“As our family sat around the table after the town board meeting, we looked around at each other and asked what could we have done differently and what should we do now?” Tim Clark said referring to an event that dramatically changed him and his family.
In 2009, the Clark family applied for a building permit to add facilities to their farmstead in LeRoy, Wisconsin that would double their beef-feedlot capacity. This process was fairly routine for them as they had made other smaller expansion projects since transitioning from dairy to beef nine years prior.
“It wasn’t until we pulled up to the Dodge County public office for their monthly meeting that we realized this was going to be very different,” explained Clark. “The public hearing could not overturn the building permit because it met all of the state requirements, but the vocal outbursts from the local community took us by surprise. Friends, neighbors and fellow parishioners expressed disapproval and dismay. Several people tried to petition our family to sell the farm and leave the area.”
This shook the Clark family. They desired to communicate and explain the benefits they provide to the local community and to repair the big disconnect between their farm and their neighbors, so Tim turned to Farm Bureau, the voice of agriculture.
The family had been members for generations, but this event gave them the desire to be active members. Tim was quickly appointed to serve as the Fond du Lac County YFA chair and he began hosting socials, fundraisers and county service projects to better connect agriculture to the local community.
In 2010, he created District 5’s YFA Ball – a social and entertainment gathering. It drew in more than 150 members one of which was Danielle Hammer.
“I knew she was going to be my wife when I saw her that evening,” said Clark. “I was planning a social event for our YFA members, I didn’t think I was going to meet my best friend.”
“It hasn’t been very easy, but we’re on track to live out our American dream,” said Clark. “Danielle and I are fifth generation farmers but our families’ history doesn’t make us farmers. The values we have gained from being raised on the farm have motivated us to become farmers so we can pass them along to the next generation.”
To help support his family and his farming dream, Tim works as the District Sales Manager for Dairyland Seed, covering Dane, Columbia, Sauk, Richland, Adams and Juneau counties in south-central Wisconsin.
At December’s Farm Bureau Annual Meeting, Clark wrapped up his year of service as the state YFA Chair. In that role he traveled more than 5,000 miles, attended more than 60 YFA events and held a yearlong seat on the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation Board of Directors.
“I joined Farm Bureau for rural leadership development, but I’ve gotten so much more,” mentioned Clark. “With a mission to be the voice for agriculture, Farm Bureau is the organization for everyone. Networking opportunities, member-benefit discounts, Rural Mutual insurance, legislative representation, leadership development, and other social benefits are a few areas that Farm Bureau members can ‘live out’ their membership. The strength of our organization comes from the leadership grown in each county program.”
When asked what his message is to YFA members, Tim said, “Get active! Holding a membership is one thing, being a member is another. It wasn’t until I needed the Farm Bureau that I became active with the Farm Bureau. The opportunities for personal growth are tremendous. These are unique opportunities that are tailored to your passion for agriculture, but only if you get active with the program.”
Tim has taken advantage of many opportunities in Farm Bureau from serving on the Policy Development Committee to graduating from the Institute leadership class and from participating in the YFA Washington, D.C. fly-in to competing in the final four Discussion Meet and numerous activities in between.
His family still farms in LeRoy – almost 2,000 acres of corn, soybeans, alfalfa and wheat and raise more than 2,250 beef cattle annually. When referring back to the town hall event in 2009, Clark said, “There has not been much change in our local community where my family farms today, however it has changed the Clark Family. We open our doors to schools and other organizations that are willing to come and hear our story and learn about beef production in Wisconsin.”
Story by Sheri Sutton. Original version appeared in the December/January 2014-15 issue of Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation’s Rural Route.