The 2018 Sunday Brunch honorees wonderfully represent our theme, “Women in Agriculture.” Each contributes to the betterment of the Rock County agricultural community. They farm in Janesville, Clinton and Evansville. The following are two of the four Sunday Brunch honorees’ stories. Read Part 2 of this series.
Focus In: Kristen Broege
Kristen is the owner/operator of Rock-Edge Holsteins in Janesville; Event Sales & Marketing Coordinator at Rotary Botanical Gardens; Advisor for the Rock County Junior Holstein Association; and a 4th Generation Farmer in Rock County.
Interview by Teresa Nguyen
Tell me about your family’s farming history.
On the Broege side, my dad’s family, I’m the 4th generation in agriculture. We go way back in farming in Rock County. My mom’s family has been farming for generations in the Milton area.
Tell me about your family.
I have two younger sisters, Jenna and Nicole. My mom is Phyllis. My dad, Steve, passed away seven years ago.
What was it like growing up on the farm?
I grew up on my dad’s family’s dairy farm, south of Janesville. After his passing, we moved off the farm. My sisters and I currently have our own hobby farm where we raise dairy cattle, primarily to raise them and learn from showing them. My sister does a lot of work with the garden we have.
My mom is not working full-time in agriculture right now, she works in Beloit in accounting. But, she does donate a lot of her time to volunteering in agriculture.
Do you have favorite memories of growing up on the farm?
There are a couple that come to mind for me. I loved being outside with my dad, from the time I could ride in the tractor with him up to the time he passed, we would walk around the farm and talk about cows, and just about anything.
I also really enjoyed having groups come out to the farm. In middle and high school I organized a couple of groups to come out. We used to have kindergarten classes visit and I loved showing them around.
I still get the opportunity to do that at some of the fairs and shows that my sisters and I go to.
Tell me about the hobby farm.
I would consider a hobby farm something we do, but not to make a living. When we lived on the dairy farm, that was our business. That was what my family did. My sisters and I wanted to remain in agriculture after we moved off the farm.
My mom and my sisters bought the house and the land it sits on, so we own the farmette. There’s an old barn there where they used to milk Guernseys, which is a random, interesting fact. Now we have Holsteins there. We raise our heifers, and when they become a cow or have a calf, they go to a different farm, just because we don’t have the ability to milk them at our place.
My sisters and I all live together on the farm.
What is it about farming that you love?
Primarily, I love working with cows. I don’t know what it is about them, but I always have had an attachment to them.
Secondly, the biggest thing for me is the people I’ve met in agriculture, from the people in this county to the people I’ve met through opportunities I’ve been given throughout Wisconsin and the nation. Everyone, whether you milk cows or whether you grow potatoes, they all have a story. It’s always been my favorite thing to hear the stories and meet the different people.
In your young lifetime, have you seen some significant changes in agriculture?
The first thing that comes to mind for me is the use of technology in agriculture. It’s easy to say that technology has changed everything, but it’s another thing to go out and see how it’s improving the lives and businesses of farmers. That in turn is improving the consumers’ lives by what we eat and what we need to eat.
With all the use of science and technology, we’ve learned how to better take care of the land and to get more out of the land because of the enormously growing population.
Tell me where we are with women in agriculture.
I think the topic of this Sunday Brunch is extremely relevant. Women in agriculture is huge right now. That’s a trend within itself!
I had a lot of experience in college meeting different women in agriculture. We had a group specifically focused on this topic. I thought it was so interesting because I connected with people who didn’t like cows as much as I did, my roommate was an agronomy student. So, everything from ag business to communications in agriculture to research in agriculture, women are now, more than ever, coming to the forefront.
Even on the farm, too … as a salesperson for the last two summers in my internships, I came across more and more daughters, you could say, on the farm who were meeting the sales people and making the decisions for the farm.
I think the older generation are accepting the switch to more female farmers. I grew up in this county with both female and male mentors who were great in this agricultural community. And these folks, they have daughters and granddaughters and want to see them grow up with opportunity in agriculture, to see them succeed, take over the farm and follow in their footsteps.
