Week 8 Winner - Gordon Keller, Richland Center
Congratulations to Gordon Keller of Richland Center, recognized as one of this year's "Salute a Wisconsin Dairy Professional" winners.
Gordon has been innovative in the dairy industry for years, from using a parlor and free stall barn in the late 1970's to establishing what is currently one of the largest farms in Richland County. Keller's original farm—Kelland Registered Holsteins—had been in the family since 1884. In 2007, Kelland Registered Holsteins merged with another neighboring farm and was dubbed Junction View Dairy, now owned by Gordon, his family and two neighbor partners. Together, Junction View Dairy milks over 900 cows and farms 2,100 acres of corn and alfalfa. By sharing the responsibilities of this new, larger dairy, all of the partners are able to enjoy more flexibility and time with their families.
Gordon enjoys being involved in all aspects of the farm, from driving tractors and field work, to organizing and maintaining all the registered pedigrees of the Holstein herd, to teaching the next generation the importance of maintaining a productive herd.
From the preschoolers of Richland Center to World Dairy Expo visitors from around the world, Junction View Dairy welcomes all visitors to learn where their food comes from and the vital role farmers play. "It's an opportunity to showcase our business and to show others our livelihood," Gordy says.
His many conservation awards reflect the fact that land stewardship, soil conservation and farming methods are all important to Gordon.
Gordon earned the Richland County Outstanding Young Farmer award in the early 1980s, an award that was earned in 2010 by his son, Ryan, the fifth generation of Keller in dairying. Ryan went on to win the National Outstanding Young Farmer award in 2011. Gordon’s three children all have ties to agriculture and continue the family tradition as stewards of the land and animals.
Learn more about Junction View Dairy at their Facebook site: facebook.com/pages/Junction-View-Dairy-LLC
Week 7 Winner - Jeff Meffert, Waunakee
Congratulations to Jeff Meffert of Waunakee, recognized as one of this year's "Salute a Wisconsin Dairy Professional" winners.
As a third-generation dairy farmer, Jeff began his career by completing the University of Wisconsin-Madison Farming and Agriculture Short Course in 1985. Long before that, he was following his father and grandfather around the family farm, Meffert Homestead, Inc, located just north of Waunakee. Today, he and his wife, Ann, are bringing the fourth generation through the ranks. Their daughter, Megan, 18, is attending Edgewood College in the fall. Their son, Luke, 15, is showing a strong interest in continuing the Meffert family farm tradition. Both children are heavily involved with the Waunakee Chapter of the FFA.
In 1988, Jeff's parents hosted the Dane County Breakfast on the Farm. Jeff's parents still live on the farm, and his dad, age 73, helps with the daily chores.
Jeff says on occasion a biker will peddle past the farm and drop by out of curiosity. He says he enjoys dropping what he’s doing to give them an impromptu tour. He also works with Rural Insurance and the Wisconsin Farm Bureau in helping to educate their employees on what happens on and around the farm.
What Jeff enjoys most about making a living on the family farm is that he is his own boss. "No two days are the same." He has to be ready to change his plans for the farm and his schedule on a moment's notice.
Jeff says the computer has greatly changed the dairy industry's relationship with the consumer. "It's important for consumers to understand where their food is coming from. Some information on the web is false, and some is very true. It's a double-edged sword." He warns consumers to take what they read on the internet with a grain of salt.
Week 6 Winner - Myron Olson, Monroe
Congratulations to Myron Olson of Monroe, recognized as one of this year's "Salute a Wisconsin Dairy Professional" winners.
According to Myron, he never met a cheese he didn't like and like to make. Maybe that is why he is a Master Cheesemaker in three different varieties: Baby Swiss, Brick and Limburger. The title of Master Cheesemaker doesn’t come easy. All told, it is a 10-year process just to be able to apply for the program and then a three-year process after being accepted to the Wisconsin Master Cheesemaker® program. There are only 56 certified Wisconsin Master Cheesemakers in the world, and 12 of them hail from the kingdom of Master Cheesemakers—Green County.
So how did Myron get to where he is today? He grew up on a dairy farm near Argyle. His family sold the farm, but Myron kept dairy in his life by putting himself through school at UW-Platteville, financed by wrapping Limburger cheese until 9 p.m. at night at Chalet Cheese Cooperative in Monroe. Jump to 2013, and you’ll still find Myron at the Chalet Cheese. Chalet Cheese, founded in 1885, is the oldest cheese cooperative in Wisconsin and the only U.S. producer of Limburger. Myron is the only Master Cheesemaker for Limburger in the country. But when you ask him about being "the Big Cheese," he smiles and says, "But my wife, Geri, still makes me take out the garbage."
He also enjoys promoting Wisconsin cheese (especially Limburger!) and is always excited when he gets a new person to enjoy the Limburger experience for the first time. Myron’s smile is one of satisfaction, knowing the product is quality and the hard work is well worth it.
