WISCONSIN DELLS - The Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation's (WFBF) signature event, the annual meeting and Young Farmer and Agricultural Conference, drew more than 1,100 people for the four day event, Dec. 1-4.
While Sunday's resolution session, where policy is hammered out providing the focal point for the Farm Bureau next year, one of the highlights on Dec. 3 was the announcement of achievement and excellence award winners.
Lafayette County farmers, Chad and Katrina Gleason, were selected as the winners of the WFBF Young Farmer and Agriculturist Achievement Award at the organization’s 98th Annual Meeting.
Lynn Dickman was selected the winner of the WFBF Young Farmer and Agriculturist Excellence in Agriculture Award.
The Gleasons, fourth generation farmers located north of Shullsburg, have three children Cassidy, Gage and Kinsey.
On their farm they specialize in dairy beef, where they raise bottle fed calves to finished steers. The family raises about 400 calves per year from local dairy farms and grows their own feed on 80 acres of owned and 60 acres of rented land.
Winning the Achievement Award was a surreal, proud moment for the couple.
"You work really hard every day, but you don't realize the work and the progress you've made until you have it on paper and are looking at it," said Katrina. "And then to have someone else recognize it is an honor."
Chad said it was a great feeling to see other people realize the hard work they put into the farm, from starting with a 17 stanchion barn raising a few calves, to two calf barns, one nursery and an automatic calf feeder and another barn with multiple pens.
When they built the calf feeding facility in 2012, amidst the worst drought Chad had ever seen in his farming lifetime, they were on the leading edge of technology with the automated feeder. The Gleasons were about the 25th farm in North America to buy the automated calf feeding machine from Germany and the second in North America to put scales with it so they can see the individual rate of gain for each calf.
They run GPS on lots of their equipment, have row shutoffs - Chad already has upgrades for the corn planter next year that he bought this fall.
"We are always trying to look at upgrades," said Chad. "There's always room for improvement."
For the Gleasons, the technology and upgrades are "kind of normal," yet people ask to tour the farm and call from across the country to ask their opinion on facilities and what's worked for them.
"Having people look up to you is a big thing," Katrina said. "That's huge for me."
"We don't realize that what we're doing, a lot of other people think is really neat," said Chad. "We've had people from Canada come down to see the technology side of things. We just think it's normal. We don't think it's anything special."
Farm Bureau’s Achievement Award is a contest that awards farmers between the ages of 18 and 35, who have excelled in their farming career, understand current issues affecting agriculture and have shown leadership and involvement in Farm Bureau and other civic organizations.
The Gleasons will compete at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 2018 Annual Convention in Nashville, Tennessee.
In addition, Rural Mutual Insurance Company provides a free financial plan and Fabick Cat, Inc. provides 40 hours use of a Fabick skid-steer loader. They will also be invited to the Growmark Inc., annual meeting in August.
"An organization like the Farm Bureau, it's nice to know that these people have your back," added Chad.
Excellence in ag
Dickman is the research agronomist at Heartland Farms, Inc., an 8,000-acre potato farm in Hancock in central Wisconsin.
She plants plots by hand and harvests them by hand in the fall. Her passion comes from "always wanting to create a better potato" each year from lessons she learned in the field.
"I want people to know that farmers are creating a safe, sustainable food source through modern technology methods," Dickman said in a video show at the convention.
The Excellence in Agriculture Award goes to a Farm Bureau member between the ages of 18 and 35 who is actively engaged in agriculture, but does not assume the majority of farm risk. The winner is selected based on their knowledge of agriculture, leadership in Farm Bureau and other civic organizations.
Dickman grew up on a 77-cow dairy farm in Argyle and was active in 4-H and FFA. She earned a bachelor's degree in dairy science and a master's degree in horticulture from UW-Madison.
She wanted to be a dairy nutritionist or calf manager until she took an internship at Heartland Farms when she was a senior in college.
"I immensely enjoyed the work I did over the summer and was offered a job," said Dickman.
Dickman likes the variety in the job - planting in spring, watching the potato plants grow, then harvesting the potatoes. They store potatoes over the winter "just to see which potatoes we can store the longest." She is constantly learning new things, how weather affects potatoes, "It's just so fascinating to me."
She is the District 5 representative on WFBF's Promotion and Education Committee and the Waushara County Farm Bureau YFA chair. She was a member of WFBF Leadership Institute Class VIII. Outside of Farm Bureau, she is president of the Tri-County FFA Alumni, a member of the Stevens Point Curling Club and City Band and a Meals on Wheels board member in Stevens Point.
Along with competing at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 2018 Annual Convention in Nashville, Tennessee, Dickman plans to grow her program at Heartland and continue to "be better at my job every single year."
In addition, Rural Mutual Insurance Company provides a free financial plan and Growmark, Inc., invites the winner to be a guest at their annual meeting in August and provides a $250 FAST STOP gift card.