The older farmers are coming around to the idea that women are stepping up to the plate and they are accepting of that. Husbands and wives, fathers and daughters are working together. They are taking internships where women weren’t before.
How can the community contribute to agriculture and do its part?
I think what most agriculturalists are asking of their consumers right now is that if you have questions about your food sources ask the farmers, ask the person who provided the food for you. So, rather than search on Google, go straight to the source. They know first hand what it has taken to get the food there.
Tell me about your community involvement.
My parents raised me to be very community-minded. My father was very focused on community. Both my parents were quite involved in the Dairy Breakfast.
Within the county, I’ve been to numerous events, and have also really been involved in the Dairy Breakfast since … forever. My mom has helped with that event since it started. I was also involved in 4-H growing up.
My parents taught me the Golden Rule, to be kind to others as they are kind to you.
What were some of your positions in 4-H?
I was president of my club, secretary of my club, and I was Craig FFA Queen and then went on to serve as the Rock County 4-H Fair Queen. I was a runner up for Alice in Dairyland, as well.
Obviously, I was in FFA in high school, was the president of that and am currently involved in the Alumni FFA, planning a fundraiser for our group this fall. I’m chairing that.
If you’d look at my resume, it’s pretty full, mostly because I have a hard time saying no!
What’s next for Kristen Broege?
I graduated from UW-Madison with a degree in Dairy Science and a Certificate in Agricultural Business. I was focused more on the business and communication of Dairy Science, rather than in the research and science of it.
I’ve been trying to figure out my career path. I’ve grown up being so involved, that I have to pick a career that allows me to remain involved in the industry that I grew up in. I’m currently a Junior Holstein Advisor.
I just started working at Rotary Botanical Gardens as the Event Sales and Marketing Coordinator. It’s not right in the agriculture industry, but pretty darn close! There are plants all around me, and agriculture businesses come through here. This year we also had vegetables from around the world, which was a cool exhibit.
I also help out on a different farm outside of Milton. They have high-genetic cattle. So, I get my cow fix out there, then come back and interact with a lot of people here at the Rotary Botanical Gardens.
My sisters and I plan to continue with the hobby farm, as well.
How do you see the future of farming in Rock County?
We have such a strong agricultural community, I’ve grown up in it. I’ve been going to the Rock County 4-H Fair my whole life. I see strong support for youth in agriculture and just support for each other here.
Everyone who helps run the Dairy Breakfast, all the dairy producers, they also go and help support the people at the Pork Fest and the Beef Cookout. We all support each other.
I think the agricultural community that we have in Rock County will be strong forever, because we have those strong roots. We have generations of families that have come through the county that will keep us thriving.
“Everything from ag business, to communications in agriculture, to research in agriculture, women are now, more than ever, coming to the forefront.” ~ Kristen Broege
Focus In: Donna Luety
Donna Luety is the owner of Cabin Creek Farms in Clinton; Chair of US Constitution Scholarship Program; Twice Awarded Beloit Elks’ “Elk of the Year”; and a 3rd Generation Farmer in Clinton, WI.
Interview by Teresa Nguyen
Tell me about your early years and your family.
My parents were immigrants from Sweden. She had come from farming. Most likely it was a small farm where they raised chickens. My mother arrived on her 18th birthday and didn’t know a word of English! She was a Larson and married a Larson.
My dad had come from a more affluent family, I could tell that from when we visited there. He had come in through Canada with a suit. He was from northern Sweden and my mother was from southern Sweden. They both ended up in Rockford.
I was a city girl from Rockford, Illinois, and I didn’t know where those kids were coming from on all those yellow busses. Of course, they were the farm kids. My parents worked during the day, so we were on our own to get to school. That’s the way it was. They couldn’t be involved, as other parents were, and couldn’t attend school functions. But, my mom did come to my graduation.
In high school, I took a bit of Swedish, because my parents would speak it at home and talk about us. And we never understood what they were saying! After that, they started speaking more English.
I took my mother home to Sweden in 1976 for a month. We had lost my dad by then, and she got to meet his family. We spent half of our time with his side, and half with her side.
