JOHNSON CREEK — Adam and Christina Seibel of Bloomer were named 2019 Wisconsin Outstanding Young Farmers, emerging from a group of eight finalists for the award at the Jan. 27 Wisconsin Outstanding Young Farmer banquet.
In 2002, after graduating from high school, Adam Seibel joined his family’s dairy farm business, becoming the fifth generation to carry on the family tradition. He and his wife, Chrissy, are partners with his parents on a certified organic dairy farm that has continued to change with the times, growing from 50 cows to 140 cows, from 225 acres to 1,000 acres and from conventional to organic.
In fact, the Seibel’s farm was one of the first organic farms in the country to install robotic milkers in 2011, but with that project came an immense learning curve. However, Adam was willing to put in the time and energy to make it work, even in the challenging times of today’s dairy industry.
About 10 years ago, the Seibels started raising and selling grass-fed, organic steers, selling the meat at local farmers markets. Now, many of their customers come right to the farm and the products from the Seibel farm are available at several stores and restaurants in their community.
Adam has also dedicated time to crop production on the farm, reducing weed and insect pressure and allowing more nutrients to be available to the plants by tightening the crop rotation. Pasture management remains one of his top priorities as well, carefully planning his pastures to include lush clover and grass at all times and grazing the pasture when the grass reaches 12 inches.
The Seibels have been using cover crops for 15 years, and have shared their knowledge and wisdom with their conventional neighbors. Because of their interest, they have teamed up with the neighbors to have cover crop seeds broadcast onto fields in September.
Chrissy is a high school science teacher, working off the farm to provide health insurance for the family of four, as the Seibels have two children, Claire, age 7, and Garrett, age 4. She also helps on the farm as needed, assisting with the farm’s recruitment, management of their youth apprenticeship program, bookkeeping and online presence, as well as managing all of the direct marketing for their organic beef.
The couple also finds time to be active spokespeople for agriculture, working with UW-Extension to develop new ways to reach out to farmers and teach them how to manage conflicts. They have also worked with Sen. Ron Johnson to advocate for organic integrity in the dairy and crop markets.
Within their community, the Seibel’s farm was also featured in a promotional video by the Chippewa County Economic Development Corporation, highlighting agriculture in the county.
Going forward, Adam’s goal is to figure out new ways to get more of the fertilizer needed to grow high producing crops out of the soil and air to reduce the amount of purchased fertilizer. He also continues to seek ways to improve both crop and milk production to levels comparable to that of conventional farms.
“Thank you to everyone that has helped me out through the years,” Adam Seibel said after accepting the honor. “It has been an interesting experience and I just can’t believe that you can’t all be up here beside me. You all deserve it.”
He added that he has learned a lot throughout the weekend and met a lot of great farmers from across the state. As winners of this year’s event, the Seibels will be nominated to attend the national Outstanding Young Farmer event in Westbrook, Conn., in 2020.
First runners-up were Brody and Carolyn Stapel of Cedar Grove. The Stapels are partners in Double Dutch Dairy, a 220-head dairy farm 30 miles from the farm where Brody grew up. Brody was recently re-elected president of the Edge Dairy Farmer Cooperative, a role he has had for the past year after the passing of John Pagel.
Third runners-up were Scott Laeser and Chelsea Chandler of Argyle. Their sustainable food production mindset, combined with the desire to preserve the land for future generations, carries them through each day in the fields on their community-supported agriculture farm called Plowshares and Prairie Farm in Lafayette County.
Receiving the “Speak Up for Agriculture Award,” sponsored by The Country Today, was Tony Mellenthin of Eau Galle. Mellenthin has been farming since 2011, joining his family’s Dunn County farm business in 2013 after receiving his college degree in agricultural business. Along with his on-farm successes, Mellenthin has been involved with the Wisconsin Soybean Association, serving as the organization’s president for almost a year now; has served as part of Congressman Ron Kind’s advisory team; and is active with the Pepin County Farm Management Club.
He believes farmers, through agricultural organizations, can have an impact on the local level by providing farmers with resources they need to be leaders.
Other finalists in the state Outstanding Young Farmer event included Evan Hillan of Ladysmith, Ryan and Tasha Schlies of Kewaunee, Mark and Cari Stoltz of Muscoda and Jon and Holly White of Edgar.
2018 National Outstanding Young Farmer and 2017 Wisconsin Outstanding Young Farmer winners Sam and Jenn Zimmerman served as emcees of the event.