Educating others is important to YFA winners

Colleen Kottke
Wisconsin State Farmer
Travis and Krista Klinkner of Genoa, Wis., are joined by their four children, from left, Alice, 1, Hank, 2, Brad, 3, and  Liam, 4.

Educating others continues to be a passion for both winners of this year's Wisconsin Farm Bureau's Young Farmer and Agriculturist Achievement and Excellence in Ag awards.

Travis and Krista Klinkner of rural Viroqua were awarded the YFA Achievement honor while Ben Huber of Monroe was tapped for the YFA Excellence in Ag Award. Both Travis Klinkner and Huber have degrees in agriculture education and continue to use their passion for teaching in their respective fields.

Both Travis and Krista Klinkner grew up on farms in southwestern Wisconsin. Travis began teaching high school agriculture in Sparta while Krista's degree landed her a job as a chemist in Indianapolis.

Travis left the classroom after 2 1/2 years and took a position with Midwestern BioAg as a soils and agronomy consultant where he educated farmers. He says he met Krista while stopping by her parent's farm to drop off some seed for her father.

Not long after they were married, they began talking about purchasing the farm that had been in Krista's family for over 125 years. 

"We saw this as an opportunity to have a place to raise our family and took advantage of that in 2015," Travis said. 

With organic milk prices riding a wave, the Klinkner's were able to invest the windfall in the facilities for their 60-cow herd.

"Even though organic milk prices are higher than conventional milk, they have come down in recent years, which has made things a bit more challenging," Travis said. "I don't know where we would have been if we hadn't been able to upgrade the facilities to benefit from those efficiencies."

Both the Klinkners are responsible for the day-to-day operations on the farm with Krista helping with milking cows, feeding calves and caring for the young stock. The couple has also recruited some part-time help from high school students. 

"We've also got four future young farm hands that are very eager and chomping at the bit to help," said Travis referring to the couple's four children; Liam, 4, Brad, 3, Hank, 2, and Alice, 1.

Travis says he misses the classroom some days.

"But at the end of the day I enjoy getting dirty and working with my hands and doing what I preach," he said. "However, as chair of the Vernon County's Farm Bureau Ag in the Classroom, I'm able to get back into the classroom and share myknowledge of agriculture with students. Farm Bureau has created an amazing platform for that."

Travis says that he and Krista share a passion to promote agriculture, specifically dairy.

Krista says its important for the public to witness firsthand farmers dedication to creating a healthy product while protecting the environment.

"I think a lot of people would be amazed to find out how hard all farmers work, both organic and conventional, to conserve the land and protect the water because this is where we live, too," she said. "And we want to take the best care of our livestock because that generates revenue for us and puts food on our table."

Travis says he feels honored to be chosen among such a strong field.

"There's a lot of individuals out there that may be more deserving of this than I am," he said. "It's a tough industry out there right now. Everyone is aware of the number of farms that are leaving our rural communities and to receive this award at a moment like this is a bit bittersweet."

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.

Ben Huber, second from right, is the winner of the 2019 YFA Excellence in Ag Award at the WFBF annual meeting and YFA Conference in Wisconsin Dells on Dec. 8.

Still educating others

The decision to attend college at UW Platteville for a degree in agriculture education drew Ben Huber across the Wisconsin-Illinois border. 

"Right from the beginning I knew that agriculture was where I wanted to be and who I wanted to be. And along the way it afforded me a lot of opportunities," said Huber, who grew up on a beef operation in northwest Illinois.

Huber is the agronomy department manager for Insight FS where he works with the marketing and purchasing of Insight’s fertilizer, chemical and seed business, along with coaching and training their agronomy staff.

Huber has been a member of Farm Bureau for ten years and serves as the president of the Farm Bureau in Green County. His experience with Farm Bureau has helped him to step forward to be a voice for agriculture. 

"There are a lot of people that will speak up and talk to legislators, neighbors or consumers about agriculture, but there is also a high percentage of those that don't," he said. "I just want to use my voice to be able to inform people across Wisconsin and the U.S.  that agriculture is a great place to be. We've got our challenges but we need to continue to make ag strong because that's what makes us strong."

The Excellence in Agriculture Award is awarded to a Farm Bureau member between the ages of 18 and 35 who is actively engaged in agriculture but derives the majority of his or her income from an off-farm agricultural career. The winner is selected based on his or her knowledge of agriculture, leadership in Farm Bureau and other civic organizations.

Huber and his wife, Stephanie have three children, Tessa, Jace and Beau.

The Klinkners and Huber will go on to compete at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 2020 Annual Convention in Austin, Texas.