Westby Creamery Farmer-Owners Gather for 116th Annual Meeting
Jan 21, 2020 (Westby, WI)
The 116th annual meeting of Westby Cooperative Creamery was held Jan. 16 and marked by the election of one new face to the Board of Directors. Jonathan Levendoski is replacing outgoing Director Rob Anderson. Levendoski is part of a 150-year-old family dairy operation in Genoa, Wisconsin, where he and his family care for a mixed herd of 50 cows.
Levendoski and his family have been sending milk to Westby Creamery for 50 years, and he is optimistic about its future. “I believe the Creamery is well-positioned in a market where consumers continue to look for products that are locally produced on sustainable, family-run farms,” he said. “Given the current state of the dairy industry, it is more important than ever to keep small, local, farmer-owned cooperatives operating, and I hope I can offer my service to the members to help keep the Westby Cooperative Creamery in business for many years to come.”
Levendoski joins the board of seasoned directors, all of whom share his enthusiasm and love for the local dairy.
Art Thicke – newly re-elected
Art Thicke, along with his wife Jean and Chad and Melissa Crowley, own Enchanted Meadows, north of La Crescent. The farm consists of 524 acres with over 200 acres in permanent pasture. They milk 95 Ayrshire’s. For the past 35 years, Thicke has been giving presentations and farm tours promoting managed grazing.
Donna Leum – continued term
Donna Leum didn’t grow up on a farm, but 34 years of marriage to a dairy farmer, along with the passion to be involved in her community, has propelled her to serve the Westby Cooperative Creamery Board of Directors.
Leum and her husband, Tom, operate a 53-cow dairy on their conventional farm between Viroqua and Westby. She believes the dairy lifestyle has been challenging but also afforded her family many opportunities. Both of her adult children remain in dairy agri-business. Her daughter, 28, is a program technician for the FSA/USDA, and her son, 25, works for The Semex Alliance, as their Jersey product development lead.
Thomas Schaub – continued term
Thomas Schaub has a 500-acre, 65 cow organic dairy farm east of Middle Ridge, near La Crosse, that he operates with his wife, daughter, and son-in-law. He has been involved with dairy farming for the past 33 years and grows and markets crops and organic produce.
Schaub is passionate about maintaining Wisconsin’s dairy farming legacy and hopes to do so by increasing efficiencies at the Creamery’s plant and finding new, profitable markets for its milk.
Chuck Fremstad – continued term
Chuck Fremstad and his wife, Lori, own and operate a 400-acre family farm that was homesteaded in the late 1800s, consisting of 75 cows. Their farm is located two miles north of Osseo. Fremstad keeps an eye on opportunities for innovation as he sees innovation as a method to survive in difficult times. “As we all know, this is hard, tough time in the dairy industry, but I believe that as farmers we must take the ups and downs. As directors on the board, we should strive to get new profitable products in the marketplace while partnering with other companies to develop and make new products, both conventional and organic,” Fremstad said, adding, “In the long run I believe that all of us can keep the Creamery going so the future generations can also call Westby Cooperative Creamery their own.”
Keith Rach – continued term
Keith and his wife, Rhonda, milk 40 cows on their organic dairy farm near Chaseburg. They own 44 acres and rent 300 acres of cropland, grassland, and pasture. Rach grew up on the family farm and spent 20 years farming with his father-in-law before purchasing his own land. Keith has been a Westby Creamery farmer-owner since 2004 and organic since 2010.
Rach said he is uniquely positioned to understand the cooperative’s needs having been both a conventional and organic farmer. “Westby Cooperative Creamery needs both types of milk – and to work as a team – to keep the Creamery marketable and profitable,” Rach said.
Ben Klinkner – continued term
Ben Klinkner is a sixth-generation farmer on his family’s organic dairy farm just outside of Cashton. It is here that he and his wife, Erin, have decided to raise their young family. Klinkner’s herd consists of 60 milk cows along with 60 heifers and calves.
He also farms 200 acres of his own land and another 210 with his uncle and cousin. “We have a cooperative partnership together that allows us to share field and tillage equipment, as well as labor,” Klinkner explained.
“My desire to be on the board comes with the intent to provide a younger perspective on issues concerning the creamery while heeding the advice and wisdom of our current and more experienced board members and patrons,” Klinkner said.