Equity Livestock – Closer To IA Market Opening

Equity Livestock – Closer To IA Market Opening

It’s been several months since members of the Equity Cooperative Livestock Sales Association found out they were the successful bidders for an idle livestock yard on the north side of Maquoketa, Iowa. Since then, works been moving forward at a robust clip to try and install a new scale system, and to renovate existing structures and office space. Curt Larson, President and CEO of Equity Livestock, says he’s optimistic that they’ll be able to start bringing cattle and buyers together by late summer or early fall.

Larson said the community was very supportive when they found out another association within the region would be taking over operations. At one time, Larson said the livestock yard was moving anywhere from 3,500-4,000 head of cattle through the barns in a day. Although the facility was state-of-the-art when it was built back in the 60’s, it needs a “facelift” to conduct business today. Larson says geographically speaking, the location’s great! He notes that Jackson County, where the sales barn sits, is surrounded by 5-6 counties that currently house around a half a million head of cattle. He says if you broaden the scope into nearby Illinois, there’s another couple thousand head there as well.

Larson said if they were to try and build a facility of this size and scope today, it would cost an estimated $6-8 million. That makes this acquisition very attractive, and also affords the Equity Cooperative board time to make the necessary improvements without doing it “while under construction”.

Now – what about buyers? Larson said everyone knows there are markets that struggle to try and get buyers attention, but he thinks with what they’ll offer as far holding capacity – the new location should generate excitement and interest. Larson sites one example. “They’ve got stadium style seating, it’ll hold about 400 people,” far more than Larson anticipates needing. Still, it’s more comfortable than cramped spaces buyers would have to occupy.

Larson says that Equity plans to add their proprietary livestock marketing software system, and participate in community outreach to educate neighbors on their services. He says it’s not just about adding a market to the area, but cultivating a foundation for shared success and a more connected agriculture community.

New Meat Map Will Guide State Visitors

New Meat Map Will Guide State Visitors

There are just some professional events you WANT to be invited to, and the Wisconsin Association of Meat Processors(WAMP) is one of those!

This group is made up of large, medium and small butcher shops from across the state – each one specializing in something a little different. Aside from all the professional education and hands-on learning their annual convention offers attendees, it also featured judging award winning entries from across the state for the Wisconsin State Fair – a brand new activity for the group this year. Jake Sailer has served the organization as its president for the past two years. In that time, he says he’s watched the group struggle with external problems created by the pandemic, and pivot toward new growth with an outreach campaign involving “Discover Wisconsin”.

The new “Meat Map” that the association’s assembled is also designed to introduce new customers to meat markets they might otherwise miss when they’re traveling the state. Sailer says it’s all about raising awareness to the artisan’s that make Wisconsin their home. Sailer estimates Wisconsin has approximately 500 butcher shops, putting them number one or two in the nation.

Sailer concluded his term as president of the Wisconsin Association of Meat Processors on Saturday during the conclusion of the state convention. Andy Geiss from Geiss Meat Market in Merrill will step in as the new president of WAMP.

Nearly 500 Applications Need Completion

Nearly 500 Applications Need Completion

The message of available funds for rural road and bridge repair was heard loud and clear by Wisconsin farmers. That’s the verdict from Joel Nilsesteun, Assistant Deputy Secretary at the Wisconsin Department of Transportation. Nilsesteun visited with Pam Jahnke about where application numbers stand rolling toward the initial deadline of April 5th.

In June 2023, Senate Bill 247 (Act 13)​ established the Agricultural Roads Improvement Program (ARIP) as part of the 2023-2025 biennium budget to improve highways functionally classified as local roads, or minor collectors, or culverts, that provide access to agricultural lands or facilities used to produce agricultural goods, including forest products.

Created within the framework of the existing Local Roads Improve​ment Program (LRIP), ARIP provides a one-time segregated revenue (SEG) funding of $150 million to ​enhance rural roads, bridges, and culverts in Wisconsin’s rural communities.​

Nilsesteun says it’s really critical that applicants do everything they can to “tell the story” of the road or bridge they’re focused on to help the committee that’s deciding how to allocate funds.

The application deadline for the first $50 million of funding through ARIP is the close of business Friday, April 5th. The second round of funding will be open for applications later this summer.

For assistance, or guidance on the process, consult the Wisconsin Department of Transportation website, or the Wisconsin Farm Bureau’s resource page.

Lens On Wisconsin Hops

Lens On Wisconsin Hops

The paintbrush of marketing that’s become part of the “Top Chef Effect” is moving over Wisconsin beginning Wednesday evening, March 27th. That’s when the first episode of series 21 airs. It looks like it will feature Wisconsin hops!

