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Marathon County Farm Couple Wins 64th State OYF Award
Wisconsin Ag Connection - 01/30/2017

A central Wisconsin dairy farm couple has been named the winners of the 2017 Wisconsin Outstanding Young Farmer award. Sam and Jennifer Zimmermann of Ringle earned the title in Baraboo on Saturday night after competing against four other finalists.

The Zimmermanns are relatively new to the dairy business, though they were both raised on dairy farms growing up. Sam began working for a farm credit institution after graduating from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls in 2001. He then became contracted as a consultant for the UW-Extension's Dairy Farm Modernization Program for several years. It was in that capacity where he realized dairy farming on a smaller scale could still be profitable.

"My dad, who was a custom heifer raiser for 10 years, became sick in 2009, so we decided to step in and take over the farm," Sam told Wisconsin Ag Connection. "I was still with the Extension program at the time and saw how some producers were able to make money, even during the tough dairy market. So in 2010 we decided to buy a herd of 50 cows and start milking full-time."

In the years since, the Zimmermanns were able to expand the herd to 165 Registered Holsteins and have been purchasing the farm's assets slowly from Sam's parents so they could retire.

When asked how he was able to get the young enterprise through the past two years with lower milk prices, he noted that 2016 was a year of a lot of ups and downs.

"I'll be honest, we had to lick a lot of wounds. Making sure all the bills were paid on time has been a real challenge," he said. "But, this past year also had its share of positives. Our embryo transfer business has picked up and some of our cows have scored Excellent. And we recently learned that one of our Holsteins has been nominated as a Dam of Merit by the Holstein Association."

His wife, Jenn, has had equal success in her career. She also worked in the banking industry for many years until starting her own business in 2014 called 'Catch All Business Solutions.' In that venture, she works with companies to retain good employees and recruit talent to help their organizations grow. In addition to running ON-Q Holsteins, the couple has four children and are members of the Wisconsin Farm Bureau, County DHIA, 4-H, Little Britches fair program, and Trinity Lutheran Church.

Sam and Jenn were also presented with the OYF's Speak Up for Agriculture award over the weekend.

Also on Saturday, Amy Raboine and Marques Koenig from Reedsburg were named first runners-up for the OYF competition. They own a 700 acre certified-organic dairy farm and have been part of the Coulee Region Organic Produce Pool for the past six years.

Other finalists in the competition included Adam Faust, Chilton; Rufus Haucke, Viola; and Derrick & Amy Zernicke, Bonduel.

Meanwhile, last year's state winners, Mark and Angie Ulness of Valders, were recently named as top 10 finalists for the National OYF competition, which is slated for February 9-12 in Greenville, South Carolina. Wisconsin has had 16 national winners in its six-decade history of the program.

The Wisconsin OYF program was developed in 1954 to recognize the younger generation of successful agriculturists in the state. Winners are selected based on progress in their agricultural career, soil and water conservation and contributions to community, state and nation.

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