Farmer leaders are the cornerstone of the strong soybean organizations in Wisconsin. Among the vast number of excellent leaders who have served on the Wisconsin Soybean Association (WSA) and the Wisconsin Soybean Marketing Board, there have been many women who have given their time, talent and intellect to build a great soybean industry for our state.
“Wisconsin Soybean Programs would like to take the opportunity to recognize the leadership and work that many women have contributed to our organizations and the industry,” says Robert Karls, executive director of Wisconsin Soybean Programs. “We appreciate all of the time and effort they’ve given to strengthen our organizations.”
Alice Van Bogaert was involved with WSA in the early 1990s. Her husband was a founding member of WSA in 1973. Van Bogaert provided leadership for the Wisconsin Volunteer program and conducted many cooking demonstrations. Van Bogaert was always eager to work for the betterment of the organization and was very dedicated to the Wisconsin soybean mission.
Judy Klahn was a groundbreaker for WSA, serving as the first female president of the organization in 1999. She served on the board from 1997-2003 in all. Klahn and her husband Tom of raised soybeans, corn and vegetables near Lodi. The Klahns have always been actively involved in agricultural groups throughout the years. Judy enjoyed being a part of the legislative process and promoting Wisconsin’s soybean industry. She loved the opportunity to lead that organization and do what was best for soybean growers throughout the state. In 2009, Judy Klahn was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s. Klahn was a great proponent of the Wisconsin Soybean industry and opened the doors of opportunity for other women to get more involved in agriculture.
Vicky Coughlin of Watertown was involved Wisconsin Soybean Association more than a decade ago. She became president of WSA in 2002. Coughlin and her husband Gene farm the land that has been in the Coughlin family since 1852. After serving in WSA, Coughlin continues to promote agriculture in many ways including serving as a representative for the Farmers Feed Us organization. Coughlin takes pride in knowing that her family is producing food on the same land that has been in production for generations. She has been instrumental in spreading the message of the role of farming in feeding the world. Coughlin knows there is considerable amount of risk and hard work in farming but the reward of being in an industry that has a high positive impact on the lives of others throughout the world is rewarding.
Lorraine Birschbach of Malone was also a pioneer for the WSA who served from 1990 to 1996 and then went on to serve nine years for the American Soybean Association (ASA). In 2003 she received the Lifetime Achievement Award for Membership from American Soybean Association.
She believed that a strong grassroots foundation was the key for policy development and the effectiveness of the organizations. She worked tirelessly for soybean issues in Wisconsin and across the United States. Birschbach was recognized many years for top membership recruiting. She always had membership forms with her and was ready to add more farmers as members to the soybean associations. She believed in a strong membership base and encouraged others to become involved.
Nancy Kavazanjian works tirelessly to promote and educate people about agriculture. She served on WSA from 1987 to 1990. She is currently serving her fourth year as director for the United Soybean Board. Nancy and her husband, Charles Hammer, grow corn, soybeans and wheat near Beaver Dam. Kavazanjian has been active in many areas of Wisconsin agriculture.
She is the newly elected Chairperson of the U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance and past communications director for the Wisconsin Corn Growers Association She also served a term on the Agricultural Advisory Board of the Chicago Federal Reserve Bank from 1989-90. She works with the CommonGround initiative in Wisconsin and is an organizer of the annual Corn/Soy EXPO. Kavazanjian has met numerous grain buyers from other countries who have visited Wisconsin. In addition, Kavazanjian has traveled extensively promoting soybeans and byproducts through livestock and other uses.
Sherry Olson recently completed a term as WSA president. Olson, of Black River Falls, serves on the board as an industry representative and was asked to join the board several years ago. Olson has enjoyed the diversity of the individuals who serve on the board and she has gained a great deal of respect for how hard the board works to serve the members and the soybean growers in Wisconsin.
Julia Engler also is currently serving on WSA. She first came to the WSA Board in 2011 and is an industry representative on the board. Engler has also enjoyed meeting and working with farmers to help build a strong industry for Wisconsin and the nation.
Wisconsin Soybean extends a thank you to these and many other women who have helped the organization over the years. Their work opened the doors for other women who are eager to serve the soybean industry and all of agriculture.