“Maybe the way we’ve always done it isn’t the best way to do it moving forward.” – Peter Kimball, Pierce County Farm Bureau member
“One of the unique things about our dairy farm is that we don’t have a manure pit,” Peter explained. “We recently started composting all our manure and it is a way for us to change the way we fertilize our fields with reduced potential for runoff from rain.”Peter has a clear commitment to conservation and leaving the land better than he found it and he is not afraid to do things differently than they have been done in the past. His farm is home to 120 Jerseys cows, heifers and a small flock of Hampshire sheep. Kimball also grows crops to feed the cattle on 230 acres of land, on which he has recently started to use no-till and cover crops.
Peter shared that composted manure can be applied throughout the growing season giving much-needed flexibility to work around rain events in the spring. He also credits composted manure with being easier to transport from farm to field since it is drier and lighter than liquid manure and is incorporated into the soil, which is one way to help protect nearby waterways.
“Water is a topic we are going to continue to hear about within agriculture, but also outside of our industry – this is something that is important across the entire state,” said Peter. “As farmers, we can’t dig our heels in the ground and refuse to try something new. We need to be open-minded and willing to admit that maybe there is a better way to do things without getting defensive.”
Conservation and sustainability are rooted in the desire to leave the land better for the next generation, something that is on Peter’s mind as a new father.
Peter and his wife, Leanne, welcomed a baby boy, Micah, into their family in July.
“I am grateful to have grown up on a farm where my father instilled a passion for caring for the land in me from a young age,” Peter shared. “As Micah grows, I’m excited to watch him learn about the farm and, if he so chooses, take it over one day. Choosing to farm today in a way that will allow future generations to continue farming – that is what sustainability is all about.”
As if being a full-time farmer and new father doesn’t keep Peter busy enough, he also is the newly-elected District 9 Director on the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation Board.
“I want to give back to this organization because it has given so much to me throughout my 10 years as a member,” said Peter.
Past WFBF President Jim Holte announced his retirement from the board and concluded his service in December of 2019. This left the District 9 board seat up for re-election.
“I bring a unique perspective to our board,” Peter explained. “I’ve been farming for long enough to have real-world experience and really understand the implications of certain policy proposals, yet I remember what it is like to be a young, beginning farmer trying to make a business plan and find financing among other challenges.”
Peter did not grow up on a dairy farm but worked on a nearby dairy throughout high school and college. After college, he worked in the feed industry and then in 2007 he rented a dairy farm where he milked 40 cows. In 2013, Peter purchased the farm where his family now lives.
“It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to purchase this farm,” Peter said. “It is close to my parents’ farm where we were and still are raising heifers, it was a no-brainer to make the purchase.”
Within two months, Peter went from looking at the property to moving in. Peter credits his local extension office as being a stepping-stone to creating the business plan needed for him, as a first-generation dairy farmer, to enter the business.
“Working with my extension agent allowed me to create the plans needed to meet with FSA (Farm Service Agency) and talk about a beginning farmer loan to purchase my first cows and get started,” Peter explained. “Without the loan, I’m not sure that I would have been able to purchase my farm. At the very least, the payments would have been a lot more difficult to make.”
Peter’s advice to other young farmers is to remember to treat your farm as a business first.
“If your business is successful, then you can enjoy the farming lifestyle,” Peter shared.
In addition to farming experience, Peter also brings years of involvement as a county Farm Bureau leader to the board. He served as Pierce County Farm Bureau’s Young Farmer and Agriculturist Committee chair from 2010 to 2016. Then he served as Pierce County Farm Bureau vice president in 2018 and was elected president in 2019, a position he has stepped down from since being elected to the state board. Peter also is a past Discussion Meet participant, an attendee of a YFA Washington, D.C., fly-in advocacy trip and Volunteers for Agriculture interview panel participant.
Peter shared that as a board member he is excited and passionate about getting to know more members throughout the district and amplifying their voices.
Farming is a challenging career, but through faith, personal connections and a lot of hard work Peter and his wife have built a farm they are proud of. The couple has future goals and aspirations for the farm, their conservation efforts and involvement with Farm Bureau. As their family and farm continue to grow, their passion for conservation and sustainability continues to shine through.
Story and photos by Sarah Hetke. Original story appeared in the October|November 2020 Rural Route
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