My cousin visited here with his family in 1989, and we had a great time. My son is going to travel to Sweden in September of this year to see them.
Do you make Swedish food?
I do! I make Swedish Krumkake (cookies) and Swedish Rosettes at Christmas time. I put together my own cookbook, Favorite Farm Recipes. I started giving it to my best friends, then to all the kids. As the grandkids got married, they would each get one. I still get requests for the book!
How long has your family been involved in farming?
My husband was involved ever since he was a child. He took over the farm for his mom after he had been in the service. Then we started buying farms once we married.
How did you meet your husband?
I met Paul at a dance at Waverly Beach in Beloit back in the 50’s. He asked me to dance and then said, “Meet your future husband.” My sister thought he was too wild and told him that he had six months to change his ways before he could date me. And he did!
He served in the U.S. Army in Korea and upon his return, we were married in 1956.
We lived on $150 a month farming for his mother. Finally, we bought our first farm in 1961 and named it Dun Rong Farm. We purchased our second farm in 1968, which is where I currently live.
What did you produce on your farm?
He had a lot of cattle, Black Angus to begin with, and then other breeds. He had a lot of pigs. He also had 35 Appaloosa horses.
My son would have his Angus cattle come down here twice a year, once to calf and once to wean the calves. I really miss not having those black animals out here. Now he has only about a half dozen of them, just up the road from me.
Currently, we grow field corn, and this year he grew food beans, regular beans and some hay. We always have the corn here because it is irrigated.
What were your roles on the farm in the early years?
Over the years, I was mostly in charge of the house, the yard, the family, bookkeeping and things like that. I didn’t go to work a regular job until I was 50.
I had a lot to learn living on the farm.
Aside from the typical farm wife duties of the time, my husband wanted me to get involved in 4-H, which sounded a bit Greek to me, coming from the city. But, I participated for 20 years.
During that time, I taught sewing and was Senior Style Review Superintendent at the Rock County 4-H Fair for many years … always good for a 10 lb. weight loss! I also served as the Turtle 4-H Club Chair.
Having four children, I was determined to do everything I could for my family. I made birthdays and school life very important and special, as I didn’t have that growing up.
Tell me about the other house.
I never knew why my husband had wanted me to buy a house up the road in the 1990’s. But, I did and paid for it in three years. I had rented it out and figured he wanted me to have a house to move into should something happen to him. In 2001, I lost my husband to a farming accident during planting season.
Eventually, I sold my house to my grandson, who really wanted to farm. My son is buying this farm, and I continue to live on the farm, which I dearly love.
What have been your contributions to your family farm?
Early on, I also designed some of the interior remodeling of our farm home, from our dining room to another basement, kitchen, office, family room, an enclosed patio and the garage. I drew up the plans and thought they would have someone “in the smarts” to look at it. But, no, they started digging the basement and away they went! I have never regretted the changes, and I painted our kitchen cupboards a few years ago.
I would say my biggest contribution was feeding all the farm boys. I wasn’t much of a cook before I was married, but I sure did learn! I would take hot meals, including mashed potatoes and gravy, out to the boys in the fields when we were first married. I did that for years until I worked for a bit.
After I retired from my work, and my husband had his accident, I went back to it, feeding my son’s farm hands. There could be 8-10 at harvest season and they certainly didn’t have time to stop. They were busy and had a lot to do, as my son farmed 4,000 – 5,000 acres! I had to brown bag the meals. Sometimes they came to the house, but most times I delivered to the fields.
That was my first responsibility of the day beyond anything else. And I did this up to about a couple of years ago, when I “retired” from the farm work.
Tell me about where you worked?
When my husband stepped down from serving as Chairman of the Rock County Board of Supervisors, I decided I needed to look for work to help with the insurance, since the children were grown. Manpower said they would have to “start all over” with me.
I saw an ad in the paper and found two offers of employment, which I researched on my own. I was hired in the UW Extension/Coroner’s office and later worked in the District Attorney’s office. I retired from that position in 2000, after 15 years.
What have been some of your other community activities?
I volunteered for 10 years at Beloit Memorial Hospital. I joined IWC (Intermediate Women’s Club) and served as publicity chair.
