Richard Adamski and Valerie Dantoin of Seymour, Randall and Rosalie Geiger of Reedsville, David Heidel of Random Lake, Linda Hodorff of Eden, Roger Ripley of Briggsville, and Russell Schuler of Sheboygan Falls will receive Honorary Recognition awards Oct. 27 from the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The awards will be presented at a banquet in the Memorial Union on the UW-Madison campus.
Honorary Recognition, the highest honor bestowed by the College, recognizes people who have made outstanding contributions toward the development of agriculture, protection of natural resources, and improvement of rural living. Since 1909, the College has honored some 500 people with these awards.
Also at the banquet Gary Bubenzer, emeritus professor of biological systems engineering, will receive the Distinguished Service Award, which is given annually to a CALS faculty or staff member for meritorious contributions to the College, University and people of Wisconsin.
The banquet will be held Thursday, Oct. 27 at the Memorial Union, 800 Langdon St. on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus. A reception to meet past and current honorees begins at 5:30 p.m., with dinner at 6:30 p.m. For more information, call (608) 262-4930 or go here. Please make reservations by mail or on-line. Parking is available in Lot 6 under Helen C. White Library on Park Street across from the Union, and at the Lake Street ramp.
Rick Adamski and Valerie Dantoin
Rick Adamski and Valerie Dantoin operate Full Circle Farm, a dairy farm in Seymour that has been in Rick’s family since his grandfather homesteaded it in 1898. But the farm is not an ancient relic; rather, it is a model of modernization and innovation.
When it comes to running the farm, Rick and Valerie’s backgrounds complement each other. Rick earned his bachelor’s in soil science and resource management from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point; Valerie earned a bachelor’s in microbiology and a master’s in agronomy from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Together, they are tireless promoters of managed grazing, and this year, they are recipients of the Honorary Recognition Award from the UW-Madison’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences.
In 1989, after earning a grant from the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, they hosted the first public demonstration of managed grazing in Wisconsin. This “sustainable agriculture demonstration program” allowed other dairy farmers to see how to implement a managed grazing system.
Rick and Valerie are both committed to education and outreach. From 2002 to 2004, Rick worked for the Glacierland Resource Conservation and Development Program, Inc. as a grazing assistant, consulting with farmers in 13 counties and the Oneida Nation. From 1996-2000, as a watershed education specialist with the Oneida Nation, Valerie introduced the tribe to managed grazing and organic farming, establishing a demonstration farm on the Tsyunhehkwa farm. Rick and Valerie have held annual pasture walks on their farm for nearly 20 years, hosting more than 1,000 farmers and ag educators. In 1998, Full Circle Farm was named the Shawano County Conservation Farm of the Year.
Rick and Valerie are also savvy marketers. They have identified new markets for grass-based, all-natural cheeses. In 2000, Valerie founded the Wisconsin Dairy Graziers Cooperative and now serves as managing director. The coop of four family dairy farms markets the Northern Meadows brand. In 2004, the Double Cranberry Cold Pack Cheese won first place at the World Cheese Championship Contest, beating out more than 1,300 entries.
Daniel Carter, manager of the Dairy Business Innovation Center in Madison, said, “I know of no other couple that has the passion, drive and success that Rick and Valerie have for Wisconsin sustainable agriculture. I especially applaud their success in grazing and their leadership in forming the Wisconsin Dairy Graziers Cooperative.”
Rick and Valerie continue to support UW-Madison by serving on committees and hosting student interns on their farm. From 1992-2000, Rick served on the Citizens Advisory Council for the Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems. Since 1998, he has been a speaker for the CALS School for Beginning Dairy Farmers and the Farm and Industry Short Course. In addition, Rick and Valerie have provided financial data for farm profitability studies.
Rick and Valerie are active leaders in the community. For the past 15 years, Rick has served on the school board of the Pulaski Community School District, most recently as vice president and then president. Since 1996, Valerie has been a Smart Growth representative on the planning and zoning committee for the Township of Maple Grove. “We have long been inspired by their spirit of active citizenship in community and agricultural issues,” said Richard Cates and Margaret Krome, board members of DATCP.
