MADISON, Wis. — Keep your priorities straight, take care of those around you, never take anything too seriously and love like crazy.
Josh Meissner and his family will cherish those lessons from his late father, Jerry, who was honored Wednesday night as a champion for the dairy community.
It was a bittersweet moment as the Meissner family accepted the Dairy Business Association’s Advocate of the Year award on behalf of Jerry, who passed away last month due to an illness. Jerry was made aware of the award before his passing.
“We’ve learned so many things from Dad and he’s shaped our lives in so many ways,” Josh Meissner told an audience that filled a banquet hall at the Monona Terrace during DBA’s Dairy Strong conference.
Jerry, who farmed in Clark County, was a founding member and past president of DBA and helped create a sister organization, Edge Dairy Farmer Cooperative.
“People have always had great respect for Jerry,” said Tim Trotter, DBA’s chief executive officer. “He was a tireless leader and a center of influence in the dairy world.”
Jerry’s parents started the family farm in the late 1940s. In 1965, after a fire, the family built an 80-stall barn and milking parlor, which was one of the first in Wisconsin. Over several decades, they purchased crop acreage and taught their children the value of owning land.
“Working alongside multiple generations became one of the greatest blessings of his life,” said Bob Hagenow of Vita Plus, who presented the award. “However, his work extended far beyond the end of the farm’s driveway. Jerry served the community tirelessly, holding leadership positions in dairy, agriculture and beyond.”
With the support of his parents, Jerry worked his way into the family farm with his brothers. Each generation continues to be willing to let the next generation step up to the plate, make decisions and run the farm when the time comes, something Josh appreciates about his dad.
“I am so very thankful for the work and love that Dad and our family have poured into this business, which will allow generation four to have all the opportunities I did,” he said.
Today, Josh Meissner runs Norm-E-Lane just as his father taught him. Milk production happens based on the farm’s mission statement, which is to produce milk through passionate people, sustainable farming and exceptional animal care. The farm milks 2,500 Holstein cows and raises another 2,000 cows and heifers while also operating 5,000 acres of cropland used for animal feed.
“With Dad gone from our world, things will certainly be different,” Meissner said. “There will be pain, emptiness and some big shoes to fill, within our family and our business. But along with his loss comes memories, appreciation for what he and Mom have built, and a legacy that can only be built upon.”
— Dairy Business Association