Rich Joseph, member of the Wisconsin Hop Exchange and owner/operator of Hop Garden Brewing in Paoli and Evansville, is excited to see what’s revealed. Talking with Pam Jahnke, Joseph says he was initially contacted by staff of the top foodie show via email. “They didn’t say what show they were working with” Joseph says, but he had a feeling it was Top Chef. A group of production staff made it to his hopyard in the Belleville area to observe the fields, and then follow-up with a visit during the harvest and processing stage of the growing season. Wednesday evening, March 27th, Joseph and the rest of the world will find out what they actually use!

In honor of being part of the inaugural show, Joseph will be hosting a “watch party” at both his Paoli and Evansville locations, beginning at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 27th. He’ll supply a beer or soda for anybody that wants to join them – no reservation necessary.

This Weather Hasn’t Helped Rural Roads

This Weather Hasn’t Helped Rural Roads

Regardless of where you live in Wisconsin, road quality has been an issue. Now, the state is focusing on rural roads specifically for some needed attention. Catch is, impacted farmers, agribusinesses and towns need to unite in requesting funding.

The Agricultural Road Improvement Program (ARIP) is underway. Jerry Derr has been involved in these conversations about Wisconsin roads for about 40 years. As he explains, he’s wearing two hats. One as a long time member of the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation. The other hat is as president of the Wisconsin Towns Association.

Derr knows how difficult it is to keep roads in good shape in America’s Dairyland. Weather, with the freezing and thawing effect, challenges even the best engineering plans. Derr’s spending time trying to help impacted farmers, rural agribusinesses and their town representatives get on the same page in telling the story of their road. Literally that story will count toward projects getting dollars! Each request will go through evaluation by a panel of evaluators – and Derr expects to be one of those chosen. He said he’s been involved in projects like this before, and it’s all about finding priorities.

The ARIP program only has $50 million available in grant funding for the first round. Applications for that money will be accepted until April 5th. The Wisconsin Department of Transportation said they will continue accepting ARIP grants later this summer for the remaining $100 million in state aid.

The program is designed to enhance local roads, eliminate posted routes and benefit all rural drivers. It creates a mechanism to repair or replace structures under 20 feet in length which were not eligible for federal revenue for local bridges.

To be eligible for an ARIP grant under the program, a route or structure must have been posted for weight for at least one month in the previous year, be maintained by a local government and provide access to agricultural lands or facilities. Local governments can expect to have 90 percent of the cost for these projects funded by state grant dollars.

ARIP priority will be given to projects that provide the greatest benefit to agricultural producers using the following criteria:

  • It provides the greatest positive economic impact.
  • It provides access to the largest number of farmers or volume of agricultural goods.
  • It improves the only practicable access to a farm field or facility.
  • It will result in the reduction of cost for farmers due to repeated trips at reduced weight, labor, fuel or mileage/wear on agricultural equipment.

Application materials can be found on DOT’s website.

A map of potentially eligible roads can be found here.

Joel Nilsesteun, Assistant Deputy Secretary at the Wisconsin Department of Transportation during the Wisconsin Ag Coalition press event.

Big Or Small – Cheese Judges Love’m All

Big Or Small – Cheese Judges Love’m All

Here it comes! The World Champion Cheese contest – and it’s bigger and better than ever. John Umhoefer, executive director of the Wisconsin Cheesemakers will be one of the busy people helping keep things moving at the Monona Terrace Convention Center in Madison, beginning on Tuesday. What you may not know is Umhoefer and an army of volunteers were actually busy preparing for the contest days ago!

Umhoefer tells Pam Jahnke that the more than 3,000 dairy entries from around the world make their first stop in Little Chute at WOW Logistics. It’s there that volunteers first unpack the shipments, and start identifying and categorizing every piece. Remember, some packages may be small – others quite large.

Umhoefer also reminds casual observations that there’s no financial reward for any of these cheesemakers or judges. Judges are known to take “vacation” time so they can be part of the event. Even the ultimate “World Champion” will receive nothing more than rosettes and a trophy cup for all their effort and investment. Umhoefer says the dividends come to them in the form of marketing arsenal, and increased sales. In fact Umhoefer can site specific winners that have had to double their plants square foot space after winning this one award. He also tells the story of winners who have been “sold out” for years following this win in Wisconsin.

You can follow the action at World Champion Cheese’ official site.

A New Spin On Agro-Tourism

A New Spin On Agro-Tourism

By now, you’re probably familiar with Air BNB’s, VRBO’s and even “glamping” – but there’s a new contender in the way people can vacation in the country. Meet “Harvest Hosts”, a unique, self-contained vacation option – based on an idea that caught on in France.

Joel Holland is the CEO of Harvest Hosts. His background is in technology, but when he and his wife decided to exit that industry – they dedicated essentially two years of their lives to explore the lower 48 states and see “everything”. Holland says, over time, they realized something was missing in their adventure. “We were using standard RV campgrounds,” Holland tells Pam Jahnke. “We found they were functional, but pretty utilitarian.” Holland said they passed all kinds of farms, vineyards and other vistas they would’ve loved to visit – and that’s how the idea of Harvest Hosts was initially born.

