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WISCONSIN DELLS – Westby dairy farmer Darin Von Ruden was re-elected president of the Wisconsin Farmers Union this weekend in Wisconsin Dells, where 300 family farmers and rural advocates gathered for the organization’s 87th annual state convention.

Von Ruden is a lifelong Farmers Union member, and since 2007 has served as the organization's District 5 director, representing Crawford, Grant, Green, Iowa, Lafayette, Richland, Rock, Sauk, and Vernon counties. He also leads the WFU Foundation Board of Directors, serves on the National Farmers Union Board and is chairman of the NFU Membership Committee.

Darin and his wife, Joann, live in Westby. The Von Ruden family recently transitioned the farm to the fourth generation, when their son Brett purchased the machinery and 50-cow dairy herd. 

Von Ruden has been active with Farmers Union at the local, state and national levels. He is a seven-time recipient of the Silver Star Award, which is National Farmers Union’s highest recognition of membership development. A patron member of the Westby Cooperative Creamery, he was also a founding member of Wisconsin Farmers Union Specialty Cheese, chairman of the Wisconsin Dairy Farmers Guild and a founding member of the Upper Midwest Milk Producers Association. He is a past delegate to the Farmers Union Marketing and Processing Association, and in 1996-1997 was a member of Gov. Tommy Thompson's Cheese Pricing Task Force.

In recent years, he has represented U.S. farmers as a delegate at World Farmers’ Organisation events. Von Ruden is the 11th president in WFU's 87-year history. He divides his time between the WFU state office in Chippewa Falls and its legislative office in Madison.

Changing times

In his presidential address, Von Ruden touched on the changing times faced within the Farmers Union and Wisconsin agriculture. He noted that though Farmers Union is experiencing a surge in membership and engagement, the farming community is at a low point.

“Many commodities are really struggling right now, and it’s an important time to talk about change,” Von Ruden said. “We’ve been seeing changes over the last few decades – growing consolidation in the ag sectors, outside investment in farm land, and a number of issues that are hurting family farmers. We as farmers need to take these challenges on and work to create a system where we are treated as price-setters rather than price-takers.” 

He called on members in the room to be engaged and speak up on the issues impacting their farms, noting WFU will host the Farm and Rural Lobby Day in Madison Feb. 21, giving them an opportunity to do just that. Von Ruden also announced that WFU will host dairy meetings around the state in March addressing dairy pricing and featuring a guest speaker from the Dairy Farmers of Ontario.  

“In order to change the current model where we’re at and shift the direction of where we’re heading to, I think we need to stand up and create change,” Von Ruden said. 

Langworthy elected to board 

Lauren Langworthy was elected as District 2 Director, representing Dunn, Pepin, Pierce and St. Croix counties. Langworthy and her husband, Caleb, own Blue Ox Farm, a 153-acre grazing farm in Wheeler, where they produce lamb, beef, and hay.

Selected as the Wisconsin participants for the Farmers Union Enterprises Leadership Program this past year, they’ve attended trainings with other Farmers Union members from five states while revitalizing the Dunn County local chapter.

In her new role on the board, Langworthy looks forward to taking an active role in addressing the issues facing family farms. When she’s not farming, Langworthy is Program Director for the nonprofit Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service and also serves on Land Steward Project’s Federal Farm Policy Steering Committee.

“I'm always listening to and learning from other farmers, whether it’s at Farm Technology Days, the MOSES Conference, pasture walks, women farmer events, or county meetings,” she said. “Education, advocacy, and cooperation are not abstract ideals for me; they are a daily reality and a personal passion. I look forward to putting my energy to work for members on the WFU state board.”

Re-elected to another term on the WFU board were District 6 Director Chris Holman of Custer and District 7 Director Tina Hinchley of Cambridge. Other continuing board members include Craig Myhre, Osseo; Rick Adamski, Seymour; Ed Gorell, Eleva; Mark Liebaert, South Range; and Linda Ceylor, Catawba. 

Wood-Portage-Waupaca Farmers Union member Patty Edelburg of Amherst and Amnicon-Douglas Farmers Union member Lisa Soyring of Maple were elected as the delegates who will represent WFU at the National Farmers Union Convention March 4-6 in Kansas City.

Rosen retires

Langworthy replaces Dennis Rosen of Emerald, who stepped down from the board after a 41-year run. Rosen served as WFU president from 1988 to 1994 and led the family farm organization on issues like property tax relief, trade, bGH and dairy pricing. He was recognized for his dedication during a ceremony at the convention. 

"During those lean years, Dennis stepped up and organized things - it's hard to think of what kind of shape we'd be in today without his forward-thinking," said WFU President Darin Von Ruden. “Though he won't be serving in a formal capacity for Farmers Union, we expect that this quiet, humble man will continue to be a strong voice for Wisconsin's farmers for years to come.”

Rosen said he's looking forward to spending more time with his family.

"I would like to thank the Farmers Union membership for the privilege to serve on the board for 41 years," Rosen said. "In Farmers Union, the issues we take on, we take on with passion because we know they affect our livelihood. I'm proud to have been a part of this through the years."

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Next year's WFU State Convention will be Jan. 25-27 at Radisson Paper Valley Hotel in Appleton.
 

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