Agriculture within Marathon County contributes significantly to our economy, with ginseng, dairy, and maple syrup as our leading products.
Agriculture provides jobs for 11,745 residents and accounts for $2.7 billion in economic activity.
Due to agriculture’s significance within Marathon County, the advocacy group called Partnership for Progressive Agriculture (PPA) was started. Each year at its Farm City Dinner, this group recognizes the Century Farms (farms with 100 years of continuous family ownership) within the county, selects an Outstanding Young Farmer to move on to the state competition, and selects a Friend of Agriculture. The annual dinner brings together rural and urban communities to recognize each other’s contributions.
Two Century Farms were honored this year — both in Edgar, Wisconsin. The first Century Farm was Baumann Dairy Farm, which has been operated by Gerard and Carol Baumann since May 2008.
The century farm was originally purchased in 1917 by Gerard’s grandparents, Joseph and Mary Baumann. Over the years, the farm has raised dairy cows, pigs, beef cattle, and chickens, along with the crops to feed them.
The second Century Farm honored this year was Indian Wells, which is owned by Leona Braun and operated by Bill and Carol Birkholz.
The family first settled the land and built a barn in 1913. Before the family started dairy farming and cropping, Native Americans would get their water from a well on the land. This well is where the permanent well was dug and still serves the farm today. The farm gets its name — Indian Wells — from this interesting fact.
Outstanding Young Farmer
This year’s Outstanding Young Farmer winners were Tenzin and Stacey Botsford.
Tenzin and Stacey have a 36-acre community-supported agriculture (CSA) farm — Red Door Family Farm — that they’ve owned and operated in Athens for the last 3 years. They have around 85 members in their program who receive a box of produce from the farm each week throughout the year. Along with providing produce to their CSA members, they also have special programs such as You Pick and Cooking & Canning. Stacey and Tenzin work hard to improve soil health and conservation. While they work mostly with selling directly to the consumer, they have an open-door policy at their farm. The Botsfords do their best to teach and encourage other young farmers and look forward to farming in Athens for years to come.
Friend of Agriculture
This year’s Friend of Agriculture is one of our very own Marathon County Board members. Gary Beastrom was recognized at the March 9, 2017, Farm City Dinner for his numerous contributions to the agriculture community.
The Friend of Agriculture award is given to an individual or business that supports agriculture in Marathon County. In the community of Athens, Gary “Beastie” Beastrom has provided many community service contributions and has participated in numerous activities since his retirement from teaching agriculture at Athens High School. Gary is often referred to as “Mr. Athens” from his participation in the Athens Fair Association. This year will mark Gary’s 49th year working with the Athens Fair. In 2012, Gary was awarded the Wisconsin Fair Association Hall of Fame Award. He is also very active with the Wisconsin Valley Fair and was awarded the Marathon County Friend of 4-H Award in 2008. Gary is also an Emergency Medical Technician, Deputy Medical Examiner, and bus driver for school activities.
Congratulations to all the 2017 award recipients!
Director | University of Wisconsin–Extension
Heather Schlesser began her career in Marathon County when she joined the staff of the Marathon County UW–Extension Office. Since July of 2012, Heather has served as the county’s Dairy and Livestock agent. Heather works with the farmers of Marathon County to keep them educated on current research and farming practices. In July of 2016, Heather also took on the Department Head duties at UW-Extension. In her free time, Heather enjoys spending time with her family gardening or “playing” outdoors.
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