Family thinks ahead to sixth generation

Editor’s note: This article is the next in a series featuring Wisconsin farmer-members of dairy cooperatives. The following article features Wipp Farm of Lodi, Wisconsin. Wipp Farm is a member of Rolling Hills Dairy Producers Cooperative.

When did you start farming and why?

Richard Wipperfurth: The home farm has been in the family since 1877. My father, Leroy Wipperfurth, helped his father, William Wipperfurth Jr., and worked off-farm jobs for a few years after high school. He started to farm full-time in 1980.

I graduated in 2007 with a degree in biological systems engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. After graduation I took a job as an engineer at Manitowoc Crane. A year later I had an opportunity to work for the UW-IceCube Project as a hot-water driller to construct a neutrino detector. The position allowed me to work at the South Pole for three austral summers.

Since the austral summer is winter in North America, I had summers free to cash-rent land, build a herd of cows and help my father on the dairy farm. At the end of three seasons working in Antarctica, I began farming full time. My father and I created an LLC in 2013.

In what ways does being a member of Rolling Hills Dairy Producers Cooperative help you?

Richard Wipperfurth: We feel that we have ownership in our cooperative and trust that they’ll take care of our patrons when there are issues. I think the cooperative did a good job during the COVID-19 pandemic when a lot of farmers were forced to dump milk. It’s nice to be a member of a cooperative where farm size doesn’t matter.

What do you think are the biggest challenges the dairy industry faces today?

Richard Wipperfurth: With the increase of large farms there’s more of a disconnect between farmers and the general public. People have become further removed from the farm. There seems to be less understanding about what it means to be a family farm.

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What do you think are the biggest opportunities the dairy industry has now and in the future?

Richard Wipperfurth: Specialty markets for dairy products and agri-tourism could provide opportunities for dairy farmers. But that also creates challenges in terms of marketing and having the time to take advantage of those markets. Agri-tourism can help us share positive messages about dairy with the public. We need to promote that.

What do you like the most and the least about working as a dairy farmer?

Richard Wipperfurth: We enjoy working with the cattle and raising crops. Seeing how much we’re able to accomplish after a hard day’s work is very satisfying.

What we like least is when things go wrong at the most inconvenient times and need to be taken care of immediately. Other – also important – things need to wait.

How do you think your farm’s business will change in the next 10 years?

Richard Wipperfurth: The goal is to keep the farm going from one generation to the next. My wife and I have two children – Connor and Lisa. In 10 years he’ll be 20 and she’ll be 17. We hope for transition in a way that one or both will want to become the sixth generation to farm. At least we want them to be proud of the farm and enjoy the lifestyle that comes with it.

Visit www.facebook.com/rollinghillscooperative and icecube.wisc.edu for more information.

Rolling Hills Dairy Producers Cooperative is a milk-marketing cooperative based in Monroe, Wisconsin. It has 155 member farms in southern Wisconsin and northern Illinois. The cooperative markets 60 million pounds of milk per month, which is received at 18 different dairy plants.

This is an original article written for Agri-View, a Lee Enterprises agricultural publication based in Madison, Wisconsin. Visit AgriView.com for more information.

Lynn Grooms writes about the diversity of agriculture, including the industry’s newest ideas, research and technologies as a staff reporter for Agri-View based in Wisconsin.

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