Writer: Sarah Aldridge
Randall and Rosalie Geiger
Though they are first and foremost top-notch dairy producers, Randall and Rosalie Geiger of Reedsville are also community and industry leaders and advocates for other producers. This year, they are also recipients of the Honorary Recognition Award from the UW-Madison’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences.
When the Geigers married in 1969-at the ages of 19 and 20-they entered the dairy business with very few material possessions. “But Randy had a strong work ethic and dairy skills his father taught him” says Scott Gunderson, the UW-Extension dairy agent for Manitowoc County.
The couple first leased a 161-acre facility, which they bought soon after. Over the years, through skilled management and dedication to animal care, the Geigers paid off two dairy farms before reaching age 50 and raised two children who now work in Wisconsin’s dairy industry. Both children graduated from CALS with degrees in dairy science and agricultural and applied economics.
Today, the Geigers’ herd boasts a strong production average as well as a somatic cell count well below 100,000. For the past five years it has been named “Top Quality Herd” for lowest somatic cell count by Verifine, a division of Dean Foods. For five consecutive years the Geigers’ herd has had the lowest somatic cell count in the entire Manitowoc County Dairy Herd Improvement Association.
“A strong breeding, reproduction, vaccination and foot health program, along with meticulous milk quality standards and high-quality alfalfa and corn are all evidence of the Geigers’ top management skills,” says Gunderson.
Off the farm, the Geigers are known as leaders in their industry. Randall is president of the Manitowoc Milk Producers Cooperative, which is the ninth largest in the country. He has served on dozens of community, state and national panels, from the Reedsville school board to committees for the National Milk Producers Federation. Recognized as a leader outside of dairy circles, Randall was elected to serve on the Wisconsin Agri-Business Council, and has been a delegate to the Wisconsin Federation of Cooperatives.
Rosalie is a tireless industry promoter, and has chaired the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board. In 2001 she was chosen as a member of the National Dairy Board, and speaks frequently on state and national dairy issues. She is known as a strong voice for dairy farmers in Wisconsin and throughout the country.
One of the best examples of the Geigers’ dedication to grass-roots causes was an effort to get the state of Wisconsin to reimburse $2.1 million to producers when a processor went bankrupt and defaulted on milk checks. Randall spent two years writing 250 letters to legislators, the governor and other officials.
The result of the campaign was a bill to reimburse producers for half of their losses. At the time, Randall was quoted in a local newspaper as saying “If nobody says nothing, nobody does nothing.”
“That statement could summarize Geigers’ lives,” says Gunderson. “They have always been people who get things done for the benefit of the entire community. The Geigers are true leaders and a top-notch dairy couple who have contributed a great deal to Wisconsin.”
Writer: Katie Weber
The Heidel Dairy Farm in Random Lake has undergone some major renovations since its owners, David and Angelita, revolutionized their way of thinking about farming.
After practicing traditional farming methods for 20 years, Heidel converted the 60-cow dairy farm situated on approximately 240 acres to a grass-based intensive rotational grazing system in the1990s. In 2003 the herd became USDA organic certified. He is a producer and member of the Organic Valley Cooperative in LaFarge. Both changes reflect Heidel’s commitment to alternative farming methods that improve the health of his herd and his land. Heidel’s commitment has also earned him the Honorary Recognition Award from the UW-Madison’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences.
Heidel received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in agronomy from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is recognized as an innovator, educator and leader in Sheboygan County. While serving as president of the Adell Cooperative Union, Heidel initiated and planned its merger with Great Lakes Feed. His farm has been the site of crop walks, field days and grazing meetings, demonstrating to other producers Heidel’s success using rotational grazing and alternative feed systems.
Converting from corn to a barley-alfalfa rotation for the dairy herd produced several benefits. It not only improved milk production but improved the environment, decreasing chemical inputs from fertilizers and pesticides and reducing soil losses. In some dairy operations they are slaughtered after about three years But on Heidel’s farm, some cows have produced milk for up to 10 years.
Heidel is committed to conservation practices. Since 1976 he has been involved in Sheboygan County Land and Water Conservation Department programs. The farm is bordered by the Milwaukee River. In 1990 Heidel was one of the first to sign a contract for the North Branch Milwaukee River Watershed Project. When manure and nutrient runoff from the farm was threatening the health of the river, Heidel worked with conservation specialists to devise a solution: he erected a slurry storage facility in 1991.
