Since December, Rosalie Geiger has served as chair of the Wisconsin Farm Bureau’s nine member Women’s Committee. Although a newcomer to this role, she’s no stranger to agricultural advocacy.
For 21 years she has represented Manitowoc and Calumet counties on the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board. She led the 25-member board of dairy farmers as its chair in 2004 and 2005.
She has announced that the seventh, three-year term that she will complete in June will be her last. In May, an election will occur for a new director who will take office on July 1. They will be just the third person to represent WMMB’s District 17 in the organization’s 30 years. Rosalie succeeded the late Fred Fisher of Valders, who served for nine years and was the first board chair. During her tenure, Rosalie served as a member of the National Dairy Board from 2001-2007.
The WMMB is funded with checkoff dollars from milk sold by Wisconsin dairy farmers. A dime per hundredweight (100 pounds of milk) goes to the WMMB to fund dairy promotion efforts, while a nickel per hundredweight goes to a national program.
Much like the Wisconsin Farm Bureau’s 61 county Farm Bureaus, Geiger says “the arms and legs” of the WMMB are its county dairy promotion committees.
Rosalie and her husband, Randy’s farming careers began in 1969. They moved to a farm near Reedsville in 1981 that has been owned by Rosalie’s ancestors since 1867. Ran-Rose Dairy is known for a fine herd of registered Holsteins where cows, heifers and embryos are marketed around the world. Their milk is sold to Dean Foods and is bottled as white and chocolate milk. They grow 360 acres of corn, soybeans, alfalfa and wheat.
Randy was a longtime president of the Manitowoc Milk Producers Cooperative. Following a merger with two other Wisconsin dairy cooperatives, he now serves on the executive committee as treasurer for the FarmFirst Dairy Cooperative. The Geiger’s adult children work in agriculture. Son, Corey, is the managing editor of Hoard’s Dairyman magazine in Fort Atkinson. Daughter, Angela Zwald, performs pharmaceutical sales and dairy herd health troubleshooting for Zoetis in Beaver Dam.
In 2012, Rosalie was named a Wisconsin Master Agriculturalist by the Wisconsin Agriculturalist magazine. She received honorary recognition from the UW-Madison College of Agriculture and Life Sciences in 2005. This fall the World Dairy Expo will honor her as its Dairy Woman of the Year.
“I couldn’t have done all the extra things I’ve done in agriculture without the love and support of my husband, Randy,” she said.
She is a member of the Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin, Wisconsin Women for Agriculture, Reedsville FFA Alumni, county and state Holstein Associations, Maple Rock Homemakers Club, Holy Family Catholic Parish in Brillion and serves as a board member of the Historical Building Committee for the former St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Reedsville.
Q & A with Rosalie
What got you involved with Farm Bureau?
We had Rural Mutual Insurance for many years. I got involved when Randy became a board member for the Manitowoc County Farm Bureau. I knew some of the women involved so I got involved with its Women’s committee. In addition to lots of camaraderie, we instituted a lot of local programs, especially educating our youth. Eventually I became the co-chair of our county’s Women’s committee with Cheryl Duchow, and the rest is history.
What would you change in agriculture?
I see a couple of different challenges. One is the issue of manure and its application. Another is imitation milk (soy, coconut, almond, etc.). Finally, all ag organizations should work together for the common good of all farm families. This is especially true when it comes to political action. When certain parts of our ag industry are under fire, we all need to unite to support each other.
What do you like about being a farmer?
Working with my family. It’s your home. It’s your farm. It’s your roots.
I like living in the country; seeing the seasons and seeing the results of your care for animals and the land. I like being independent and having choices. I am blessed to have been planted in the great state of Wisconsin
Why should women get involved in Farm Bureau?
For many reasons. To network with people of similar backgrounds; to be a leader in the county, state and nation; to get involved in politics; to prepare for Ag in the Classroom presentations and to educate consumers about agriculture. I found that being involved in Farm Bureau is like having another big family and we need to give women a voice for their passion in agriculture.
What advice do you have for young female farmers and agriculturists?
They should be connected through organizations such as Farm Bureau. If you can connect with a mentor, it’s a plus. Many opportunities exist with the Women’s Program for Education and Leadership and the Young Farmer and Agriculturist Program. Attending the Wisconsin Ag Women’s Summit also is a great experience and networking event.
Tell us about a book you recently read.
Limping through Life: A Farm Boy’s Polio Memoir by Jerry Apps. His message boils down to being yourself and being proud of your rural heritage. It’s part of who you are and it makes you unique. Along those same lines, I recently read Mixed Up Chameleon by Eric Carle to my grandchildren. In it, the chameleon figures out that you cannot be something you’re not. It’s a good message to reinforce in children.
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
I was lucky to find my niche in high school. I served as a state officer for the Future Homemakers Association. My home economics teacher was a good mentor. I graduated from Silver Lake College in Manitowoc with a bachelor’s degree in home economics and a minor in English. I taught and substitute taught for several years before making the decision to farm full-time with my husband.
Any unique interests or hobbies?
In addition to my Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board and Farm Bureau hobbies, I enjoy photography, reading, travel, flower gardening and spending time with my family.
Original version appeared in the April/May 2015 issue of Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation’s Rural Route.
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