janet’s and John’s daughter, who came up with the winning photo idea. They would paint one of their fences gold and set up a purple couch in front of it. The family donned their Vikings gear and posed a photo watching a game on T.V. outside, where the cows could watch too.

They had the idea for a while, but it wasn’t until about a day or two before the deadline that they actually took the photo.

“The weather had been awful up until that point,” Janet said. “It had been so rainy.”

In late October, after encouraging all their friends to vote for their photo, the Bremers found out they had won the contest.

“It was a national contest, so we didn’t have any idea how many votes would actually be cast in all of this,” Janet said.

Last week, Gerhart made his appearance at the farm, ready to learn about the Bremers’ operation. Janet said she was impressed with him because of how genuine he was, how interested he was in what he saw and the insightful questions he asked while he was there.

The visit started with introductions and a few questions for Gerhart in the Bremer garage. After that, the family took him on a tour of the farm.

Bremer Farms dates back to 1952, when it was purchased by Roy and Karen Bremer, John Bremer’s parents. Today it is owned and operated by Roy and Karen with John and Janet. Sara and Michael also help. The farm is 270 acres with additional rented ground and a milking herd of 128 Holstein cows.

The second stop on the tour was the calf barn, where Gerhart got his hands dirty and helped the family feed the calves. He even named one of the calves Bella before leaving the barn.

The calf barn was the big event for the media outlets that covered the event, but after the media left the farm, Gerhart continued to visit with the Bremers. The contest paid for Gerhart to stay there for an hour, Janet said, but he ended up staying two and a half hours. After finishing his tour, he joined the family in their home to visit more and have some milk and cheese.

“It was just like having a friend over,” Janet said.

Fuel Up to Play 60

Gerhart’s visit was part of a national campaign sponsored by the National Dairy Council and the NFL called Fuel Up to Play 60. The campaign encourages students to “fuel up” with nutrient rich dairy foods and get 60 minutes of physical activity every day.

Besides the photo contest, the program has also sent NFL players into schools to talk to students about nutrition and physical activity.

While at the Bremer farm, Gerhart talked about how important dairy is in his own diet. His family had a running joke that they should have their own cow, he said. He is one of six children, and as a kid he and his family were required to drink milk at dinner. They would drink eight to 12 gallons of milk every week, he said, and he hasn’t given up the habit.

“Milk is still my go-to drink, especially for dinner,” he said.

These days he’s gotten into the habit of drinking chocolate milk after exercise. The mix of carbohydrates and proteins has been proven to help the body recover after strenuous physical activity, he said.

Gerhart’s visit attracted a substantial amount of media attention, which is what really impressed Janet.

“I was thrilled with how much media coverage we have received,” she said. “It was fun for us to receive the prize, but I guess our ultimate goal in even entering the contest was exposing people to the life of a dairy farmer.”

Articles and video stories have been published by the Star Tribune, KSTP, Minnesota Farm Network, Hoard’s Dairyman, The Viking Age, ESPN and local Hastings media as well.

Janet has written about this visit on her blog (www.mybarnyardview.blogsp and on her Twitter account (@Mybarnyardview), and has received comments from all over the country and Canada.

“It just goes to show,” she said, “how a fun, whimsical contest can turn into an amazing promotional tool.”