September 5, 2017 at 3:32 p.m.
The couple began farming in 1960, and at the age of 79, they still operate the family dairy farm. Russel and Jo, who have been actively dairy farming for 54 years, were recently awarded the Oldest Active Dairy Couple in Green County at the Green County Dairy Days celebration.
Russel grew up on his family's dairy farm in Brodhead, Wis. After attending the University of Wisconsin-Madison Short Course and serving in the United States Army, Russel worked for 10 years at Ten Eyck Orchard, before finally realizing his dream of operating a dairy farm.
"My parents were still milking on the home farm, so when a neighboring farm came available for rent, we decided to take it," said Russel.
After 10 years, the family moved to a larger farm just down the road, before finally purchasing Russel's family farm in 1979.
Over the years, Russel has seen many changes to the dairy industry.
"I was one of the first farmers to own a John Deere 36T kicker baler, and people would pull over on the side of the road to watch," he said.
Russel was also the first farmer in the area to use A.I. in his breeding program.
"The biggest change I have seen is that there is less physical labor," he said. "Technology has increased and taken its place."
Russel made many improvements to the home farm over the years, including the addition of two silos, pipeline milker, a new heifer shed, the addition of calf hutches, and building another 60 feet onto the tie stall barn. He also laid the field strips and improved the waterways on his land.
Throughout the years, Russel and Jo have seen many ups and down.
"When we first moved back to the home farm, it was awful trying to pay for a farm," said Jo. "It was a lot of work."
The draught in 1988 was another bad time for the family with Russel taking on extra work as a milk truck driver.
In 1992, the couple had a close call when a tornado took off the roof of the milking barn.
"That was scary but we made it through," said Jo.
Despite the difficulties, Russel never considered quitting.
"My best times were when I was milking cows," he said. "I could go at my own pace and just think. I like being in the barn."
The pleasant memories the couple has are of their children, Randy, Rachel, and Ryan showing cattle at the local fair, hosting the Green County Dairy Breakfast in 1995, and having the whole family over for the Pinnow reunion on the farm.
Off the farm, the family was very involved in the community. Jo taught at Black Hawk Technical College for 26 years and served as leader for the Spring Grove Honest Worker's 4-H club for many years. Russel was instrumental in starting the Brodhead FFA Alumni Association, which they participated in the exchange program hosting two Japanese students who came to learn new farming practices.
Although Russel's son, Randy, has taken over the day-to-day operation of the farm, Russel is still active on the farm.
"I go to the farm every day, even if it's just to look around," said Russel. "There is always something to do."
Russel's main duties are mixing feed and helping out in the fields.
Today the farm consists of 45 Holsteins and 10 Registered Jerseys. It sits on 152 acres. The farm is in a trust for the couple's three children to ensure the next generation on the family farm. With years of experience, Russel and Jo have plenty of advice for the next generation of farmers.
"Don't give up," said Jo. "Tomorrow may be different. You just have to enjoy what you are doing."
To Submit an Event Sign in first
No calendar events have been scheduled for today.