Commitment to ag industry is Lindsay Baneck's sweet spot

Michelle Stangler
Correspondent
Standing among the dormant rows of fruit trees, Lindsay Baneck says she appreciates being recognized by Compeer Financial for her commitment to the agriculture industry.

There isn’t much that can stop Lindsay Baneck in the weeks leading up to the strawberry season at Jelli’s Market.

While spring is a busy time for all farmers, Baneck's start to the season included welcoming a baby daughter in April. Following the birth of her child, Baneck quickly found herself back in the swing of things on the diversified farm operation owned and operated by her parents Steve and Jody Knoebel.

Baneck and her sisters, Jessica and Libby (the name of the farm is a combination of the sisters' names) each manage a specialty area on the farm. According to the website, Jessica is in charge of the commercial kitchen Libby manages employees and produce harvest while Lindsay oversees the crop protection part of the operation and manages the produce enterprise.

“I didn’t really take much time off,” said Baneck, adding a tidbit of wisdom she learned while expecting. “You can do everything you want to do, but it just takes more time and thought doing it with a baby.”

While she admits it was a life adjustment, she adds, "It’s fun and it makes you slow down and appreciate the little things, too.”

Baneck says she wouldn’t be able to manage Jelli’s Market without her support system, especially her family, and looks forward to her daughter sharing similar experiences, especially during the strawberry season. 

“Our heart and soul is the strawberry business,” said Baneck who anticipates an uptick in customers this spring, but not to the extreme of the 2020 season when crowds sought outside activities.

Strawberry season varies within Wisconsin, but Baneck says their 18 acres of strawberry plants typically produce fruit from Father’s Day through the Fourth of July.

Seasonal crops of asparagus, strawberries, apples and more extend the window of sales for Jelli's Market of Helenville in Jefferson County.

According to the website, the family planted its first fields of strawberries on their Jefferson County farm in 2001. Since then the family has added raspberries, blueberries, asparagus, sweet corn, bedding plants, and most recently, apples, pumpkins and an assortment of pear and plum trees.

Customers are also able to purchase farm-raised meats, and an assortment of jams, pies, apple cider donuts and more in the commercial kitchen inside the family's on-site retail store.

Well-earned recognition

While Baneck was balancing the spring rush, a newborn and managing Jelli’s Market, she was recently named the Compeer Financial's GroundBreaker of the Year. The award recognizes young small operation farmers who are overcoming obstacles and making a difference in agriculture and their community.

“Being named GroundBreaker of the Year means that people see the hard work that I’m putting into agriculture and that I’m dedicated to this industry,” Baneck said. “Compeer Financial realized we’re trying to shed some good light on our industry.”

Lindsay was nominated by her Compeer Insurance Officer, Justin Foegen. In the nomination, Justin wrote that Lindsay is someone who is self-motivated, genuine and ambitious.

While managing Jelli's Market is where Lindsay Baneck spends most of her time, she also plays a role in the family's nearby operation, Maple Mound Farms, where they grow corn, soybean and wheat and raise cattle.

Staying positive

Staying in a positive mindset is important to Baneck.

“You have to be mentally strong and not let the challenges and battles overcome your thoughts,” she said.

Baneck told Compeer officials that 2019 brought an onslaught of challenges, including a life-changing medical emergency involving her mother, Jody.

"Some days it felt like we were just surviving," she told them.

In addition to her career on the family farm, Compeer notes that Baneck is also involved in the community, working with Farm Bureau, 4-H, the Jefferson County Fair and more.

Promoting an industry she loves

Agritourism destinations like Jelli’s Market fills a need in promoting agriculture among consumers, an area Baneck places a lot of focus on. The young mother is quick to recognize the need to have those conversations (with the public) that many farmers may not always find time for, she said.

Located an easy driving distance from Janesville, Madison and Milwaukee, Baneck says the agritourism destination attracts customers from all walks of life.

Good advice she's learned for meeting the increased demand at Jelli's Market? 

"You just have to be patient and think outside of the box.”

To find a local strawberry grower, visit https://www.pickyourown.org/WI.htm or Wisconsin Berry Growers website at https://bit.ly/3b0Hztl