March 15, 2021 at 4:25 p.m.
Richland Center, Wisconsin
Family: My husband, Gordy Keller, and I have been married for 48 years. We have three children and seven grandchildren. Our son is the fifth generation to farm on our family farm. In 2011, Ryan and his wife, Michelle, were picked as one of the National Outstanding Young Farmers. Our daughter, Cari, is a large animal nutritionist for Landmark Cooperative. Cari and her husband, Billy, have a small farm where they raise Katahdin sheep and Holstein steers for their girls to show for 4-H. Laci, our youngest daughter, is a midwife at the Richland Hospital. Laci and her husband, Steve, also have a small farm where they raise sheep and beef animals for their kids to show in 4-H.
Tell us about your farm. Until 2007, we farmed 585 acres, and we milked 300 registered Holsteins. At that time, we made a partnership with two neighbor brothers, building a new barn and parlor. We increased our cow numbers to 925 cows. Combining the land and additional renting of ground, we now farm 2,200 acres. We sell all bull calves and raise our replacement heifers. Each partner has their own niche in the day-to-day running of the farm. I am the bookkeeper and grounds keeper, and I mow hay when it’s that time of the year. I also manage the young calves.
What is the busiest time of day for you? The busiest time of the day for me is from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. when I am in the barn.
When you get a spare moment, what do you do? I do not have just one thing. I love to watch grandkids in sports and concerts. When Gordy and I have a day off and the weather allows, we like to ride motorcycles. I also enjoy the Airbnb we started last year.
Tell us about your most memorable experience working on the farm. Hosting tours of our dairy farm for visitors and hosting three dairy breakfasts for the county have been some of the most memorable. Life has changed, and when I get to share the farm, it is my opportunity to answer questions and clear up misconceptions of where food comes from. The most outstanding memory I have is when we were sending kosher milk to a local plant. The young rabbi from New York who was here to monitor the milking did not know milk came from cows. He honestly thought it came from the grocery store shelf. He was so full of questions and was willing to learn. I spent a lot of time with him answering questions.
What have you enjoyed most about dairy farming or your tie to the dairy industry? I have enjoyed raising our kids on the farm and seeing our grandkids raised on the farm. Life’s lessons are huge, and there is no better place to have them learn them than on the farm.
How do you stay connected with others in the industry? I read, and when I have a question, I ask people for advice.
Who is someone in the industry who has inspired you? My grandmother who farmed. Her going from the house to the barn to the field was something I always looked up to. She could load hay in a dress, cook meals for a threshing crew and go to church on Sundays. I learned a lot from her, which I never realized until I married and started farming with Gordy.
If you could give a tour of your farm to a prominent woman in today’s society, who would it be? I do not have a prominent woman in mind but an open invite to any women who have not experienced life on the farm. I love to have them come and see the sun come up and experience the birth of an animal, which is an unbelievable miracle. I would also like them to experience the pain of having your kids 4-H project die and know you tried your best to save it and then comfort them. Smelling the first ground turned over in spring and watching fall harvest completed with no injuries are a few other experiences I would like them to have. Lastly, realizing a spotless house is some days a dream. No matter where we placed at a show, it was a great experience because we were there with friends and family.
What is the best vacation you have ever taken? The best vacation happened four years ago as we took our first family vacation. Fifteen of us traveled to Mexico over Christmas. What a fun time everyone had. We celebrated 45 years of marriage, turning 65 and our first family vacation with all the kids. Becoming Junction View Dairy gave us that ability to travel and leave the farm with far less worries than before.
What are some words you like to live by? I would like people to realize if none of us could see, we would be on an equal playing field with race. It would make no difference if we were pink, purple or striped. We should all work harder to get along with our fellow people and treat others the way we want to be treated.
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