The five generation of
Koepkes, John and Kim, stand with two of their three sons,
August “Auggie,” 13, left, and Colton, 10, who could
represent the sixth generation if they decide to. The choice
is all theirs, John Koepke said, stressing that the boys
must pursue further education and spend some time away from
the farm first.
Josh Perttunen/Enterprise Staff
TOWN OF OCONOMOWOC - For a multigenerational farm to continue
its trend of one generation taking over from the next, the
passion must be present in the younger generation. That is why
Oconomowoc-area farmers take an approach of letting their
children decide for themselves whether they want to take on that
Oconomowoc Enterprise talked with individuals on both sides of
|“I would love
nothing better than to focus on the farm as my sole
income; it’s the best office in the world,” he said.
“You get to go outside and have 200 acres that need to
be maintained. It’s hard to explain. People look at it
and say, ‘It’s so much hard work, how can you enjoy it?’
But it’s in my blood.”
-Nate Kummrow, Battle Creek Beef & Bison in Oconomowoc
Back to the
27, owns Zwieg’s Maple Acres dairy farm in Ashippun with his
When he went
away to post-secondary school at the University of
Wisconsin-Madison, he wasn’t sure that he would be the sixth
generation to carry on the family business.
“I grew up
around the farming scene,” he said. “As a farm kid, you tend to
diverge for a little while, thinking you’ll find something
Kyle Zwieg, far right, came back to the family farm
after some time away to be part of the immediately family's
team effort. They are, from left to right, brother Kevin,
father Joe and mother Lisa.
He only knew that farming was a day-to-day grind, that animals
required care 24/7 and that he wanted a job off the farm. But,
by the time he had earned his two-year associate’s degree in
soil science, he was ready to go back.
of the farm, Zwieg said, did factor into the decision.
it or pressures you,” he said, “but you do think, ‘Do I want to
be the one who lets this end?’ You think of the challenges that
previous generations faced, like the Civil War and the Great
Depression, and that puts the challenges you’re facing in
believes that legacy can’t be the only factor.
“My dad says
that the current generation can’t worry about whether the next
generation will take over,” he said. “Their job is to create a
viable business that the younger generation may want to come
of being his own boss, the love of animals and the necessity of
farming all weighed upon his decision, Zwieg said.
“There are a
lot of issues that make farming as important, if not more so,
than it was in the past. The task of feeding the world’s growing
population is an example of this.”
Education beyond the farm
John and Kim
Koepke of Koepke Family Farms in the Town of Oconomowoc know
that their three sons will have to make the decision whether
they will be the sixth generation to farm the land, but also
agree that they shouldn’t be pressured into that role.
to make up their own mind about what they’re doing in life,”
John Koepke said. “We stress that they need to get a good
education and get away from the farm before making a decision.”
He and Kim
were permitted the same luxury, he said, when they pursued
degrees in agriculture from Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y.
Though their eldest son, August “Auggie” Koepke, says he wants
to be a farmer now, the Koepkes want their children to be free
to pursue whatever dreams they may develop along the way.
College degrees are a necessary part of success for modern-day
farming or pursuing other ventures, John Koepke said.
concurred with the necessity of a degree.
standard now for farmers my age to have a two- to four-year
college degree,” he said. “It’s difficult to be viable without
The future generation lends
Kummrow, 31, of Battle Creek Beef & Bison in Oconomowoc, said
his family will not let the five-generation farm falter during
any future transitions. Though transitions are not on the
immediate horizon, Nate Kummrow is already working with his
father, Greg, to maximize efficiencies and profits.
To that end,
he is responsible for the raising of heritage pork, utilizing
land that is not used by the beef or bison. The idea seizes upon
a market that is quickly growing, he said.
making a comeback,” he noted. “And people want it locally grown.
This portion of the business is growing every day.”
additions are sweet corn and pumpkins that aren’t genetically
modified, also known as non-GMO.
chance we get, we try to do something more,” Nate Kummrow said.
Part of this
is to make the farm viable into the future. Currently, Nate
Kummrow’s involvement in the farm requires the supplemental
income of his lawn maintenance business, Lawn Wranglers.
love nothing better than to focus on the farm as my sole income;
it’s the best office in the world,” he said. “You get to go
outside and have 200 acres that need to be maintained. It’s hard
to explain. People look at it and say, ‘It’s so much hard work,
how can you enjoy it?’ But it’s in my blood.”
If a younger
generation truly desires to keep a multigenerational farm going,
it can be done, Nate Kummrow added.
next generation doesn’t want to put in the work, it’s
heartbreaking to see those old farms broken up,” he said. “A lot
of the time it’s because they didn’t see it as viable. But if
it’s not working the way it is now, you have to and can find a
way to adapt.”