These days, most of the daily business of the farm is managed by Jim's oldest son, John (and, increasingly, Jake) because in 1997, Jim Wedeberg took over the position of Dairy Pool Director for Organic Valley. But running a farm is a full time job, and so is being the co-op Dairy Pool Director. "By 1998, it was clear that something had to give," Jim says. "So when John said that he could do a better job, I said hop to it. He's got a real talent and love for working with animals."
Jake's desire to stay with the farm grew as he did. Bucking the stereotype of kids who can't wait to leave the family farm, he and John loved growing up there. "There's always something to do," Jake says, "and there's never a dull moment." He gets a kick out of leading the cows out to pasture after milking and watching them cavort playfully in anticipation of fresh grass.
Jake recently graduated from college with a degree in Agricultural Engineering, and he has returned to the farm where he will share more of the work load with John, which includes managing the dairy, the pastures and the acreage they use to grow 90% percent of the feed for their cows. Jake also grows produce for Organic Valley in the summer, and presides over test plots of what are known as "oil crops," seed plants that can be pressed for their oil which is then used in biodiesel. He maintains test plots of camelina and sunflowers at the home farm and at test plots located on the grounds of Organic Valley's distribution center in Cashton. As an agricultural engineer, Jake's creativity has been piqued by the growing need for alternative fuels, and he has helped design and build a mobile press unit for Organic Valley. A key part of the co-op's own Farmer Renewable Energy Program—an effort to enable co-op members to be both green and competitive—the oil press unit can be moved from farm to farm for use by farmers who want to grow and process their own fuel. Jake and John are both gung-ho about renewable energy, and have begun a wind study on their farm to determine the feasibility of adding a wind turbine to their energy sources.
Julie is thrilled to have both of her boys back on the farm and Jim says, "She is really the glue that keeps it all together around here." Julie spends a piece of each day caring for the calves on the farm. She also contributes her time and talent to the community, teaching and inspiring others with music, especially the area youth. With the farm safe in the hands of his family, you might think Jim could relax a little bit, but that idea is nowhere on his horizon. "I have a passion for this, and I'll do it as long as I can. I hope more farmers learn to produce food to satisfy the consumer, not the industry."