Tell us about your farm:
My grandparents, Joseph and Laura Staidl, bought the original home farm in 1919. It consisted of two 40-acre parcels. Today, my son, Ryan, and I own 12 40-acre parcels and rent an additional 820 acres where we grow corn, soybeans, hay and wheat. We sold our 115-cow dairy herd in 2003 and now raise a herd of 60 beef cattle.
What do you wish people knew about Farm Bureau?
They are there to help both the small farmer and the large farms.
Why are you a Farm Bureau member?
It is an organization that does for agriculture what agriculture needs done.
How did you get involved in Farm Bureau?
My father was a member, but I credit Harvey Kamps and Orval Aulenbacher with first getting me involved back in 1978. We participated in Farm Bureau’s Achievement Award as younger members. I went on to serve as the Secretary-Treasurer of the Marinette County Farm Bureau and coordinated fruit sale fundraisers. I later served on the state dairy committee. Most recently, I serve on the Wisconsin Cattlemen’s Association and as the co-chair of Farm Bureau’s special state transportation task force looking at ag transportation issues on our roadways.
Aside from transportation, what other issues have you enjoyed working on?
On the county level, we took a very active role when the 1995 farm bill was being written. I liked getting involved in Farm Bureau’s efforts to remove the school tax from the property tax and to implement use value assessment of farmland. Locally, when there was a fire at a milk plant in Lena, we worked with then-Governor Tommy Thompson to provide some state assistance.
What’s your favorite Farm Bureau activity?
By visiting the counties in my district and hearing their viewpoints and concerns, I have met quite a few friends.
You serve on your local town board?
Yes, I am currently in my third term as chairman of the Town of Grover in Marinette County. I will face re-election in April. I enjoy working with our townspeople.
Did serving on the Wisconsin Farm Bureau’s Board of Directors prepare you to be a town chairman?
Yes, and likewise, my town board experience has made me a better Farm Bureau board member too. I’ve learned to see the other side of the story.
What do you enjoy most about serving others?
I enjoy helping them solve their problems and concerns and seeing them satisfied with the results.
Who are your role models?
Dan Paulson and Gary Steiner: They were always there to answer questions and give a word of encouragement.
Tell us about your family:
My wife, Mary, and I have three children (Bill, Katina and Ryan) and six grandchildren. Mary works for Mel Gross’ Rural Mutual Insurance Company office in the nearby community of Pound. She grew up on a St. Croix County dairy farm, but admits that with four brothers, she did not do a lot of barn chores in her youth. However, that changed after marriage as she started helping me in the barn.
How did you meet?
A mutual friend introduced us at UW-River Falls. I graduated from there with a farm management degree in 1972. That same year we got married and began farming with my parents, Adolph and Pat.
Agriculturally, what is your part of the state known for?
There was once a lot of pickles, cabbage and smaller dairy farms, but now the farms have primarily switched to corn, soybeans and larger dairies.
You’re from Peshtigo. Tell us about the Peshtigo Fire:
The fire started near Green Bay and actually spread along each side of the bay. It got really hot when it reached a stretch of land from Oconto through Peshtigo. Nobody knows how many people were killed in the fire, as no Native Americans or Chinese laborers were accounted for. Although my family did not own our farm at the time, the farmland was burnt over by fire. Three people who were on this farm survived by taking cover in the farm’s well. A neighbor in a nearby cabin perished. My great-great grandmother, a Native American from the Moe Lake Tribe of Chippewa, was an adult at the time of the fire. She crawled into a green wheat field; the fire jumped over the field and she survived.
Original version appeared in the August/September 2012 issue of Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation’s Rural Route.