April 21, 2023 at 3:39 p.m.
Dairy Star interviews ag professionals for a inside look at their careers.

One-On-One with Aaron Johnson Johnson Dairy Supply in Viroqua, Wisconsin

What kind of vehicle do you drive and how many miles do you have on it? I drive a 2006 Peterbilt with 230,000 miles on it.

What area do you cover and what is special about the people you work with in this area? I cover Richland and Vernon counties and parts of Crawford, Juneau, Monroe and Sauk counties. My customers are more like friends than business contacts.

What does a typical day look like for you? I am usually on the road by 8 a.m. and have 5-10 stops per day. My farms are anywhere from 20-200 miles from me. My farthest customer is one hour and 10 minutes from me. During the summer, I run my routes from 4 a.m. until noon so I am done in time to coach my son’s baseball team, the Westby/Coon Valley Junior Legion.

How many different products do you carry in your vehicle? I carry thousands of products in my truck. The inventory has changed from small farmers using 5-gallon jugs of products to large farms using 55- to 275-gallon totes.

How did you get started in this career? I graduated from Southwest Technical College in 1998 and saw a job notice in the Richland Observer for Agri-Dairy. I was hired to do scheduled service but moved to the route truck before too long. One day while I was at a farm, the IBA distributor pulled in to borrow oil from the farmer because he was having vehicle trouble. I was 20 years old at the time, and he said I was the perfect man for the job so I took over his IBA route. At one time, I had two trucks and drove one while my dad drove the other.

What is your favorite thing about this role in the dairy industry? It’s the people. Helping dairymen get results while trying different products or protocols. There is nothing better than hearing a customer say thanks and that a product or suggestion really worked.

What have you learned from your customers? People buy from people. Customers don’t care about you until you show that you care about them. I love helping my customers with the challenges that arise in this day and age with dairy sanitation and milk quality issues. I simply love what I do.

What is the most challenging thing about your job? When farmers sell out. The saddest part is that because of so many farms exiting the industry, my kids will never have the opportunity that I did to get to know the lifestyle.

How has your position evolved from when you started until now? My position has stayed the same because I am a one-man show. I do the ordering, loading, selling, driving and the book work.

What kind of on-going training or regulations do you have for your position? I do trainings with various vendors of IBA and attend district meetings with colleagues. I also have to keep up to date with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation restrictions and licensing.

What are some of the most common items you provide? Dairy sanitation and udder hygiene products, animal health products and after-market milker parts. I also sell a lot of forage inoculant and hay preservative which many people don’t know. That is a good way for me to continue to serve farmers when they sell their cows and transition to exclusively growing crops.

Tell us about one of your most memorable moments while going about your work day. I got back to the shop one Friday afternoon around 4 p.m. It was a bright, sunny January day. A farmer called and said he was out of teat dip, and I wasn’t due to his farm until Monday. I made a special trip to his farm to deliver the product, and when I left his place, it was still bright and sunny. It was a 50-minute drive home, and about halfway through the drive, the radio DJ said to watch out for inclement weather. I wondered what they were talking about but figured it out a minute later when a blizzard came out of nowhere, and I was stuck in a whiteout. The snow was so wet and heavy that if I took my foot off the gas pedal, the truck would just stop. I hate winter driving, and that day my worst fears came true. I made it home safely but was terrified.

What kind of music do you listen to while driving and what is your favorite snack on the road? I enjoy 80s rock music and listen to 105.9 FM. I typically do not eat while I’m on the road; I usually just have two bottles of water. But if I do get a snack, it’s a pack of VonRuden beef sticks.

Tell us about your family. My wife, Kim, is an elementary school principal. My oldest son, Caleb, is a junior at Westby High School. My youngest son, Jadon, is a freshman at Westby High School.

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time? Yard work, coaching baseball and watching my kids play sports in the winter.


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