It’s time to head to Packer Country (aka Wisconsin) and introduce Annaliese Wegner (age 26) or the Modern-day Farm Chick. Annaliese is the growing number of Americans in their 20’s and 30’s that are running farms as their main occupation. The purpose of my 30 Days of Dairy is to showcase those individuals in the millennial generation (born in 1980’s to early 2000’s) who are diving head first into the dairy profession by sharing their stories. Annaliese and her husband don’t have any children yet, but they do have an adorable black lab named Cash. Growing up, Annaliese and her sisters were both active in 4-H and FFA. Showing dairy cattle was always their favorite 4-H project, but also took foods, sewing, vet science, photography, etc. The list could go on and on! After college, she attended school at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls and obtained a degree in Dairy Science and was lucky enough to meet her husband!
When she is not farming, Annaliese enjoys spending time with friends and family. Whether it is relaxing in the backyard with a drink (crown royal and water), canoeing down the river or attending a country concert. She admits that her favorite dairy product is without a doubt cheese. On Thursday, she is looking forward to her Grandma’s mashed potatoes because she includes plenty of butter, cream, cream cheese and sour cream.
I just recently started following Annaliese’s blog but am hooked! She does not shy away from hard topics and does an excellent job! A few of my favorite posts include why their family is pro-gmo, explaining artificial insemination and OMG you use rBST. Annaliese does an excellent job of sharing stores from modern-day farm life and most importantly, she makes me laugh!
Annaliese’s Story in her own words:
I am lucky enough to be able to work with my husband every day on our dairy farm. My in-laws established the dairy in 1986, starting small and slowly progressing to our current size of 550 holsteins. The four of us recently formed a LLC which allows all of us to be partners in the business. We are family owned and operated, but also employ 1 part-time and 7 full-time employees. Our cows are conventionally raised in a free-stall barn and milked three times per day in a double 8 parallel parlor. We hire a custom harvester to plant and harvest corn and hay on our land for silage. This allows us to spend more time on the barn and focus primarily on the cows. Our milk is sold to DFA (Dairy Farmers of America) and sold as cheese.
During college, I had a few sales internships within the ag industry, but it wasn’t really my thing. I missed the cows! I had always known I loved farming, but the sales internships solidified it for me and I raced back to the farm! The fact that I can work outside every day alongside family and call it “work” is awesome; I wouldn’t have it any other way!
When did you start farming? I was born into the dairy industry; before I could even walk, I was in the barn. I grew up on a 1,500 cow dairy farm with my parents and two sisters. At a young age, my dad had my sisters and I working on the farm and, boy, did we have fun! With a growing love for dairy cattle, I attended college at a nearby university so that I could still work at home and see my cows. At a university Dairy Club event I met a handsome young lad whose family also farmed. After graduation, I followed this lad to his family’s dairy farm and we later married!
What is the biggest misconception about the dairy industry? I think that the biggest misconception about the dairy industry is that farms have turned into large “factory”-like operations and that the cows are not properly cared for. Sure, farm sizes have grown and folks are using the latest and greatest technology, but dairy farmers are still passionate and caring. It is because of our passion that we have decided expand and grow our herds. Dairy farming isn’t just a way of life, it is a business. By expanding the herd, farm families are able to include all family members and make a good living. Farm size has nothing to do with animal welfare. Whether the farm is large or small, know that the farmers are doing their best to treat the animals with respect and create a quality product.
Who is your favorite cow? My favorite cow is Judy; she is truly a one-of-a-kind cow. Judy is sassy, curious and always creepin’. She cracks me up!
What is one message you’d like to get across to the general public about what you do? Farming and the dairy industry is very near and dear to me. Knowing that the disconnect between farmer and table is growing, I have made it my job to help bridge the gap and be a good representation of dairy farmers. I want to help folks understand where their dairy products come from and assure them that our methods and morals are safe for all. Whether I am using social media to share a story or giving a tour of the farm, I hope to open our barn doors in every way possible and share the truth about agriculture. I’m here to help bridge the gap with my blog. No, I’m likely not the farmer that produced the gallon of milk currently sitting in your fridge (There are approximately 11,000 dairy farms in WI alone!). Hopefully, I can be a good representation of modern dairy farmers and help you understand where your dairy products come from.