In addition, Heidel has implemented the Farmland Preservation Project, fencing off a stream and planting trees and shrubs to provide a riparian buffer. He helped rewrite guidelines in the county for EQIP, the Environmental Quality Incentives Program.
When his children were younger, Heidel was an active leader and educator in local 4-H and FFA chapters and helped oversee his children’s projects. One of those projects-selling chickens to the Asian community-is still going strong today. Last year, the farm sold more than 6,000 free-range, “chemical-free” chickens to Asians in eastern and southeastern Wisconsin.
“I found Mr. Heidel to be knowledgeable and innovative in his approach to sustainable agriculture,” said Dexter Porter, USDA district conservationist in Sheboygan Falls. “As a conservationist, he has demonstrated a strong ethic regarding land and water stewardship. When I am working with growers who are contemplating the switch to rotational grazing and organic production, I always encourage them to visit Dave Heidel.”
Writer: Sarah Aldridge
Six generations of the Hodorff family have farmed Wisconsin since the 1870s. Linda Hodorff is a part of one of the most successful dairy farms in Wisconsin, and one of the most influential women in Wisconsin dairying. This year she is a recipient of the Honorary Recognition Award from the UW-Madison’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences.
Hodorff and her husband, Doug, have expanded their dairy herd near Eden, Wis. from 40 cows milked in a tie-stall barn to 800 cows housed in three freestall milking barns and milked in a double 10 herringbone milking parlor. The entire herd is AI bred, officially identified with the Holstein Association, and on DHI test. Second-Look Holsteins LLC is also home to Second-Look Jolt, one of the breed’s most influential sires with more than 42,000 daughters worldwide. The Hodorffs grow corn silage and alfalfa haylage on 1,000 acres and annually sell about 21 million pounds of milk, averaging 2,800 gallons of milk per cow per year.
Hodorff has held leadership roles in almost every important dairy organization in the state and nation, including Holstein Association USA, National Dairy Shrine, Dairy 20202, and Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin. Hodorff co-founded PDPW, which has grown into an organization with tremendous impact on the dairy industry through its educational programs. The PDPW annual meeting is the second largest education forum in the nation for dairy producers, attracting more than 1,000 producers and industry representatives. She was recently appointed to the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory Board, and serves on the board of the Wisconsin Livestock ID Consortium.
The Hodorffs have played a significant role in training international students on their farm; 22 trainees from 12 countries on six continents have lived and worked at Second-Look Holsteins. Hodorff has traveled throughout the world advising dairy producers and speaking about dairy farming in Wisconsin.
Hodorff has coached the Dairy Quiz Bowl, judged at the National Dairy Judging contest at World Dairy Expo, and served on the dairy science department’s advisory committee for more than five years. She was instrumental in the department’s decision to reorganize its undergraduate curriculum to emphasize more hands-on experience in the classroom.
“Linda has made outstanding contributions to the dairy industry locally, nationally and internationally,” says Ric Grummer, chair of the dairy science department at the UW-Madison. “She always has great ideas and her focus is to champion what is right for the Wisconsin dairy industry. She is a long-time friend of the department and a staunch supporter of the department and the College, and has been a fantastic role model for women in the dairy industry.”
Writer: Bob Cooney
For more than three decades, Roger Ripley, the president and CEO of Accelerated Genetics Cooperative, has been a driving force in Wisconsin agriculture, helping to strengthen the industry and shape its future. This year, in light of his many contributions, the College has selected Ripley for an Honorary Recognition Award.
“Through leadership, creativity and compassion, Roger has enhanced the lives of countless farmers, agri-business professionals and citizens in our state,” says Kent Weigel, a professor of dairy science.
Ripley has been with Accelerated Genetics Cooperative, a bovine artificial insemination company with operations in Baraboo and Westby, since 1970, serving for the past 17 years as president and CEO. “He built the company into a $31 million annual revenue business with an impressive national and global market share,” says Weigel.
