Last week I had the opportunity to witness, firsthand, a good example of how rural farm families can overcome the challenges of a changing rural economy and create a promising and sustainable future on the land.
At a celebration honoring the Wisconsin Conservation Farm Family of the Year, John and Dorothy Priske of Fall River, Wisconsin, were recognized for their leadership and success in transforming their farm operation into a model of land stewardship and a profitable business enterprise.
USDA Rural Development, The Natural Resources Conservation Service, Farm Service Agency, the Wisconsin Land and Water Conservation Association, Extension, and the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture were on hand to commend and congratulate the Priske’s for their land ethic, leadership, and overall contribution to the economic well being of the surrounding community.
A herd of over 500 Scottish Highland cattle is the centerpiece of the Priske Farm. The breed was chosen for its exceptional meat quality. They are raised and sold directly to local restaurants and community outlets.
The Priske’s purchased their 280-acre farm in 1986, and worked through the ups and downs of growing corn and soybeans in traditional ways. Over the years, they have raised beef and hogs along with other specialty crops. They felt there had to be a better way, more compatible with the environment, to pursue their love of farming. They began a multi-year transition that has led to their present operation, including the recent additional of another 250 acre pasture based farm. They no longer grow corn and soybeans. They have restored a 61-acre prairie wetland, previously drained for cultivation. They recently added 28-acres of tall grass prairie and have completed a wide range of conservation practices on their farm. They have taken the farm from a questionable soil loss status in 1992, to a situation today in which they are building organic matter and have all but eliminated soil loss from the farm. They just recently completed the installation of a 50-kilowatt windmill to generate electricity on the farm, USDA Rural Development’s Rural Energy for America Program assisted with the purchase and installation.
The Priske’s also run a Bed and Breakfast at the farm to provide an opportunity for area residents and visitors to see where food comes from and to touch-base with the land, which provides so much. The Priske’s continue to open their farm and home to the public, hosting pasture walks, furnishing organizations with space for educational meetings, and providing community leadership.
I am sure I speak for all USDA agencies when I say we are proud of our association with John and Dorothy Priske. We commend them for their hard work and leadership. They live their values and represent the finest of Wisconsin’s agricultural traditions and land ethic.
For more information about USDA conservation programs, click here.