Breunig honored as DBA Advocate of the Year

Colleen Kottke
Wisconsin State Farmer
Dairy farmer Mitch Breunig's passion and advocacy for agriculture was recognized last week when he was named the Dairy Business Association's Advocate of the Year.

While Mitch Breunig's dairy farm provides plenty of work to fill his day, the third generation farmer believes in advancing the dairy industry by sharing his time, talents and knowledge with anyone willing to listen.

Breunig's passion and advocacy for agriculture was recognized last week when he was presented Dairy Business Association’s Advocate of the Year.

"I'm very humbled to be considered for this award," said Breunig of being added to an impressive slate of previous winners. "I work with people who have received it in the past and you can't help but by inspired by their stories and their passion."

Breunig shared the credit for his success to his family and his team of employees who help keep the family operation - Mystic Valley Dairy, LLC - running smoothly, allowing him the opportunity to support agriculture.

“While he is a great dairy manager, his leadership reaches beyond the farm gates,” said Matt Gabler of Vita Plus and Cornette Farm Supply, the sponsor of the award. “(Breunig) is willing to give his time to engage with the public, members of the media, researchers and colleagues in the dairy community. When it comes to the dairy industry, Breunig always does the right thing.”

Breunig’s family farm, Mystic Valley Dairy near Sauk City, Wis., has undertaken several expansions over the years, coming up from a 50-cow herd milked in a stanchion barn beginning in 1961 to a herd of 400 cows and 1,000 acres of cropland today. Throughout these changes, Breunig successfully kept sight of his most important goals for the farm: to create a sustainable business by breeding long-lasting cows that produce large volumes of milk and have exceptional quality.

“The next generation coming in and trying to run their businesses needs us to lead the way for them so they can get where they’re going,” Breunig said.

Tim Trotter

Tim Trotter, DBA’s executive director, applauded Breunig for his willingness to share his leadership with the entire dairy community.

“Mitch’s vision, passion and commitment to dairy is evident in everything he does,” Trotter said.

Breunig was instrumental in developing Wisconsin’s Dairy Innovation Hub, an agricultural research engine through three of the University of Wisconsin System colleges. He said the trend of fewer dairy-focused faculty members needed to be reversed.

“It’s really important we changed the way that was going,” he said. “We might not notice the research today, but in 20 years we will see the results.”

“This is a cool collaboration between all the dairy and ag groups around the state,” he said. “We all worked together on a project that was good for everyone.”

Breunig says farmers have the ability to control the image of dairy in agriculture as well as the message.

"It takes more than one conversation to change an opinion about the dairy industry, and that takes a conversation with one person at a time to help them understand our industry and how it has changed over the years," Breunig says.

The Sauk City dairy farmers says it's also important to be a trusted source with both consumers and the media.

"I have a very good relationship with the local media. It's really important to answer the phone when they call because you have the ability to control the story, and letting them know what you think it important for us in agriculture," Breunig said.

It's not unusual for Breunig to travel to legislative and state agency listening sessions to not only share his viewpoint but to listen to the opinions of others. One such occasion occurred during a listening session in Janesville.  Breunig says he arrived late and spoke near the end.

"I listened to everybody explain why their cause was important...showing there's a lot of needs and wants in the state of Wisconsin, asking our government to help them," Breunig said. "When I finally got to speak at the end of the day, I looked around the room (at a noticeably thinner crowd) and said, it's a lot like farming. There are a lot less of us every day. But we never quit til the job's done."

Steve Schauer of the Dairy Business Association contributed to this report