WFU recognizes members, rural allies for commitment to family farms


Wisconsin Farmers Union (WFU) honored several individuals for their dedication to family farmers at the 92nd annual Wisconsin Farmers Union State Convention Dec. 9-11th.

WFU recognized two Friends of the Family Farmer, Joy Kirkpatrick and Mandela Barnes. First given in 2013, the award recognizes those who have gone above and beyond in efforts on behalf of family farmers and rural communities. 

Joy Kirkpatrick

Kirkpatrick has worked in the University of Wisconsin since 1993. She began her university career as a county-based Dairy & Livestock Extension Agent. In 2004 she became the Outreach Specialist for the Center for Dairy Profitability, earning distinguished status in 2019. She has facilitated hundreds of farm succession discussions with farm families. She also helps farmers address stress and access mental health care through Wisconsin’s Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network.

Von Ruden noted the WFU Board of Directors’ decision to honor Lt. Gov. Barnes was not taken lightly, given the organization’s nonpartisan nature.

Mandela Barnes

“After watching Mandela reach out to family farmers and rural Wisconsinites this year during his ‘Barnes to Barns’ tour, we wanted to recognize his efforts,” Von Ruden said. “Mandela was the first candidate in a long while who truly seemed to tune into the issues that mattered on our farms and in our communities.”

Barnes oversaw the Governor’s Task Force on Climate Change, where he gave farmers a seat at the table and invited WFU to help lead the discussion. 

Jane Hansen of Ogema received the Builders Award, which recognizes outstanding commitment to building Farmers Union through county involvement, leadership development and member recruitment. 

Jane Hansen

Hansen is an officer of the Taylor-Price Farmers Union and shepherdess of Autumn Larch Farm, located near Ogema. She has opened up her farm to educate others about regenerative agriculture and to share the techniques she has learned in the pursuit of healthy sheep, high quality wool, environmental stewardship, and a commitment to the regional economy.

This is the third year that WFU presented a special Emerging Leader award to an individual who has ignited energy and engagement in WFU. This year’s Emerging Leader is Paul Adams.

Until 2020, Adams and his wife, Joann, and daughter, Becky, operated a 900-cow organic dairy farm in Eleva. Adams Dairy had been in his family for nearly 150 years before a crash in the organic dairy market forced the family to make the difficult decision to sell the herd. Adams went into dairy farming after graduating from high school in 1970, starting out with 30 cows and attending the UW Short Course. 

Paul Adams

Adams has been heavily involved with WFU’s Dairy Together efforts, attending two fly-ins with WFU in 2022 to promote the Dairy Revitalization Plan. 

WFU also announced that Cathy Statz was chosen to receive the 2023 Bruce Miller award, which will be presented at the National Farmers Union Convention in San Francisco in March.

Statz wrapped up her Farmers Union career in 2022, after 30 years staffing and 41 summer participating in the camp program. Statz dedicated her career to cooperative education and advancing the quality of life for farm families, rural communities, and all people in her work with Farmers Union.

Cathy Statz

Statz moved to Poland with her husband, Tom. He teaches at an international school; she continues to work remotely on projects that fit her passion: cooperative education.