The owners at Cottonwood Dairy have plenty to do on the 1,800-cow farm. And, a lot of it has to do with something other than actual farming. The owners’ involvement in a variety of community and other activities provides an example of the importance of making connections.
Jim Winn started farming by himself in 1977, and in 1998 joined with two partners, Randy and Brian Larson, to start Cottonwood in Wiota. He explained his team’s approach to broader involvement.
DBA: Describe your extra activities.
Winn: Our farm is involved with DBA, Lafayette Ag Stewardship Alliance (LASA), Wisconsin Farm Bureau, Edge Dairy Farmer Cooperative and at our local church. We also invite the University of Wisconsin-Platteville Pioneer Dairy Club, University of Wisconsin-Madison and local FFA chapters to our farm for tours. We hosted Breakfast on the Farm; Day at the Dairy for several hundred fourth-graders; appreciation events for our neighbors; Christmas parties for landowners, employees and neighbors; and we support the local fire department.
DBA: How has being involved with LASA and similar groups changed your farm?
Winn: Being involved has allowed us to network with farmers statewide. This brings new ideas and connections to improve our farm. It brings a smile to my face as we enjoy the camaraderie of being with innovative and future-minded people. It puts us in a positive place and we can take that positive vibe back to our farm.
DBA: What is the biggest challenge with being so involved?
Winn: It can be a challenge to get away from the dairy and its workload. However, the return we get by attending a conference, educational workshop, field day or hosting a tour far outweighs any challenges.
DBA: What benefits have your seen?
Winn: It keeps people informed about modern farming practices. We become a resource to answer questions about dairy farming. With our involvement in groups, we are being represented positively and we know the farmer’s voice is being heard.
DBA: How has the community reacted?
Winn: From my experience, I believe the community appreciates the opportunity to learn more about our farm. They see our involvement in the newspapers and on TV. It opens the communication door for others to reach out with questions.
DBA: What impact does this involvement have on the next generation?
Winn: The groundwork we have laid out has created an easier path for the next generation to get involved. We serve as role models to showcase the value and to enable them to sustain an easier business climate in the future.
DBA: What advice do you have for others?
Winn: Get involved by getting your name out there and participating in different committees. This will take you to the next step in becoming a more engaged member and will lead you to more opportunities.
DBA: You have been involved with DBA since 2001. What benefit do you find most helpful?
Winn: Being involved with a first-class organization with excellent leadership, staff and loyal members who have the utmost respect in Madison is very gratifying to me and makes me proud to be a member.