Excelling in promoting agriculture, Wisconsin Farm Bureau Excellence in Agriculture winners start in the classroom

Carol Spaeth-Bauer
Wisconsin State Farmer
Justin and Livia Doyle of Mineral Point were selected for Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation's Young Farmer and Agriculturist 2018 Excellence in Agriculture Award at the organization's 99th Annual Meeting in Wisconsin Dells, Dec. 2. They are pictured with WFBF President Jim Holte (left).

WISCONSIN DELLS - Teachers, beef farmers, auctioneers, former recipient of the Outstanding Ag Teacher award and now the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation's (WFBF) Young Farmer and Agriculturist 2018 Excellence in Agriculture Award recipients. 

Justin and Livia Doyle, of Mineral Point, have a lot going on, along with raising two boys, Quayde and Gentry. The couple received the award at the WFBF 99th Annual Meeting in Wisconsin Dells on Dec. 2.

As ninth-year teachers, Justin teaches agriculture and technology at Darlington High School and Livia is a fourth-grade teacher in the Mineral Point School District. Last year, she was the recipient of the Outstanding Teacher Award given by Wisconsin Ag in the Classroom and was recognized as one of eight national finalists for the USDA Excellence in Teaching about Agriculture Award.

She serves as the Iowa County Ag in the Classroom coordinator. Justin is vice president of Iowa County Farm Bureau and a Farm Bureau Proud Club member. 

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 derives the majority of their income from an off-farm agricultural career. The winner is selected based on their knowledge of agriculture, leadership in Farm Bureau and other civic organizations.

The Doyles were finalists last year and have worked hard to get to this point, Justin said. For them, it's been an opportunity to share the story of their involvement in Farm Bureau and the important role agriculture plays in our lives, Livia explained. 

"We think we do have a cool story,"said Justin. "We farm, we’re both teachers and we own an auction (company). They all blend in really well and it blends in well with the Farm Bureau, the policies, the issues that we discuss all the time."

The couple says the Farm Bureau has allowed them to have a voice in agriculture related issues - on the local and county level, all the way to the national level. This past summer, the couple attended the YFA Washington, D.C., Fly-In and talked to legislators about important ag issues and policies that impact agriculture.

"When we band together with other farm bureau members our voice is larger and it really does make a big impact," Livia added. "What is really amazing — very eye-opening — we got to see the process from speaking around the kitchen table with our friends (on issues) and then seeing it progress all the way to the national level."

As teachers, the Doyles are at the forefront of the future of agriculture. While they teach in rural districts where the agriculture concept is a way of life, every school district across the state needs a voice for agriculture. 

"A great ag teacher can do a phenomenal job — setting the base and educating students that might be from a city background or not from a farm directly. It might give them (students) something to spark their interest to say there might be a career in this ag industry that I might like and I might fit in somewhere," Justin explained. "Even on the production side of things we still need that — we need that more than ever. We need kids to go back and farm otherwise we won’t have any farmers and we’re seeing that right now. It’s tough. It’s a tough industry, but we have resiliency and some grit, it will get better."

At the fourth grade level, Livia enjoys sharing the "true story of agriculture," putting a positive spin on agriculture and showing her students where their food comes from, how it's grown and produced and the hard work and sacrifice that goes into growing and harvesting that food "so it ends up on their kitchen table or in their lunch boxes." 

"In the classroom, what fourth grader doesn’t like working and doing lessons around food?" said Livia. "So I always enjoy making butter, and ice cream and applesauce, cranberry sauce, just so they can see these real Wisconsin products."

"The need for agriculture isn’t going anywhere," added Justin, "but the need for kids taking those roles, it’s imperative that we get them there."

Along with their teaching jobs, the Doyles raise about 55 Red and Black Angus cattle and grow corn, soybeans and alfalfa on 150 acres.

About six years ago they added auctioneers to their resume, attending the World Wide College of Auctioneering and starting an auction service from the ground up with two of their closest friends. Now they co-own On Point Auction Service. 

Justin said he wanted to be an auctioneer before he could speak. 

"I’d get up on our fireplace and get up and pretend I was calling bids out," said Justin. "Going to the auction barn with my grandpa, listening to the auctioneer, I knew I wanted to be an auctioneer some day and it never left."

When Livia sees someone passionate about what they want to do or are doing with their lives, it gets her excited to do it also. 

"I had no idea I was going to be an auctioneer. Never," Livia said laughing. 

The Doyles will compete at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 2019 Annual Convention in New Orleans, Louisiana. 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.

The other finalists include Stephanie Nagel from Manitowoc County; Ben Huber from Green County; and Kelly Oudenhoven from Outagamie County.