On Dec. 4, Richard (Dick) Cates Jr. was presented the ‘Distinguished Service to Wisconsin Agriculture’ award for his outstanding, long-term contributions to Wisconsin’s agricultural industry during Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation’s virtual 101st Annual Meeting.
A Wisconsin native, Dick has been surrounded by agriculture his whole life. He earned his Ph.D. in soil science from UW-Madison. He and his wife, Kim, returned to the family farm with a determination to turn it into a successful business. Dick and Kim co-own Cates Family Farm LLC in Iowa County with son Eric, his wife, Kiley, and their daughter Shannon and her husband, Dan.
“Farm Bureau is about people working together to get a job done. There are always some who stand out because of special contributions they have made to Wisconsin agriculture and Dick is one of those outstanding people,” said WFBF President Joe Bragger.
In 1995, Dick helped create the Wisconsin School for Beginning Dairy and Livestock Farmers, which is a program within UW-Madison’s Farm and Industry Short Course and Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems that teaches young farmers what they need to know when starting their farming businesses. This program has assisted more than 600 young and not-so-young individuals to start, or move towards, their dream to farm. Dick retired from this work in 2018, but during the 23 years he also developed and taught courses in grassland ecology, pasture management, managed grazing and agroecology within the College of Agricultural & Life Sciences at UW-Madison.
Previously, Dick served on the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection Board of Directors and the USDA Secretary’s Advisory Council for Beginning Farmers and Ranchers. Dick serves on the boards of the Town of Wyoming (elected official), Spring Green Fire District, Driftless Area Land Conservancy, Upland Hills Health Foundation, and the Sand County Foundation. Additionally, the Cates family has been recognized for their soil and water conservation work through various awards since 1998 and are members of the Iowa County Uplands Farmer-Led Watershed Project and the Lowery Creek Watershed Initiative.
“Dick’s commitment to the agriculture community is admirable because he leads by example,” said Bragger. “He is extremely deserving of this award.”
Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation is the state’s largest general agriculture organization representing farms of all sizes, commodities and management styles.