Farmers Gather for 119th Annual Meeting
Jan 23, 2023 (Westby, WI)
The 119th annual meeting of Westby Cooperative Creamery was held on Thursday, Jan. 19. The creamery’s farmer-owners enjoyed lunch, heard from managers on how 2022 went and celebrated the quality award recipients – namely, Glen Jacobson, Dan and Lisa Chapin and James and Janine Hartman.
Additionally, this meeting allows farmer-owners to vote on their Board of Directors. This year, the Creamery welcomed a new member, Seth Byom of Galesville, Wis. Ben Klinkner, Donna Leum, Jon Levendoski, Andy Olson, Gerald Vesbach and Jerad Fleming all retained seats on the board.
Seth Byom – new member
Byom has been farming his whole life, and a few years ago he decided to take over his uncle Dan’s farm just up the hill from his father’s farm in Galesville, Wis. Byom said he always enjoyed his time spent helping on the farm growing up, so he knew he wanted to keep the legacy going. Byom Organic Farms has been a part of Westby Cooperative Creamery since 2008 when Westby first began its organic product line. However, the farm has been in the family for roughly 129 years.
Jon Levendoski – continued term
Levendoski is a fifth generation farmer on a 50-cow dairy farm that he co-operates with his parents near Genoa, Wis. His wife, Jackie, teaches third grade at Blessed Sacrament School in La Crosse, Wis., and they have three kids who love helping on the farm. Their family’s owned the farm since 1876 and has shipped milk to Westby Cooperative Creamery since 1969. “As a farmer, it’s important to maintain a sustainable environment and produce quality milk,” Levendoski said. “As such, we rotationally graze our cattle as much as possible.” In 2005, they began crossbreeding cows to try and create animals that would be healthier, produce higher components and better utilize pasture.
Jerad Fleming – continued term
Fleming farms with his family near Westby, Wis. His wife Stacey teaches preschool in Westby, and they have four children, Hallie, Jackson, Bennett and Brielle. Their family milks 100 organic cows, farms around 600 acres, and they enjoy hunting, fishing and UTV rides in their spare time. He’s also an assistant football coach at Westby High School and serves on an advisory board for Compeer Financial. Fleming said he really enjoys his time on the board and loves hearing everyone’s perspectives on agriculture and how best to deal with its challenges.
Donna Leum – continued term
Leum co-owns and operates Leum Jerseys with her husband Tommy near Westby, Wis. They have 126 acres and 53 registered Jersey cows with additional young stock. They’ve shown cattle at local, state and national shows and have been genomic testing for the strategic plan of herd improvement. In addition to being the Westby Cooperative Creamery Board of Directors vice president, she’s a Vernon County Fair Board director, Our Savior’s Cemetery Association secretary/treasurer and Town of Viroqua town clerk. She also likes to work on her lawn and flowerbeds, cook, bake and do crafts. But her favorite thing is to be with her two grandkids!
Gerald Vesbach – continued term
Vesbach is a 4th generation farmer that runs a dairy farm with his son, Trent, and wife, Connie, in Liberty Pole, Wis. They milk 70 cows, Jerseys and Brown Swiss, farm 650 acres and run an 80-head beef herd. Three of their farms are certified organic, though their milk is conventional. Vesbach loves being outdoors, around cattle and being in agriculture. In his free time, he likes antique tractors, especially Minneapolis Moline and Olivers, and going to antique shows. “I thought I could bring some new ideas to the Board of Directors and share the knowledge I’ve accumulated over my 45 years of farming while promoting Westby Creamery,” Vesbach said.
Andy Olson – continued term
Olson owns and operates Prime Pastures Organic Dairy near Lewiston, Minn., along with his wife, Kim, and her parents, Dale and Carmene Pangrac. They have three children – Mallory, Gavin and Amelia. They use robotic technology to milk 150 crossbred cows, and they rotationally graze all their animals from two-months old through milking age. They also raise organic crops on 900 acres and feed it to their herd and sell it as organic grain. “I am proud to be serving on the Board of Directors, and I look forward to the continued growth of Westby Cooperative Creamery and supporting our farmers,” Olson said.
Ben Klinkner – continued term
Klinkner is a sixth generation farmer on his family’s organic dairy farm outside Cashton, Wis. He and his wife, Erin, have four children, Jack, Anna, Noah and Abe. Their dairy herd consists of 60 milk cows and 60 heifers and calves. They also farm about 300 acres of hay, corn and pasture. He is honored to have served as a Westby Creamery director since 2018. “I’ve enjoyed working with loyal and passionate small farm patrons and the many dedicated and hardworking creamery management staff and employees,” Klinkner said. “It’s very rewarding to see first-hand the success that each moving part contributes to producing high-quality, award-winning dairy products.”
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