Plowing through life's challenges
Shane Goplin is an optimist, as most farmers are. During 2013, he faced many challenges that tested his optimism.
With his dad, Nolan, wanting to slow down and knowing that he and his brother, Jamie, wanted a more flexible lifestyle than dairy farming, the farm was was put up for sale.
There were certain requirements the Goplin family was looking for in a buyer.
“We wanted it to stay a dairy and wanted to have a relationship with the owners,” Shane said. “We were hoping to still do the cropping for them, so they needed to be the right fit.”
After transitioning away from the dairy, Shane was hoping to grow crops full-time while his brother planned to get more involved in the show pig business.
When the for sale sign went up, losing their dad wasn’t part of the plan.
“I had talked to him around 7 the night before and told him I’d see him in the morning,” Shane said.
Less than 20 minutes later he suffered a life-threatening heart attack and died a few days later on April 19.
Worst year of my life
“2013 was the worst year of my life,” Shane said. “It was just tough.”
Amid the chaos, Shane was serving as the Trempealeau County Farm Bureau president. With the cows slated to be sold and his dad’s death, Shane knew the time wasn’t right to serve his fellow members. His focus needed to be on family and the farm, and so he stepped down.
In August, the Goplins found their match and sold the dairy to a family relocating from California.
“They were the right fit we were hoping for,” Shane said.
The next phase was learning how to farm on his own after having done so for years with his dad and brother at his side.
"His dreams, our goals"
The future is something that is always on Shane’s mind, a trait he shared with his father. In honor of his dad, his slogan for the business is “His dreams, our goals.”
Fast forward to 2017, Shane crops 3,200 acres with the help of two full-time employees and several seasonal helpers, including his brother. He grows alfalfa, soybeans, corn and rye for cash crops and sells forages and corn to his family’s former dairy. He also does manure application.
This year brought its own struggles as Shane had to replant after severe flooding drowned crops in western Wisconsin during May.
He says the weather conditions they faced this year are nothing to complain about compared with some in other areas of the U.S.
“You have to be an optimist,” Shane said. “Someone always has it worse than you.”
Through the ups and downs of life and farming he credits his strong support system.
“I have outstanding people around me,” Shane said.
His wife Melinda being one of them.
He first met Melinda when she moved to the area when she was 12 years old. While they showed cows against each other and knew each other in high school and college they never dated until later.
“I don’t mean to brag but she’s a pretty impressive person,” Shane said after explaining his wife rejuvenated the agricultural program in the Whitehall School District.
Shane couldn’t move his farm so she decided to teach locally. This fall, Melinda started her 20th year in the school district.
“It takes heart and soul to be an ag teacher and I’m so proud of her,” added Shane.
Melinda and Shane have three daughters, Kendra, 15; Vaida,12; and Brinna, 10, who stay busy with FFA, 4-H sports and showing animals at shows around the state.
So far, Shane’s commitment to Farm Bureau has spanned as long as his marriage. He has been a member for about 20 years. While the organization has played a role in growing him as a leader, it also provided a blanket of support.
“I have been so fortunate in my 20-plus years of being active in Farm Bureau, to have built a special bond with a number of other members throughout the state.”
His first leadership experience in Farm Bureau was when he became the Young Farmer and Agriculturist chair in Trempealeau County. Not long after, Melinda and Shane found themselves serving on the state YFA Committee representing District 4. In 2004, they were honored as the state Achievement Award winners.
Shane also served on the Volunteers for Agriculture Committee and state transportation committee. Additionally, he is a member of the Farm Bureau Proud club.
More recently, Shane participated in the WFBF Leadership Institute. While he applied because of a recommendation from a friend, he admits it’s been worthwhile.
“It’s a rock star program, but mostly it’s a humbling experience that others have the confidence in us and think we would be good candidates for this leadership experience,” he said.
He is also back serving as Trempealeau County Farm Bureau president.
“Serving as president is a way I enjoy giving back,” Shane said. “It’s rewarding to know that out of all the great Farm Bureau members we have in our county, they have chosen me to lead them.”
Shane has had his fair share of unique experiences through Farm Bureau and no doubt will have more.
“Farm Bureau is what you make of it. The opportunities are huge,” he said. “You can take it as far as you want.”
Original version of this story appeared in the October/November 2017 issue of Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation’s Rural Route.