The presenter on the stage at the Dairy Strong conference on Jan. 23 painted a picture of someone who invests money, time and resources into promoting dairy farming and bettering the community, even in ways that don’t seem to be related to dairy farming.
The person Laurie Winkelman was describing was Dean Strauss of Majestic Crossing Dairy in Sheboygan Falls, who was chosen as the recipient of the Dairy Business Association’s annual Dairy Advocate of the Year award.
“Strauss believes in investing in the community in not only time, but resources,” said Winkelman, who works for Vita Plus Corporation.
Strauss serves on the Farm Wisconsin Discovery Center board; the board of the state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection; the executive board of Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin; and as chairman of the Dairy Policy Committee for the Wisconsin Farm Bureau. He’s a past president of the Professional Dairy Processors of Wisconsin and a former member of the Wisconsin Beef Council board of directors.
“It’s just the right thing to do,” Strauss said of his donation of time and energy. “People are important, the community matters.”
Winkelman ticked off a number of the Strauss family’s community-based efforts.
“Their farm buys market animals at the fair, supports local car racing and donates to their local food bank,” she said.
But one thing pushed Strauss over the top when it came to his selection by DBA as the advocate of the year, Winkelman said. The family purchased land half a mile from their farm, on which stood a rundown horse arena, which they’d planned to use for storing machinery. But then the mother of a boy on the autism spectrum told them about REINS, an equine-assisted therapy program.
The Strausses worked with the REINS organization to see what it would take to get the arena usable for the group.
“Countless volunteers came together to help renovate the building and the surrounding area,” Winkelman said.
Now, area companies encourage their employees to spend a day volunteering with REINS in place of a day of work.
The Ag in the Classroom program is another of the Strausses’ community commitments. Last year, they hosted 1,000 fourth-graders on the farm over two days.
“Some people don’t want to do something unless it benefits them,” Strauss said, “but investing in the community and getting people on the farm breaks down walls and helps everyone.”