Growing up on a farm, he understands the process begins with the farmers and quality milk. According to Myron, "A good cheese starts with great milk. Good milk, good cheese." He maintains great relationships with the 21 Green County farmer-owners of Chalet. "When you get an award, the first place you start is by thanking the farmers you work with. It is a team effort."
Week 5 Winner - Dr. John Laukant, Reedsburg
Congratulations to Dr. John Laukant of Reedsburg, recognized as one of this year's "Salute a Wisconsin Dairy Professional" winners.
Dr. John grew up on a 75-cow farm outside Reedsburg and received his degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine with a specialty in large animals. He eventually found his way back home to serve the Reedsburg area and now owns and operates Sunrise Veterinary Clinic for small and large animals. Because his office is really located on "the back country roads," Dr. John says the best part of his job is that he is able to enjoy all four seasons.
He feels that the largest challenge facing farmers in this century is the same one they’ve faced for generations—Mother Nature. "Every day they fight with her, usually to a draw, but they endure and battle on. From the worst of weather to the best sunny day, farmers are out every day," said Dr. John.
Dr. John's "Salute" nomination included a story on the care he shows his patients and their humans:
"As Sunrise Vet has been expanding, John still finds time to show concerns for each farmer. I think John Laukant is an outstanding vet. John cares about the bottom line on your dairy farm and how to make the dairy farmer more money. One day for instance he was driving by my farm and noticed a cow in heat and called me up to tell me. That was the first vet ever to take time out of their busy schedule to think of calling me to make sure I knew I had a cow in heat."
Dr. John is also very active in the community from helping raise money for United Way and other non-profits in the Reedsburg area and working with his family's Red Angus beef herd.
In response to this recognition, Dr. John says: "I am proud to be one spoke on the wheel of professionals in the dairy industry. Nutritionists, agronomists, breeders, milk processors—we all work together with Wisconsin dairy farmers and dairy cattle to make Wisconsin the best dairy state in the nation."
Sunrisevet.net and Facebook.com/Sunrise-Veterinary-Service/
Week 4 Winner - Bryan Voegeli, Monticello
Congratulations to Bryan Voegeli of Monticello, recognized as one of this year's "Salute a Wisconsin Dairy Professional" winners.
Bryan graduated from UW-Madison in dairy science in 1982. Today he and his family continue to operate Voegeli Farms Inc., which was homesteaded in 1854. As fifth-generation dairymen, Bryan and his brother, Jimmy, now work on the farm they grew up on, milking 200 pure bred Brown Swiss and farming 1,500 acres. The sixth generation continues the tradition as his children, Brienna and Christopher, now help operate the family farm.
Bryan follows his father, Howard's, footsteps, in continuing to encourage future generations into dairy farming and being a member of the World Dairy Expo (WDE) Board. Howard Voegeli is one of the founding fathers of the WDE. Bryan says he is "proud and honored to be part of the World Dairy Expo," an international event that Bryan says his father didn't dream would grow to the magnitude of today. The event continues to grow every year, and he credits the hundreds of volunteers. "Without the volunteers, the event and the 50+ million dollar economic impact on the area would not be possible."
Bryan has received numerous awards for his work in the dairy industry:
--Winner of the prestigious A.C. "Whitie" Thomson Memorial Award in 1995. This award is exclusive to WDE and is presented to the herdsman/showman who exhibits leadership and sportsmanship throughout the current show.
--In 2002 named to WDE's Dairy Cattle Exhibitors Committee. Bryan currently is Vice-Chair of the Dairy Cattle Exhibitors Committee.
--Received the "Barn" Herdsmanship Award at WDE in 2012.
Bryan exports live animals, embryos and semen around the world from the generations deep of home-bred show cattle. He enjoys the challenges that come with the job—working with the cattle, raising crops and animal breeding.
Bryan feels that one of the biggest challenges facing farmers is consumer perception of the dairy industry. "The goal of today's farmers is to be sustainable while being environmentally safe and good stewards of the land."
Week 3 Winner - Carrie Mess, Lake Mills
Congratulations to Carrie Mess of Lake Mills, recognized as one of this year's "Salute a Wisconsin Dairy Professional" winners. Carrie and her husband, Patrick, work with his parents on their 100-cow dairy farm near Lake Mills.
While she didn't grow up on a farm, Carrie has become a leading advocate for agriculture. Her primary mode of communication—the internet (social media). If you're involved in the electronic world of agriculture, then you've likely heard of "Dairy Carrie," where she blogs, posts and tweets about life and adventures on the farm.
In her blog—and her Facebook page and Twitter account—Carrie is a tireless supporter of the dairy industry. Her fans and followers say it is an informative source of unbiased information, great recipes and "cute cow pictures." She promotes farmers, ranchers and ag folks, allowing them to share their story with the world via social media.
