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 these lessons from his late father, Jerry, who was honored Wednesday night as a champion of the dairy community.
It was a bittersweet moment when the Meissner family accepted the Dairy Business Association‘s Lawyer of the Year award on behalf of Jerry, who died of an illness last month. Jerry was informed of the award before his death.
“We learned so much from dad and he shaped our lives in so many ways,” Josh Meissner told an audience that filled a banquet hall at 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 start a sister organization, Edge Dairy Farmer Cooperative.
“People have always had great respect for Jerry,” said DBA CEO Tim Trotter. “He was a tireless leader and 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 parlour, one of the first in Wisconsin. For several decades, they bought acreage and taught their children the value of land ownership.
“Working alongside multiple generations has become 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 alley. Jerry has served the community tirelessly, holding leadership positions in dairy, agriculture and beyond.
With the support of his parents, Jerry made his way onto the family farm with his brothers. Each generation continues to be willing to let the next generation step in, make decisions and run the farm when the time comes, something Josh appreciates in his father.
“I’m so grateful for the hard work and love Dad and our family have put into this business, which will allow the fourth generation to have all the opportunities I’ve had,” he said.
Today, Josh Meissner runs Norm-E-Lane as his father taught him. Milk production is based on the farm’s mission statement, which is to produce milk through passionate people, sustainable agriculture and exceptional animal care. The farm milks 2,500 Holstein cows and raises another 2,000 cows and heifers while operating 5,000 acres of cropland used for animal feed.
“With Dad gone from our world, things will definitely be different,” Meissner said. “There will be pain, emptiness and big shoes to fill, within our family and our business. But with his loss comes memories, appreciation for what he and mom built, and a legacy to build on.