To say Brian Preder is a people person is an understatement. That might be why he has found himself in a variety of management roles during his career and was selected as chair of the state Young Farmer and Agriculturist Committee.
The 34-year-old grew up on a farm in Weyauwaga in Waupaca County. A typical farm-kid, his earliest memory is looking down the barn alley while his parents milked cows. He also remembers riding his bike down the barn ally and later, not being able to keep up with his dad while stacking hay bales.
“You learned very quickly how to have your fun, but still get the work done,” Preder said.
Like many other farm kids, Brian was involved in 4-H and FFA.
“The largest influence both organizations had on me was leadership development and networking,” he said. “It’s not until you reflect on your involvement in 4-H and FFA that you realize the positive influence these organizations had in making you the person you are today.”
Involvement in those youth groups led Brian to show dairy cattle, which fueled his love for working with animals and people.
“Showing dairy was a big part of my summers,” he said. “There’s a sense of accomplishment that comes from the time spent training and preparing for the show.”
Since the county fair was such a big part of his summers Brian gives back to the cause, serving as the milk house manager at the Waupaca County Fair. This role allows him to still spend a week living the ‘fair life’ he enjoyed as a youth.
You Never Know Where the Path Will Lead
After graduating from Weyauwega-Fremont High School he headed to UW-River Falls set to dive into his degrees of dairy science and computer science. Yes, you read that right. Computer science.
“It was during my first semester when I decided that computer science was not for me. It was a simple decision when I was in my dorm room making a box bounce around a screen for my Java programming class and glanced outside during the beautiful spring weather. There was no way I was going to make it,” Brian said with a laugh. “Not many people know I started college pursuing that degree.”
During and after college Brian worked a variety of jobs such as being a member of a custom harvesting crew and working at a local cheese plant doing everything from hooping to packaging cheese. In 2006, he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in dairy science. After working back on the family farm for several years, he decided to take a job at a large dairy as a herd manager.
“I learned a lot about people management in that role,” Brian said. “Yes, I was the herd manager, but ultimately I was making sure the crew was taken care of and had everything they needed.”
Now you can find him working at GENEX in Shawano.
“I never thought I would end up working for an artificial insemination company in the production division,” he said.
Brian is the Wisconsin production manager at GENEX where he oversees three areas and about 25 people. He is responsible for bulls, facilities and staff at the Shawano location, which also is the headquarters.
“I’m still involved in agriculture, just on a different side of the industry,” said Brian. “Being responsible for bulls instead of cows has been a big change. It’s a change that provides me challenges and opportunities to constantly learn. The best part though, is much like a dairy farm, every day is a little different.”
The Farm Bureau Experience
Brian explains his beginning in Farm Bureau as being ‘volun-told’ to join and participate in the YFA Discussion Meet.
“I had a few friends who were involved in or working for Farm Bureau and still are,” he said. “They were pretty adamant I join and become involved and I’m glad I did.”
A college friend signed him up as a member and after being asked to try the Discussion Meet by then District 7 YFA representative Adam Kuczer, he was officially involved.
“That same year I was elected as the YFA chair for Waupaca County and now here I am serving as state YFA chair,” said Brian.
If you can imagine, Brian’s favorite part of being involved in Farm Bureau is meeting new people.
“I really love the networking opportunities that Farm Bureau gives me,” he said. “Especially now that I am chair, I get to meet lots of young people from around the country involved in agriculture. Where else will you get that chance?”
To Brian, YFA gives young agriculturists a chance to sit across a table with someone who has had “different experiences but the same passion.”
Brian has participated in Ag Day at the Capitol and Washington, D.C., fly-ins and has served on the WFBF Dairy and Policy Development committees.
“Besides the networking, being represented on Capitol Hill is a great reason to join Farm Bureau,” Brian said. In general, he appreciates that Farm Bureau is about its members.
“Farm Bureau is a membership organization so member recruitment is important. Specifically, the YFA program brings in young members with new ideas, which is exciting,” he said.
In his role as state YFA chair, Brian is on the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Board of Directors.
“In the boardroom, members are always considered first, which really impresses me,” Brian said. “The membership’s best interest is always front-of-mind and since I represent YFA my role is to represent the young members in our organization.”
Being involved in many volunteer groups through the years Brian admires those who volunteer time and effort toward a cause, which might be why he dedicates his spare time to a volunteer organization like Farm Bureau.
“Who I look up to is not one specific person; it’s a group of people,” said Brian. “The people who stick out in my mind are the people who volunteer their time. These are the people who are willing to take time out of their day to make sure someone else can have fun, network or develop skills. These volunteers are who I look up to.”
Brian will serve as the state YFA chair until the 2018 WFBF Annual Meeting in December when a new chair will assume the role and seat on the WFBF Board of Directors. After his time as YFA chair, Brian plans to remain active in Farm Bureau and continue to advocate for young leaders in agriculture. To learn more about Wisconsin’s YFA program visit wfbf.com/programs/young-farmer-and-agriculturist-program.
Story and photos by Amy Eckelberg. Original version appeared in the April|May 2018 issue of Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation’s Rural Route.