Q: What do bees, chickens, Farm Bureau, catering, ag surveys, Canada and quilting have in common?
A: Farm Bureau Member Kathleen Papcke
Kathleen Papcke’s life, passions and paths are diverse. From being a professional chef in Canada to serving as the State Women’s Committee Chair, this Walworth County farmer likes to “wear a lot of different types of outfits.”
Raised in La Crosse as the youngest of 11 children, Kathleen recalls, “We were always cooking growing up. Our meals were a major part of our lives. It was a time for gathering and sharing.”
She continued to wear her apron after she married and moved to Calgary, Alberta, Canada. There, she raised her three children with her first husband. After they separated, she went to culinary school at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology. While in school, Kathleen worked as a personal chef, caterer and chef publicist.
In 1997, Kathleen attended her niece’s wedding in Southeastern Wisconsin and decided to move back permanently. She started a licensed bakery in her home called The Dessert Company where she made desserts for local restaurants and businesses until 2009.
Soon after she moved back to Wisconsin, Kathleen said, “I kept thinking of how my aunt and uncle lived such a charmed life farming. I wanted to marry a farmer.”
It didn’t take her long to find, fall in love with and marry Terry Papcke, a third generation dairy farmer in Elkhorn.
Kathleen started feeding calves at the 130-cow, more than 1,550 acre CRT Papcke Farm. Today, she’s developed a few agricultural hobbies around her house.
Kathleen has two coops where she raises small flocks of chickens and turkeys.
For a couple summers about five years ago, Kathleen increased her chicken count and sold frozen birds at Farmer’s Markets, but now she focuses on collecting and distributing the dozen eggs they produce every other day.
Kathleen also takes pride in her big garden of pumpkins, squash, peppers, tomatoes, dry black beans, rhubarb and egg plants.
Kathleen remembers how her grandfather used to keep a bee hive near her family’s garden.
Two years ago, Kathleen decided to cross beekeeping off her bucket list and put on her beekeeping suit, so she bought a bee hive at a charity auction.
Knowing very little about beekeeping, Kathleen searched the area to find a local club to help her with her questions. To her surprise, Walworth County had almost 200 beekeepers, yet no club, so last fall she started one that already has more than 60 active members.
Locally, she is also involved in the 4-H quilters group, Walworth County UW-Extension Advisory Committee and works part-time for the National Agricultural Statistical Services as an ag surveyor.
With all that she has going on, she devotes the most of her time to Farm Bureau.
“I do something with my county Farm Bureau almost every day. Farm Bureau really takes up a large portion of my life. It’s my way of being involved in agriculture.”
Her father-in-law Charles and mother-in-law Elaine were both very involved in Farm Bureau and shared that passion with their family.
Kathleen has been the Walworth County Women’s Chair since 2002 and the District 1 Chair since 2009. She also serves as the county treasurer and a state leadership institute member. Her husband serves as the Walworth County Farm Bureau President and is on the state VFA Commitee. They both enjoy being heavily involved in an organization where they can share and promote their love of agriculture.
Kathleen encourages members to become involved in Farm Bureau on all three levels, “On the county level you see the picture of Farm Bureau, on the state level you see the whole picture and on the national level you see the big picture.”
Story by Sheri Sutton. Original version appeared in the June/July 2012 issue of Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation’s Rural Route.
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