What do you hope for your kids or future generations on your dairy? I hope that our dairy operation and the dairy industry continues to grow and prosper. I hope my future children are provided with the same opportunities I was given and grow to love working in the agriculture industry .
What advice would you give to anyone interested in getting into farming? As my father-in-law would say, “this stuff ain’t for the weak!” It is time consuming and there are going to be hard times and tough decisions. Days are long and nights are short. While we have our struggles, it is a job I wouldn’t trade for the world. The life lessons you learn on the farm are priceless!
Annaliese, thank you for taking time to participate in our “Thirty Days of Dairy” series.
Entire “Thirty Days of Dairy” Series:
Sarah & Andy Birch – Derby, VT – the dairy farmers that were my inspiration for the 30 Days of Dairy!
Melissa Collman – Boring, OR – an organic dairy farmer from the West Coast!
Macy Sarbacker – Belleville, WI – a blogger, editor and dairy farmer from American’s Dairyland!
Karen Bohnert – East Moline, IL – a very talented writer, Mom and Jersey lover from my state!
Lisa Myers – Hamstead, MD – one of my best friends that moved back home to run their dairy!
Rebecca Schlehlein – Platteville, WI – a dedicated farm employee that loves her Brown Swiss!
Heather Moore – Maquoketa, IA – Special Events Coordinator turned Dairy Farmer!
Katie Dotterer-Pyle – Union Bridge, MD – Spanish teacher and dairy farmer that makes sure her cows enjoy their stay!
Brent Pollard – Rockford, IL – an innovative dairy farmer who loves to tinker with things.
Krista Stauffer – Washington – a 1st generation dairy farmer and very talented AGvogate for the dairy industry!
Diane Loew – Byron, MI – a writer, blogger and dairy farmer from Michigan!
Nicole Fletcher – Southampton, MA – a Cabot Creamery dairy that milks Holsteins & Jersey’s!
Elinor Opitz – Maple Lake, MN – a young lady just starting her Ayrshire dairy!
Alise Sjostrom – Brooten, MN – one of the readheads behind Redhead Creamery!
Tara McIntosh – Ontario, Canada – our only dairy farmer featured from Canada!
Jenna Kilgus – Fairbury, IL – a Jersey dairy farmer that bottles their own homogenized milk!
Will Gilmer – Sulligent, AL – our only dairy farmer from the “south”!
Gene Zimmerman – Colby, WI – our only dairy goat farmer featured this month!
Darleen Moore-Sichley – Oregon – a Mom, AGvocate and Gurnsey dairy farmer!
Michelle Eilenstine – Mountain Grove, MO – a dairy farmer & University of Missouri grad!
Jenni Tilton-Flood – Clinton, Maine – a Cabot Creamery dairy that milks 3400 Holsteins!
Kalli Ehrhardt – Baldwin, MD – A Mom and dairy farmer!
Craig Swenson – River Fall, WI – a dairy farmer who loves his red & whites!
Katie Harris – Washington – a mom & dairy farmer from Western Washington!
Annaliese Wegner – Ettrick, WI – the Modern-day Farm Chick!
Morgan Kliebenstein – Darlington, WI – a dairy farmer, Genex employee, Mom & wife!
Matt & Joe Engel – Hampshire, IL – the brother behind Luck-E Holsteins!
Stephanie Aves – Popular Grove, IL – a dairy farmer & agriculture teacher!
Beverly Donovan – Benton, Maine – a dairy farmer & accountant!
Sadie Frericks – Melrose, MN – a dedicated AGvocate, dairy farmer, mom & wife!
Greg Schulte – Darlington, WI – the cheesemaker at Brunkow Cheese!
Katie Deslippe – St Mary Ontario – a young lady that loves everything about dairy!
Carrie Mess – Lake Mills, WI – the well-known AGvocate Dairy Carrie!
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For a listing of all the 30 Days Bloggers that Holly Spangler rounded up, visit here.