I did not grow up on a farm and my parents had no agricultural experience. I grew up in Neosho and only moved about 1.5 miles out of town when I got married. I farm with my husband Chris and our two daughters Mckayla (14) and Paige (12). I earned an associate degree in landscape horticulture with an emphasis on landscape design and maintenance. I worked as a landscape designer for four years until my first daughter was born and then quit to stay home and work on the farm full-time. Four years ago, I took the part-time position of Dodge County Dairy Ambassador for the Dodge County Dairy Promotion Committee. I enjoy being the ambassador, especially talking to the fourth-grade students in Dodge County.
When you were growing up what did you want to be?
I wanted to go into something with plants. I loved growing and planting; that passion came from my grandmother and parents. We always had a huge garden growing up and would sell our veggies from our coaster wagon in town. When I was looking at colleges, I was thinking something with landscape plants. Then I found Milwaukee Area Technical College in Mequon’s landscape horticulture degree program and fell in love with it because it was almost all hands-on studies.
Please share what Farm Bureau activities you are involved in.
I’m involved with Wisconsin Farm Bureau’s Ag in the Classroom program. I use its resources to help teach fourth-grade students in the Dodge County schools about dairy. This year, I was happy to receive an Ag in the Classroom grant for making ‘My Little Ag Libraries’ that will be awarded to four Dodge County classrooms in the fall. It will equip classrooms with books on agriculture for students to use. I also help during the Dodge County Farm Bureau’s Farm City Day, when the fourth-grade students in Dodge County visit a local dairy farm and learn about the farm and Wisconsin agriculture. I’m usually stationed in the milking parlor.
What is one agricultural experience that has defined you?
The agricultural experience that has defined me is my being in FFA for four years in high school. In FFA, I developed skills in public speaking, filled out applications and worked with others in agriculture. I was on the parliamentary procedure team and learned valuable lessons on how to conduct meetings. My team was lucky enough to advance to the state competition. Without these FFA experiences, I don’t think I would be as involved in the dairy community as I am now. I’m in the Hartford FFA Alumni, a co-general leader of the Neosho Utopians 4-H and on the committee for Dodge County Dairy Promotion Committee. In the past, I was the first woman on the board and the first woman president of the Dodge County Dairy Testing Association.
Briefly share your experience hosting the Leaders of the Land tour series.
Last year, my husband Chris and I were part of the Leaders of the Land State Sustainability Series. Our goal is to be as sustainable on our farm as possible. We practice no-till, cover cropping and plant green (planting into a living crop) with our crops. We also are integrating our cattle into the cropping by grazing our cover crops. We also have transitioned our herd to half Holsteins and half Normandes. Normande cattle are excellent for feed efficiency and grazing. They are a dual-purpose breed for meat and milk. We are looking out for our daughters’ futures on the farm by setting them and future generations up for sustainability success.
What is one Farm Bureau experience of which you are most proud?
Having kids come to me while helping with Dodge County Farm Bureau’s Farm City Day and say they remember me from me coming into their classrooms. I’m so happy to have made an impact in their lives, even if it’s a little bit.
What is something that many Farm Bureau members do not know about you?
When I was eight years old, I was diagnosed with Leukemia. I was having recurring ear infections and was hospitalized. Doctors discovered that the cancer had eaten my ear drum and I was deaf in one ear. I went through surgery to repair my eardrum, but now I have a hearing aid to help that ear because I’m experiencing mild hearing loss as I am getting older. I beat the disease, but not without a lot of struggles. I was fortunate enough to have my mom who was a registered nurse who could take care of me at home, so I didn’t have to stay in the hospital as much.
By Marian Viney, originally appeared in the August|September 2022 Rural Route.