WISCONSIN DELLS, Wis. — Westby dairy farmer Darin Von Ruden was re-elected president of the Wisconsin Farmers Union this weekend in Wisconsin Dells, where 300 family farmers and rural advocates gathered for the organization’s 86th annual State Convention.
Von Ruden is a lifelong Farmers Union member, and since 2007 has served as the organization’s District 5 director, representing Crawford, Grant, Green, Iowa, Lafayette, Richland, Rock, Sauk, and Vernon counties. He also leads the WFU Foundation Board of Directors, serves on the National Farmers Union Board and is chairman of the NFU Membership Committee. Darin and his wife, Joann, live in Westby. The Von Ruden family recently transitioned the farm to the fourth generation, when their son Brett purchased the machinery and 50-cow dairy herd.
Von Ruden has been active with Farmers Union at the local, state and national levels. He is a seven-time recipient of the Silver Star Award, which is National Farmers Union’s highest recognition of membership development. A patron member of the Westby Cooperative Creamery, he was also a founding member of Wisconsin Farmers Union Specialty Cheese, chairman of the Wisconsin Dairy Farmers Guild and a founding member of the Upper Midwest Milk Producers Association. He is a past delegate to the Farmers Union Marketing and Processing Association, and in 1996-1997 was a member of Gov. Tommy Thompson’s Cheese Pricing Task Force. In recent years, he has represented U.S. farmers as a delegate at World Farmers’ Organisation events.
Von Ruden is the 11th president in WFU’s 86-year history. He divides his time travelling between the WFU state office in Chippewa Falls and its legislative office in Madison.
‘Cultivating Rural Values’
The convention theme this year was Cultivating Rural Values. In his presidential address, Von Ruden highlighted the shared values that bring together a diverse group of farmers in Farmers Union.
“Family, civic engagement, cooperation and community are among the values that bring us together today,” Von Ruden noted. “They also are the very values that the charter members of Wisconsin Farmers Union rallied around during our founding in 1930. WFU has a whole set of issues we work on that are neither conservative nor liberal but are rooted in our shared values. We need to engage on those issues, and we have to do it in the way that we’ve done it throughout our rich history: through grassroots organizing, civic engagement, and by building coalitions.”
Von Ruden noted the organization has seen strong growth in certain areas of the state, particularly in the South Central and Wood-Portage-Waupaca chapters, which received membership awards for their recruitment efforts in the past year. Kriss Marion, who farms in Blanchardville and is president of the South Central Farmers Union chapter (including Green, Rock and Lafayette counties) will receive National Farmers Union’s highest membership recruitment award, the Silver Star, at the NFU Convention March 5-8 in San Diego.
New WFU board members
Linda Ceylor of Catawba was elected as District 1 Director, representing Ashland, Barron, Bayfield, Burnett, Douglas, Iron, Lincoln, Oneida, Polk, Price, Rusk, Sawyer, Taylor, Vilas, and Washburn counties. Ceylor and husband, Gerald, milk a 50-cow herd and raise replacement heifers at their Hillside Dairy. Ceylor was a founding member of the Taylor-Price County Farmers Union chapter and has represented WFU on the National Farmers Union Fall Fly-In to Washington, D.C. and at the National Farmers Union Convention. She has served on the WFU Policy Committee and Bylaws Committee. Under her leadership as chapter president, the Taylor-Price County Farmers Union has sponsored candidate forums, assists annually with the Tour de Kolacky bike ride, and helps at local dairy breakfasts and fairs. Linda is a member of the state Farm Services Administration Board, a leader of the KC Clovers 4-H Club and was a Price County Fair Board member for 10 years. She is currently President of Price/Taylor National Rural Letter Carriers Association and serves as a local steward. She also was Vice President and is now a board member of Save Our Unique Land, a group working against construction of the Arrowhead-Weston transmission line. She serves on the Bethany Lutheran Church Council.
Ceylor replaces Janet Nelson of Prairie Farm, who stepped down after serving on the board for an astounding 38 years. Re-elected to another term on the WFU board were District 4 Director Craig Myhre, a grain farmer from Osseo, and At-Large Director Mark Liebaert, who raises beef cattle on his farm in South Range. Other continuing board members include Rick Adamski, Seymour; Ed Gorell, Eau Claire; Tina Hinchley, Cambridge; Chris Holman, Custer; and Dennis Rosen, Emerald. Myhre was re-elected to his role as WFU vice president. Holman will serve as secretary and Gorell as treasurer.
St. Croix County Farmers Union member and dairy farmer Gerald Croes of Deer Park was elected as the delegate who will represent WFU at the National Farmers Union Convention March 5-8 in San Diego, Calif.
Next year’s Wisconsin Farmers Union State Convention will be Feb. 2-4 at Chula Vista Resort in Wisconsin Dells.
Wisconsin Farmers Union, a member-driven organization, is committed to enhancing the quality of life for family farmers, rural communities, and all people through educational opportunities, cooperative endeavors, and civic engagement. For more information visit www.wisconsinfarmersunion.com.
— Wisconsin Farmers Union
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