Wisconsin Farmers Union members Tom and Helen Quinn of Dunn County received the Builders Award at the 88th annual Wisconsin Farmers Union State Convention in Appleton.

The award recognizes “outstanding commitment to building the Farmers Union through county involvement, leadership development and member recruitment.”

The Quinns, who live in Downing, have been active in the Wisconsin Farmers Union at the local, state and national levels. Tom has a long history in organizing for food system and agrarian movements. Early on, he helped establish the Twin Cities’ first co-op grocery store, North Country Cooperative.

The Quinns also were among three young Wisconsin farm couples chosen to participate in the American Farm Project, an effort by National Farmers Union to connect young farmers from around the country in shared learning about the history of farm policy and rural culture. Tom and Helen carried that experience forward through lifelong efforts on behalf of family farms and rural Wisconsin.

Helen served at UW-Stout while Tom worked as a farmer, logger, feed mill worker and organizer. Inspired by the writings of rural author Wendell Berry and historical farmer movements, Tom and Helen “were keen to do their part to better their corner of rural Wisconsin,” a news release stated. “They have done that, serving as strong voices on many agricultural issues.”

Tom has served on the WFU Foundation board of directors and as WFU executive director from 2011 to 2018, during which time he strengthened the family farm organization’s voice, programming and organizing efforts. He also served with the National League of Rural Voters, the Wisconsin Farmland Conservancy and West CAP. Tom remains active on the Dunn County Board of Supervisors.

“We are very proud to recognize the Quinns’ longtime commitment to Farmers Union,” WFU President Darin Von Ruden said. “They have certainly left their mark on the organization throughout the years, and we are grateful for their contributions on behalf of family farmers.”

Von Ruden ran uncontested in his district and was re-elected as president of the board. Also re-elected were Ed Gorell of Eleva and Rick Adamski of Seymour.

Also, Lisa Soyring of the Amnicon-Douglas Farmers Union received the Go-Getter Award at the convention. The honor recognizes efforts to involve more members and youth, increase volunteer engagement and develop greater leadership.

Mary Dougherty of Bayfield was honored for her work in building membership within the newly formed Ashland-Bayfield Farmers Union. And the Chippewa, St. Croix and Wood-Portage-Waupaca chapters also received recognition for excelling in membership growth in 2018.

Policy priorities set

At the convention, WFU delegates adopted policy that will guide the family farm organization’s work in the coming year.

Issues that were chosen as reflecting WFU’s top policy priorities for 2019 include: dairy-policy reform making price stability the top priority and management to deter oversupply; support for improved groundwater testing and mapping; more stringent regulation of large livestock facilities and concentrated animal feeding operations; more aggressive enforcement of antitrust laws to focus on concentration in the agriculture industry; relaxing regulations on farmer access to industrial hemp, as well as more educational initiatives in the area of production, processing, and marketing of industrial hemp; eminent domain reform to ensure landowner rights; and executing stable trade practices for agricultural produce.