Holland says he was fortunate that another couple had already inoculated the idea that morphed into Harvest Hosts, in Arizona. After visiting with that couple, Holland bought out their investment and pivoted to growing the hosting network and marketing it to fellow travelers.

Today, Harvest Host has hundreds of camping options offered across all of North America – and more than a couple dozen featured right here in Wisconsin! He says they’re always looking for new farms and agri-tourism sites that might welcome not only the visitors, but the potential financial benefits that they highlight.

If you’d like to investigate all the unique options for camping that Harvest Host offers – just click and explore. If you’d like to consider becoming one of their hosts, investigate how that can happen here.

Ah – The Friday Night Fish Fry

Ah – The Friday Night Fish Fry

Estimates are that 84% of Wisconsinites go to a fish fry at least a couple times a year. 42% of Wisconsinites say they enjoy a fish fry at least once a month! That’s big business for restaurants, and big business for the state’s commercial fishing industry.

Tammie Paoli is a DNR Fish Biologist in Marinette County. She says that yellow perch populations in the state are still very robust, but invasive species and competition from other fish varieties still present challenges. The state allows for 100,000 pounds of yellow perch to be harvested commercially. Most of those perch are circulated to local markets in Green Bay, Door County and along the lakeshore. A majority of the perch you might see on your plate elsewhere in the state could have come from Lake Erie! Paoli says Lake Erie has a big commercial fishing industry where they’re harvesting about 6.5 million pounds a year.

Country Living Requires Homework

Country Living Requires Homework

For some people, the dream of finding that little piece of paradise in the country might come true this year. Warmer weather’s got home buyers out earlier than normal for the state, and lenders are seeing a surge in interest with the hope of lower interest rates later this year.

Steve Leffew is a loan officer with Compeer Financial. Today, Wednesday, he’ll be helping home buyers that want to target rural properties navigate around potential landmines when it comes to liabilities, and financing options, with an online webinar starting at 1 p.m.. Compeer Financial has launched a First Time Home Buyer Program, designed to help eliminate barriers like down payments and Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) costs.

Leffew is part of Compeer’s Rural Living Solutions team. He says what sets them apart is their program allows prospective buyers to access up to $400,000 in financing to purchase homes situated in small towns and rural areas within Compeer’s territory. Leffew says that not only helps make the sale, it also helps invigorate rural communities with new faces!

Leffew say they’ll be discussing their unique offer of a 0% down payment requirement and the exclusion of PMI expenses. Those are two things that can often stand in the way of aspiring homeowners, but Compeer’s program aims to make the dream of homeownership a reality.

Leffew is quick to point out that potential partners will still need to meet rigorous credit standards, and their properties will have to meet certain criteria as well, but if all the pieces come together – that little slice of paradise could be yours!

For more information about Compeer’s First-Time Homebuyer Program, and to see if you or someone you know qualifies, please visit compeer.com/FTHB.

Two Young Farmers Rethink Family Dairy

Two Young Farmers Rethink Family Dairy

In 2011, if you would have told brothers, Matt and Sam Redeztke, that they’d be hosting the state’s largest outdoor agriculture event – they might have questioned your sanity. Jump to 2026, and that pipe dream will become a reality. No Joke Dairy has an interesting story to share.

Matt and Sam are the fifth generation to operate the family dairy in Stratford, but it didn’t look as promising for a sixth generation back in 2011. The farm stretches back to 1911 when the original barn was built by Otto and Ottelia Redetzke.  In 2011, however, Matt and Sam’s parents, Doug and Darla, sold their cows. It could’ve been the end. Sam thought is was. “The day of my dad’s auction,” he says, “I told him it was the happiest day of my life because I wasn’t going to milk another cow.” That feeling of elation didn’t last. Sam found work helping area farmers with other projects, and Matt was working off farm welding stainless steel at various projects across the state. Still, by 2013 Matt knew he wanted to be back engaged in production agriculture, and it didn’t take long to convince Sam he was part of the plan too.

Matt says the initial plan was to milk just 80 cows to keep the families comfortable, but as they worked the numbers – they realized they’d need more. Thanks in part to a former 4-H leader of Matt’s, they found financing. Thanks to industry connections from his welding job – they found a home for the milk they’d produce. Now, as the pair get ready (along with their family and neighbors) to host Wisconsin Farm Technology Days 2026, they’re milking 200 cows and managing around 660 crop acres. That’s No Joke.

We’ll be checking back on these two young farmers, Matt-35 and Sam-27, and their families at No Joke Dairy. You can follow them on Facebook, as well as follow show progress at the Wisconsin Farm Technology Days website.