Long-time Waukesha County Farm Bureau President Tom Oberhaus and his wife Joan own a diversified 75-cow, 225-acre family farm near Waukesha. They have a LLC partnership with their son Charlie and a neighbor Dan Gerrits.
In addition to milking Registered Brown Swiss and Guernsey cattle, the family direct markets pumpkins and Christmas trees.
One of the benefits of joining Farm Bureau is that members who are agricultural producers and patrons of their local FS cooperative are eligible to receive patronage when patronage is paid. Insight FS values the relationship with the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation going back to the days when Farm Bureau first helped form these cooperatives.
“We have always purchased a majority of our inputs from Insight FS,” said Oberhaus.
Back when he started farming, Oberhaus was encouraged to join Farm Bureau by his father-in-law Jim Wendt and former Waukesha County Farm Bureau president Bob Bartholomew. Soon after joining, he became the Young Farmer chair and now serves as county president.
“We’ve benefited by a receiving patronage dividend whenever it has been distributed,” added Oberhaus.
Oberhaus and his family work with Parker Ludeking who works in the Mapleton FS office for the farm’s cropping inputs and consulting needs.
“We work closely with Tom and the team at Cozy Nook year-round to produce the highest quality feed stocks with alfalfa and corn silage,” said Parker Ludeking, crop specialist at Insight FS. “In the winter, our teams work together to ensure the correct hybrid is selected for the field and for Tom’s dairy farm. We look at fields throughout the growing season and evaluate ways to maximize efficiencies from start to finish. Walking fields and grabbing samples ensures that we get the best crop for Tom’s operation and spend each opportunity learning more about what works to increase return on investment year after year.”
Megan Carey who works in the Ixonia FS office assists the Oberhaus with the cattle’s feed needs.
“I’ve worked with Tom for five years as his feed service provider. We’ve worked closely to ensure his animals are fed and well taken care of throughout the year and performing at their best. Tom is not afraid to use new products or change methods on his farm to increase efficiencies and we have a great partnership on the farm,” said Megan Carey, Insight FS dairy feed specialist.
In profitable years, Insight FS pays a patronage dividend to agricultural patrons based on their purchases during the previous fiscal year, which runs from Sept. 1 to Aug. 31. Whether the cooperative pays a dividend in any given year is determined by the Insight Board of Directors.
The dividend is paid based on purchases patrons have made in particular departments – whichever ones had a profitable year, for example seed, fertilizer, petroleum, livestock feed, etc.
The level of the dividend is also determined each year by the board, again based on profitability in each product line.
“The greater your purchases, the greater your potential patronage dividend,” said Bob Leege, WFBF executive director of member relations. “For some patrons, the dividend may be less than $100, while for others it may be a few thousand dollars. But the dividend is only paid to those with a current Farm Bureau membership, so it is well worth it to spend $55 for a membership if you may get that amount back several times over.”
“FS is a full-service cooperative that nicely meets many of our needs,” added Oberhaus.
Insight FS General Manager Dave Mottet said that Tom is an astute businessman and valued member on the Insight FS Board.
“Tom has been on our Board of Directors since 1995. He’s seen us through more than one name change and has always been a very open and forthcoming member of the board,” said Mottet. “We look to Tom to provide us with a fair assessment of how we perform in the marketplace and address the areas of need and expectations of our patrons.”