Research and development are important to the company’s success, and Weigel says that many partnerships with the University of Wisconsin emerged during Ripley’s tenure. “Roger has encouraged and fostered collaboration with CALS scientists and extension specialists on countless projects,” he says.
Ripley’s achievements at Accelerated Genetics include expanding the dairy sire progeny testing program and creating a similar beef sire program, implementing a nationwide marketing program, and developing a leading market presence in Latin America. Ripley also created a Middleton-based subsidiary called Genetic Visions, Inc., which was the first bovine artificial insemination company to implement marker-assisted selection on a commercial basis, according to Weigel.
In addition to advancing research and technology in the industry, Ripley is active in many professional organizations. After serving as director of the World Dairy Expo for 15 years, Ripley is currently its president. He has also held positions on numerous state and national councils, including the Board of the National Association of Animal Breeders, the Council on Agricultural Research, Extension and Teaching in Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Federation for Cooperatives, and the CALS Board of Visitors.
Ripley has also taken a special interest in youth programs, and developed the Young Producer’s Leadership Conference to strengthen leadership skills and foster community involvement among young men and women in rural areas.
“Roger had a vision that the next agricultural leaders come from this generation of young farmers,” says Dennis Funk, director of research and development for ABS Global. “His efforts have been instrumental in training young men and women with leadership skills for their own operations and the agricultural community at large.”
Even though Ripley works for one of ABS Global’s strongest competitors, Funk says that he has always respected Ripley’s leadership and integrity. “Roger has always been a strong supporter of the dairy industry, and is respected within the artificial insemination industry throughout Wisconsin, the nation and the world,” Funk says. “Roger is an outstanding recipient for this award.”
Writer: Katie Weber
As the chairman and co-founder of Heartland Business Bank, Russ Schuler has helped to provide millions of dollars in loans to agribusinesses throughout Wisconsin and the nation. Because of Schuler’s contributions to business growth and rural development, the College has selected him for a 2005 Honorary Recognition Award.
“Under Russ’s leadership, Heartland has made a tremendous contribution to economic development in Wisconsin, including development in rural areas,” says Richard Bishop, a professor of agricultural and applied economics.
An agricultural economics graduate from the College in 1964, Schuler began his banking career at Production Credit Association in Antigo and later moved to what was then Firstar Bank in Sheboygan. There he rose from farm loan officer to CEO, and then to manager of Firstar’s $2 billion commercial loan division.
“Russ personally guided the growth and development of the Guaranteed Loan Program to the top in loan originations for any financial institution in Wisconsin,” says James Caldwell, president of First Citizen Bank in Whitewater. “Through this effort he has assisted many farmers in their expansion plans as well as helped generate enormous job creation through his small business program.”
Schuler is also a founding director of the Wisconsin Business Development Corporation, which has helped provide nearly $1.5 billion in financing for more than 2,000 Wisconsin business projects, creating more than 30,000 jobs. He was also appointed to the board of Forward Wisconsin, a non-profit corporation charged with increasing economic activity in Wisconsin, by former Governor Tommy Thompson.
Schuler, the younger brother of biological systems engineering professor Ron Schuler, is a proud UW-Madison alumnus. In 1996 he established the Schuler Agribusiness Scholarship Fund, which supports outstanding students pursuing degrees in agriculture with a business management emphasis. He also serves on the CALS Board of Visitors.
Schuler also contributes his wisdom and time to state, regional and national councils and boards, from the Sheboygan County YMCA to the National Association of Government Guaranteed Lenders. “He serves as a role model for rural and community development in a very humble and unassuming fashion,” says Caldwell.
Louis Gentine, chairman and CEO of Sargento Foods, Inc., of Plymouth, knows firsthand about Schuler’s sound financial guidance. When a major customer declared bankruptcy, Gentine says that the company was in jeopardy until Schuler stepped in with a guaranteed loan through Farmers Home Administration.
“Along with the strategic financial and broader business counsel willingly offered by Russ Schuler and his colleague Jerry Thorne, it was this financing that allowed our company to creep out of a very difficult financial situation,” says Gentine. “We now employ approximately 1200 people and provide very meaningful support to Wisconsin’s agricultural industry.”
Writer: Katie Weber