I joined the Elks Club, where my passion is administering an Americanism essay contest for grades 5-8. I’ve done that for over 10 years now. I also chair the U.S. Constitution Scholarship Program for graduating seniors.
After my husband died, I set up a scholarship at Clinton High School in his name. Students apply by writing an essay on how they would change farm life upon college graduation.
Through my involvement in the Beloit Elks, I was awarded “Elk of the Year” twice.
Currently, I serve on my church council, where I am Treasurer and Memorial Chair.
As a hobby, I love to golf. In Couples Best Ball League, my partner is 94 years old and still golfing!
What is your favorite thing about agriculture, why is it important to you?
What would we do without the farmers? They provide a lot.
What are some of the changes in farming that you’ve witnessed over the years?
The machinery itself, it’s changed and become very “elegant,” as I say. My son has one that he trades in every three years because then he doesn’t have to worry about replacing parts and all.
I got to ride in one of the combines with my son. He didn’t have to direct or drive it at all! It just drove itself and all of the data showed up on the computer screen. He only took the wheel at the very end of the row to get it turned. We never had that in our day! It’s become very sophisticated.
They have to go through training to work these new machines. We never had these big round balers and big machines like that going up and down the fields.
Do you still have a need today for extra workers?
Oh yes. I notice when they’re out there round baling they have such a crew that shows up. Then others are out there loading the bales onto the flatbed trailer. Another guy comes and wraps the hay bales … it’s all done so quickly!
I used to drive the tractor sometimes, this was years ago. The kids would ride the flatbed and jump off to kill a mouse and then hop back on.
We didn’t have GPS navigation back then, so there would be someone a half-mile away trying to motion to you what to do, and you could never understand what they were trying to tell you! Things have certainly changed.
How do you feel about the current state of farming?
I think it’s terrible, the state of prices. I feel very badly for the other farmers, some of them will survive, but some won’t. It’s hurting the dairy farmers, too, with the new tariffs and such.
Somebody’s got to wake up at the top level and realize that this is where we get our food. Kids still think you go to the grocery store and it’s automatically there!
There have to be some changes made … whether that happens or not, we’ll see.
What are some things the public can do to support farming?
It helps to have an awareness of agriculture, of its importance. It’s the responsibility of the farmers to help with that. Certainly, things like the RCHS Sunday Brunch helps with creating public and community awareness.
People can attend local agricultural events, as well. We had the Rock County Pork Fest at our farm. With my son and daughter-in-law, we had the Rock County Beef Cookout here, also.
Tell me about your family.
I have four children. My fourth child just moved back to Rock County. Three of them live within two miles of me, if you can imagine that! Two are teachers, the one who moved back is a school nurse and my son farms. I have eight grandchildren and five great-grandchildren! They’re very special.
Unfortunately, I don’t see the grandchildren as often as I’d like. I did see my five-month-old great grandson the other day. But, the kids are active and involved, so their lives are busy.
I made scrapbooks for each of the children, which include photos, including our family history. I have outlived so much of my own family and my husband’s.
I think about the younger generation and how if they want to know something about the family, they shouldn’t wait to ask the questions!
What are your most cherished memories of living on the farm?
I have learned through time that it’s the greatest place to raise kids. Here they learn good lessons for everything in life. It’s rather sad that people in town are such city people and they don’t understand the farm, they don’t understand my love of it, how I don’t want to move off of it.
Everyone here takes good care of their land and they mow nicely up to the road … it reminds me of a place from a trip to Germany when we took the scenic Romantic Road to Rothenburg.
There’s something about the farm that you love, right?
Oh, I do love it all! I’ve never regretted life on the farm, and I believe it’s the best place to raise the children. Farming provides an education on life from birth, to growth to maturity and beyond.
Even since I lost my husband, I keep loving it more and more. I told my son, “The only way you’re going to get me out of here is if you carry me out!” I like it that much.
“I’ve never regretted life on the farm, and I believe it’s the best place to raise the children. Farming provides an education on life from birth, to growth to maturity and beyond.” ~ Donna Luety