Soul of Farming: Learning the Ropes
"You are never done learning. It doesn’t matter how old I am, I hope I’m never done learning. That’s the kind of farmer I want to be."
- Amy Koenig , Organic Valley dairy farmer
Everyone in Amy’s life benefits from her intelligence, generosity and energy, including the 70 mostly Jersey cows she and her husband, Marques, pasture on Amy’s farm in Sauk County, Wisconsin.
Amy went to college for a degree in business finance and worked at that for a couple of years, but the farm had more of a hold on her than she realized. In 2009, Amy got low-interest loans through the USDA Farm Services Agency so she could buy the farm from her mom. Now she is the primary farm operator, a significant distinction in U.S. agriculture, which reports only 14% of farms as having a woman primary operator.
Amy loves what she does and loves to see other women in farming. “Women are the fastest growing statistic in agriculture. I know quite a few women farmers. One of my friends here is the main person on the farm and her husband works off the farm. Often it’s the other way around.”
Since continuing her dad’s legacy, today roughly 800 certified organic acres support the extended family and animals on Amy’s farm.
She was recognized for all her hard work in 2015, when she won Sauk County’s Outstanding Young Farmer Award and was second runner-up statewide, and again when she was named first runner-up in 2017. The Outstanding Young Farmer county and state awards are given based on a farmer’s contributions in agriculture, soil and water conservation, plus contributions to her community, state or nation.
Amy Koenig with husband Marques.
“A lot of people ask if I would switch to conventional farming. Why would I? This is the way I grew up farming. Our cows are low-maintenance because I focus on preventive measures like a good diet, low stress and plenty of pasture in season. They don’t produce a huge amount of milk because I don’t push them, but they live long, healthy lives, and they give me a calf every year. That’s more important to me than how many pounds of milk they can be forced to give a day.”
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