Ag innovator Floyd Holloway passes away at age 96

Colleen Kottke
Wisconsin State Farmer

Floyd Holloway had quite a life.

Floyd Holloway

Holloway, who was born the second of four children on the family farm in the heart of Kenosha County in 1922, passed away the day after his 96th birthday in Whitewater.

Throughout his life, this insightful farmer was many things to many people: an innovator in agriculture, community leader, educator, father, husband and steward of the land. 

To his son, John Holloway whom he farmed with until 1995, Holloway was a complex mentor and role model, a confidant, fixer of toys and hearts, the reader of comic strips and the popper of corn on Sundays—the teller of stories and family history.

He was also a lifelong learner. From a one room grade school to classrooms at prestigious universities and beyond, Holloway had a thirst for knowledge.

Fresh off the farm, Holloway headed off to college at the University of Wisconsin in Madison just as the storm clouds of war were brewing across the ocean. While attending the University, Holloway became associated with a group of farm boys that would go on to have a huge impact on agriculture, education and rural life in Wisconsin.

Those fraternity brothers included Roger Biddick, William Ward, Frank Wing and Robert Spitzer. The outbreak of World War II interrupted their college education, with Holloway, Biddick and Ward joining the Navy and Wing serving in the Air Force.

After their release from active duty, the classmates returned to school to complete their education. Holloway, Biddick and Ward would return to the family farm while Wing would join the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture as a radio supervisor and run the morning farm program over the state radio network. He would later join the staff of the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation as director of commodities.

Frank Wing

Spitzer would join Murphy Products Co., a nationally known agribusiness firm, as director of research, executive vice president, president and CEO, and chairman of the board. In addition, Spitzer was appointed president of the American Feed Manufacturer's Association, a member of the Committee on Animal Research of the National Academy of Sciences as well as president of the Wisconsin Manufacturer's Association.

After retiring from Murphy Products Co., Spitzer was coordinator of the U.S. State Department's Food for Peace Program in Washington, D.C., an effort that served 50 countries. Spitzer was also was selected as the third president of MSOE in 1977 until his retirement in 1991.

Back to the farm

Although Holloway was offered a position as an associate professor upon graduation, he declined and made the decision to run the family farm with his father. To no one's surprise, Holloway's quest for education and knowledge only grew.

John Holloway says his father was an innovator in agriculture, working closely with the University and UW Extension, conducting field trials on his farm. In 1953, Holloway was the first farmer in Kenosha County to have a documented corn yield in excess of 100 bushels to the acre.

"He was one of the first people to understand soil compaction and its effect on yield and worked to limit it," said John Holloway. "He moved to narrower rows, side dressing of fertilizer, better seed selection and adoption of technology earlier than most."

Holloway was also committed to community service and leadership, whether helping to form a new school district or sitting on a board for the township, local coop or as a member of the Farm Bureau.

In 1979, he was appointed to the Wisconsin State Board of Agriculture by Gov. Lee Dreyfus, and served for six years. Holloway's classmate Roger Biddick would also become a member of this board.

As a member of the board, Holloway says his father was instrumental in negotiating with the DNR to create the wetland rules that protected nature while protecting agriculture and the families that make their living off the land.

In 1986, Holloway was presented with the Honorary Recognition Award by the University of Wisconsin Madison, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences recognizing his lifetime of service to agriculture and rural living.

"He was an outstanding spokesperson for agriculture," Holloway said of his father who created a speaker's bureau was often a sought-after speaker.

Roger Biddick

Biddick was also recognized by the University of Wisconsin for his dedication to agriculture over his lifetime. Biddick's many business accomplishments include feeding Holstein steers, production of single cross seed corn, feedlot and beef marketing management and was the inspiration behind Rural Route 1 Popcorn.

Ward was also a strong advocate for agriculture and believed in welcoming foreign students and UW students to their Fort Atkinson farm. In 1956, Ward and his neighbors co-hosted the 1956 Farm Progress Days in Jefferson County. 

Also a lifelong learner, Ward traveled to the Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc countries with a Wisconsin agricultural delegation in 1961.

"Many professors at Madison were former classmates of Dad's and through him, we (Holloway and his three siblings) were exposed to their knowledge and input," Holloway said. "Accomplished men like Roger Biddick, Frank Wing, Dr. Bob Spitzer and Bill Ward were part of our childhood and helped shape us."

Of Holloway's fraternity brothers, Spitzer is the only one that remains living.

"It concerns me that this collection of amazing leaders in Wisconsin agriculture are passing away with little notice by the ag community that they so heavily influenced," Holloway said. "Later in life, (my father) questioned whether he had devoted too much time to activities other than his family and farm. We don't think so. The world we live in is a better place for it."