Carrie says the best part of what she does is taking care of her cows and using the web to reconnect people to the farm and the food they eat. "One of the biggest changes in the world of farming is the customer's awareness and interest in the food they are eating." Carrie has helped make that connection through the internet.
The nomination entry for Carrie emphasized her caring and giving nature. "Carrie has a huge heart. Because of the extreme drought in Oklahoma & Texas in 2011, Carrie organized a hay drive to send semi loads of donated bales of hay South (and convinced her employer to be a big sponsor). She worked with local ag organizations to make sure the hay got to those who needed it the most."
If you would like to find out more about Carrie Mess, her adventures on the farm, and other news in the world of ag, visit Carrie's blog, Facebook page, or connect with her on Twitter.
Week 2 Winner - Tom and Joan Oberhaus, Waukesha
Congratulations to Tom and Joan Oberhaus of Cozy Nook Farm near Waukesha, recognized as one of this year's "Salute a Wisconsin Dairy Professional" winners.
The Oberhaus farm, Cozy Nook Farm, was established by the Wendt family in 1834 near the present day Goerkes Corners. In 1957, it was purchased by the state to build I-94, and the farm was moved to its current location near Delafield, Wisconsin, where it was operated Joan's parents, Jim and Kathy Wendt. Cozy Nook Farm is now operated by Tom and Joan with their son, Charlie. Tom and Joan keep an immaculate dairy operation. They take great pride in their cows and facilities—and it shows. Every day, the Oberhaus family works toward making the best use of their valuable land, water and air resources so the environment will be safe and productive for future generations.
The Oberhaus family shares their farm story with the public by offering farm tours, giving non-farm folks an opportunity to learn about modern dairy farming, up close and personal. During tours, Tom and Joan explain the full life cycle of a cow and the value of dairy farms to communities and the state.
Cozy Nook opens its doors to youth, helping kids—with and without farming backgrounds— learn more about the dairy industry, hard work and dedication. After spending time at Cozy Nook, youth are given the opportunity to show a heifer at local fairs. The Oberhaus' often have more than a dozen kids participating in the program. They admire these bright and enthusiastic youth and are optimistic about the future of the dairy industry. Some of these non-farm youth choose careers in agriculture, which the Oberhaus' feel is extremely rewarding.
Cozy Nook Farm is home to about 65 cows, mostly registered Guernseys and Brown Swiss. In 2012, Tom and Joan were the proud owners of the "Wisconsin Cow of the Year," Cozy Nook Pronto Twylight, a 6-year-old Brown Swiss cow.
Cozy Nook Farms offers educational tours, pumpkins, and that perfect Christmas tree. For more information about the Oberhaus family, visit: cozynookfarms.com, dairydoingmore.org/FarmFamilies, or dairydoingmore.org/EconomicImpact.
Week 1 Winner - Melissa Leonard-Flannery, Blanchardville
Congratulations to Melissa Leonard-Flannery of Blanchardville, recognized as one of this year's "Salute a Wisconsin Dairy Professional" winners. Melissa and her husband, Jeff, are dairy farmers in rural Blanchardville with a herd of Registered Brown Swiss and Holsteins.
Melissa is also an educator for the Pecatonica School District. Melissa says, "I knew I always wanted to be a teacher, but I didn't know it would bring me home to my family's farm." Melissa and Jeff bought her family's fourth-generation farm from her parents, and for the past six years, she has combined her love of the farm and teaching to educate her seventh grade students about the importance of the dairy industry to Wisconsin. Each year her students enjoy a unit on cheese, complete with a tasting lab that includes mozzarella, 10-year cheddar, limburger and brie. Melissa loves teaching because "Every day is different and I love to watch student achieve greatness."
As an FFA Advisor, she is very involved in the community with service activities, including an annual chicken BBQ, building flower planters for Main Street and the Women's Club. Melissa is on the Dairy Day Committee--Blanchardville will be the host community for the 2013 Father's Day weekend. Melissa is also the Blanchardville community coordinator for the Green County Ag Chest Queen program and has students that help out each year with the Green County Dairy Breakfast cleanup. She has helped students write grants through the Wisconsin FFA Foundation to purchase animals of their own, and she is the advisor of Wisconsin FFA Vice President Nick Huffman. Her FFA Chapter has 50 members that proudly boast a state winner, 14 other gold-rated proficiencies, and three Wisconsin Star Finalists.
Melissa and Jeff let students use their animals for dairy projects that have been shown at Green and Lafayette County Fairs, the Wisconsin State Fair and district shows.
Melissa also does photography as a hobby and has donated two pieces to the Wisconsin Brown Swiss Association to be auctioned, one sold this spring and the other will sell in July benefitting the Junior Members at the National Brown Swiss Convention in Milwaukee.
Melissa was nominated for this award by her Pecatonia FFA Chapter students. Find her on Facebook here or here.